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By Jon Christian Ryter

October 17, 2007

NewsWithViews.com

Nintendo™—which has always been known as the Mario Brothers™ family-friendly gaming devise has teamed up with controversial Rockstar Games, known for pushing the limit—has created a new Wii™ game that allows the player to have an artificial sensation, based on arm and hand movement, of what it feels like to kill someone. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board tagged the Wii™ game, Manhunt 2™ with an AO rating (Adults Only)—the equivalent to an "X" rating. In the video game universe, an AO rating is a kiss of death since most people who buy video games aren't adults (and those 21 years of age or older who waste their time playing them shouldn't be classified as adults, either).

Manhunt 2™, which lets the player assume of the role of a psychotic, is scheduled to hit retail stores on Halloween with a $30 to $40 retail price. The original release date was July, but the AO rating forced Rockstar Games to take the product back to the drawing board. Rockstar Games had to reduce the level of violence in order to secure the M rating.

According to Rockstar Games, they intended to let horror genre players enjoy the emotional experience that movie goers found in Hostel or Saw.

Rockstar's Rodney Walker defended the game by saying "...It's a different level of engagement in video games. You can literally experience the emotional responses of the character."

The character in Manhunt 2™ is a psychiatric escapee, Daniel Lamb, who goes on murderous rages as he tries to uncover his own past as the game progresses. The player, acting out the character on-the-run, attacks his adversaries by slashing them with knives, strangling, hacking them with an ax or shooting them. Yet, Rockstar Games can't understand how they got the AO rating. Manhunt 2™—minus the "human experience" will also be available for PlayStation 2™. Parents should view the graphics of this game before allowing their children to play.

The game was modified and Rockstar Games previewed the finished game for the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which finally lowered the rating from AO to M (ages 17 and older). The original version of Manhunt™, released in 2003, carried an M rating. It sold about a million copies. In the first version, the characters were death row escapees. Manhunt 2™ has Lamb escaping from a psychiatric hospital. In the story line, he's been experimented on (which, I guess, justifies his murder spree) using an odd assortment of weapons from knives to hypodermic needles to an ax. His escape puts him in jeopardy from sadist killers and sex deviants—which, also apparently justifies the killing field. In other words, if you aren't killing "good guys," it's okay. If Wiley Coyote, Sylvester, and Elmer Fudd are too violent for small children, how ca n violent video games be okay? Compare the ratio of adolescent violence today with that which existed in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. I can't think of one teenager who copied the tactics of Wiley Coyote to terrorize a high school. Eric David Harris and Dylan Bennet Klebold were the sole members of a self-styled gang called the Trenchcoat Mafia. They were misfits who spent all of their free time playing the Internet video game, Doom™ and music from acid rockers who advocated violence. Armed with a TEC-9 semiautomatic handgun, two saw-off shotguns and a 9mm carbine rifle, the two killed 13 students and teachers and wounded 24 others on April 20, 1999.

When Manhunt2™ was submitted to the British Board of Film Classification, the game was banned from distribution in England on June 19, 2007—the first suggestion that the game might be just at little bit too sadistic for any well adjusted reasonable person—with Wii™ players actually being able to participate in the slashing and whacking. The last video game banned in England was the hit and run game, Carmaggeddon™. It was banned in 1997. The British Board, in banning Manhunt2™ said the reason was the "...sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game."

On the same day antiviolence advocacy groups who possibly see the video as a "training game," pressured the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to rate the game AO instead of M based on the interactive features in Wii™ that simulate killing. When the Entertainment Software Ratings Board rated the game AO, ESRB president Patrica Vance issued a statement saying their decision was based "...on several factors, including not only the content itself and the context in which it was presented, but also elements such as the reward system and degree of player control." Which left Rockstar Games in a quandary according to Walker, who said Vance's reasons were vague, so he did not have a clear understanding of what pushed his game over the precipice from M to AO. Dah...try the sensation of committing violence by stabbing, beating, choking, hacking someone with an ax, crushing them with pliers or simply shooting them or whatever other forms of sadistic mayhem are available.

In the opinion of this writer, Manhunt2™—or any video game that perpetuates extreme, sadistic violence—should be banned. Particularly interactive games that additionally are able to simulate the violent experiences depicted in the video. Games that deaden our senses to violence or that minimize violence by making it part of the daily "norm" should not be sold. Because it is legal to do so does not mean it is right to do so. Producers of movies or video games depicting extreme or sadistic violence should use discretion and restraint in what they produce. But, as long as its legal, and as long as they can profit from it, the entertainment industry will provide as much blood and gore as the law will allow. That's why Walker is convinced that "...People who like the horror genre are going to love this game."

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Walker is probably right about the appeal of the game—particularly the Wii™ version. But at what point does sanity overshadow profit? At what point do the merchant princes exercise discretion and self-restraint? And, at what point do the game designers say, "While we can do it technologically, reason says we shouldn't." When gamers teach children that sadism, horror and violence is fun, it becomes less abhorrent when they become adolescents—and human life itself has a greatly diminished value when they become adults. We need to make the artisans of violence financially liable for the violence spawned by their games, their movies and their music.

© 2007 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved

[Read "Whatever Happened to America?"]

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Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.

Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.

E-Mail: BAFFauthor@aol.com


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Walker is probably right about the appeal of the game — particularly the Wii™ version. But at what point does sanity overshadow profit? At what point do the merchant princes exercise discretion and self-restraint?