Virtual Insanities: Manhunt 2, Its Rating and Its Banning

So apparently, Rockstar’s Manhunt 2 is going to be rated AO – Adults Only. I guess we should have seen it coming. After all, pressure groups kept bugging the ESRB about giving that rating to the game while it was still in production. Their rationale was that this title would be nothing more than a murder simulator due to the fact that the Wii version would use motion control to kill characters. I don’t agree, but I still think we should have seen it coming.

However, it looks like the ESRB didn’t simply look at the murder simulation issue when handing out the rating, because the Wii version isn’t the only one being rated AO. Every version has the rating attached to it, so I guess there must be some pretty gruesome stuff in that game.

Even then, I honestly don’t see what can warrant such a rating. I have played through the first one, which was rated M for Mature. With that game, I have strangled people, cut throats with broken glass, shattered heads with baseball bats, shot strangers, dropped a fridge from a crane to crush enemies – and that’s not even half of the methods I’ve used to go through the game. Sure, back then, people still complained about the violent nature of the game, and I have to agree with them. I don’t think I’ve ever played a more violent game. But hey, the ESRB decided that it was worthy of an M rating, which means nobody under 17 years old should buy it. That’s fine with me, I’m an adult, I wanted to play the game and I did. Where I don’t agree is when people think that this should become a law instead of a mere guideline.

I agree that kids should not play such games. Children can be easily traumatized by scary stuff. I remember that Ghosts N Goblins seriously scared my pants off when I was a kid. Maybe I was one of the most sensible children in history, but those zombies coming out of the ground all the time were seriously frightening me. The same can be said for my brother. With the money he got for Christmas one year, he went out and bought the Ghostbusters II NES game. The only problem is that he sucked at the game, so within 2 minutes of playing, he saw the “game over” screen. That screen consisted of Vigo the Carpathian coming out his painting while the sky turns purple, and a creepy, pixelated version of his face appears over the skyline and winks at you. That was enough for my little brother to throw down the controller and run away crying. I can only imagined what it would have been if the game he was playing happened to be Manhunt. Not that my parents would have allowed that to happen.

There lies the biggest part of the problem. I know that gaming columnists and reporters have said it again and again, but I guess that the message hasn’t reached the proper ears yet, or else Manhunt 2 wouldn’t be in the middle of such controversy at the moment. Parents need to watch what their children are playing. Hell, they shouldn’t even need to watch them playing if they bothered to do a little background check on the games they buy them in the first place. We’ve heard countless stories about irresponsible parents stepping into their local Gamestop to buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for their child. I myself have witnessed a guy at EB Games who was about to buy The Warriors for his son until the clerk told him what this game was really about. (As a side note, while the guy was about to buy this game for his son, I was in line to buy Animal Crossing: Wild World. And I was 22.)

Anyway, why are parents so irresponsible when it comes to buying video games? It might not be the perfect answer, but I do believe that it’s the same thing as with movies and television. It’s simply easier to cave in and buy whatever little Jimmy is asking for than to argue with him and make intelligent choices. It’s crazy how many parents are willing to give in to any little demand made by their offspring just to avoid another argument. I didn’t have the chance to see “Natural Born Killers” when I was younger. I really wanted to see that movie, and I bothered my mother with it, but I never got to watch it. I went ahead and rented it by myself when I was old enough. I also never owned Mortal Kombat 2. My father didn’t allow it. However, you can be sure that I was all over it when I went to my friend’s place. His parents gave him everything he wanted. Curiously, he was also much more of a problem child than I ever was.

My point is that children need discipline. They’re not going to hate you because you didn’t buy them the latest cool game. Sure, they will say it, but they won’t really think it, and they won’t even remember it in the long run. So instead of relying on outside organisations like the ESRB to make sure that the wrong game doesn’t fall in your kid’s hands, why don’t you just do a little check-up on what he wants, decide by yourself if it’s a game he should be playing and then take the appropriate decision? Putting all the responsibility and the blame on an organisation only serves to make you lazier. “Oh, they should rate this game AO! I don’t want my son to play it!” Then don’t f*cking buy it for him. Pretty simple, huh? The rating is already there as I guideline. If you’re too daft to read it and you decide to ignore it, then it becomes your problem.

Sure, one day your kid will be old enough to be able to go by himself and buy the game, even though he won’t be an adult. You think you can’t stop him and that’s right. But guess what? If you cared about your child in the first place, you might have a better relationship that would consist in something more than simply shouting and screaming at each others until he gets what he wants. Maybe if you cared a little bit, you would have raised him to be a decent human being who would be able to handle such material. When it was released, I played the first Grand Theft Auto. I didn’t turn into a serial killer. My father told me he didn’t like the game. He told me he didn’t like the subject, but we talked about it and he saw I was mature about it. But that’s because he raised me that way. He didn’t think that society would do it for him, and he sure as hell didn’t rely on some rating board to tell him what was OK for me to play and what wasn’t.

Oh well, I guess we should be happy. While Manhunt 2 will probably be impossible to find by customers – Adults Only games usually never make it to stores shelves – at least it isn’t outright banned as it is in UK and Ireland. Banning a video game? Are you serious??? Once again, while I don’t agree with the ESRB rating, they’re still letting adult customers choose if they want to play it or not. Yes, they’ll have to hunt it down hard, but at least they’ll have the right to play it.

What is the BBFC trying to do by banning a video game? Protect adults from themselves? Do they lack confidence in the English people to the point where they think they should never come face to face with the game? Do they think the game will be responsible for murders all over the country, in the same way that someone’s death was blamed on the first Manhunt? Let me tell you something. If someone kills another guy after playing a video game, he was probably messed up pretty bad in the first place. He was probably going to do it anyway. Games don’t kill people. Constantly trying to put the blame on something else is simply a way to avoid doing something much more painful: wondering why nobody saw it coming in the first place. Nobody turns psycho instantly. I can understand if nobody saw it coming, but blaming video games is simply an easy way out.

Banning a game does nothing good in the long run. It simply shifts the responsibility of making a choice for oneself to a bigger organization. If people are too stupid to act responsibly and watch carefully what happens around them, it’s their own damn fault. Penalizing the rest of the population is simply taking down the standards to the lower common denominator. It’s not protecting anybody. It’s assuming that everybody is an idiot.

In Closing

So, in the end, what is it that got Manhunt 2 such a harsh rating? With all the gore I’ve seen from playing the first one, it has to be nothing short of raping a corpse, because I don’t think you can get much more violent than what happened in the original game.

Does anybody believe in human intelligence anymore? I know that there are idiots running in the streets everywhere, but I still think that most people are capable of making their own choices. I’m all for guiding people and giving them suggestions. That’s what the ESRB should be for. Once that part is done, let people decide.

I think we all have the ability to choose what we think is OK to play for us and for our children. The people trying to have games banned and trying to pass laws against violent video games, in a way, are telling the population that they’re too stupid to decide for themselves and that they should let them handle it. That’s only going to make them dumber, but I guess you have to be pretty f*cking dumb already to let your children play GTA, and I don’t think that any rating or law can change that.