The recent decision by the British Board of Film Classification to deny Rockstar's Manhunt 2 a UK release is, in my humble opinion, the right one. But not because I don't think the game should be released. It should, and as an adult I should be free to completely ignore it as a meretricious piece of Daily Mail-baiting rubbish.
But in the current environment, where games retailers are widely considered unreliable enforcers of age restrictions and parents too often see games as toys and ignore the massive '18' logo on the cover, there is no way of keeping such a horribly violent game out of the hands of children. Particularly as the game is for the PlayStation 2, PSP and Wii -- three relatively inexpensive platforms that are incredibly popular with pre-teens.
So when the BBFC says allowing the game to be released would "involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors", I agree, up to a point. Minors should be protected from material that involves extreme violence and strong horror. But adults, much more capable of finding out what a film or game contains and more able to withstand peer pressure to watch or play, should be able to decide for themselves.
What we need is a change in the way games are viewed in this country -- a widespread recognition that games can provide a broad range of cultural and artistic experiences. Just as there are cartoon films for children, there are simple, colourful games. But equally, and increasingly, there are games that deal with adult themes of love, loss, violence and death in emotionally powerful ways. Of course games aren't the cultural equal of film, a much older medium -- but they might well be one day. If we, as gamers, keep persuading non-gamers that our hobby is respectable and intellectually challenging, then maybe we won't be treated like children and told what we can't play.