Friday, 23 March 2012

Games, controversy and the BBFC - Best of enemies

I have explained the BBFC, together with other Acts of Parliament tend to put numerous spanners in distributors work for them to legally ply their work in the public domain.

Their roles and what must be done for the law to eventually pat you on the back have those involved seething more than a scornful lover.

Only the most patient woof woof can appreciate the meal in the granting of an eventual certificate more than a distributor.

Once complied with, they can sleep easy knowing no legal eagle can swoop down on their love nest and throw in the slammer quicker than you can say "Oh shit, maybe we should have sought legal advice before exhibiting our work in the public eye, w/o oops - a certificate."

Oh and using a GCSE (no matter how many * are placed after the A) just won't cut it.

I am now about to reveal some famous cases that games, shall we say - have created and caused a little bit of controversy in possibly the forgotten past and in recent history.

The timelines may not be accurate but that adds to the interest.  Those film franchises have finally incited their evil ways upon me and now I am helpless to their irresistible, hypnotic bullshit.

So taking into account all what's mentioned in the latter paras, that's more possible angles to consider when escaping from a deviously laid snooker.

Consumer advice - Material may contain indifferent views toward the evils of video games.

Alternative consumer advice - Material may discourage most and many towards the evils of video games.

Let's bang a gong and get it on.

The first game to be refused a BBFC rating was Carmageddon in 1997.

It was just essentially a stock car racing game, pretty standard fare but it had one important element, running over pedestrians heeded points.  So points for as many kills as possible.

Here's what would bite SCI and Interplay in the booty.  For a publicity stunt, they submitted it for and wanted an 18 BBFC rating....

The irony was it didn't need a certificate and was exempt because it featured no video footage but this moved backfired like a misfiring rocket launcher as the BBFC decided to use a little bit power by rejecting the work so was banned.

So in an attempt to get a rating, its content would be changed by famously censoring humans and replacing them with zombies and using green blood.  It was decided it was more acceptable to vent your anger, causing death by dangerous driving on undead pixels instead of the living.

So it was given an 18 rating - so not as originally intended but something I suppose.

But hang on a mo, SCI wasn't gonna take this decision lying down so they appealed the censors decision in the only way possible - the Video Appeals Committee, and won.

So this meant that humans could be put back in via a re-release so hurrah - the BBFC lost and I don't think they attempted to appeal the VAC's decision on judicial review.

The game - uncut or cut?  More mediocre than a cheap cider.

The grandaddy of all gaming controversy would be the Manhunt series.

The first was released for the PS2 (later on other platforms) in 2003 but was granted an 18 certificate.  It didn't suffer a ban or released with forced compromises and was (and even to this day) released fully uncut.

The BBFC did however, say later that it was at the top end of what was acceptable for that category.

Regardless, my opinion on why the BBFC didn't have a beef with it was because you had to do certain things in most levels (scenes) that, unless obeyed, would more than likely result in your death - thus distancing the player from myth and reality.

This could be contradictory though, as you could rush through some and most levels, albeit with inevitable stoppages for some forced kill-time.

There were also no innocent, weaponless bystanders and thus, no [pleasure?] could be gained for killing defenseless people.

Unlike many automobiles - gained by grand theft.

So as the latter factors didn't exist - a guaranteed fun-filled family adventure....

I'll touch upon the game more soon but the reason why this was such a controversial hot potato was not the gore or blood but the realistic nature in which the special kills (known as executions) were performed.

True, enemies could be killed with standard weapon swinging and fisticuffs but these 'executions' were far more popular as it meant an instant kill.

Even though the graphics don't look particularly good now, the acts of realism depicted in those kills are extremely possible (well in theory at least).

The enemies aka hunters even screamed and choked which added to the realism.  The longer you held out, the more gruesome they became, although no matter what execution you used, the result was of course the same.

Plastic bags, knives, axes, machetes, hammers and anything portable capable of been used in a lethal nature would be popular for dishing out bloodshed.

There would also be items used as lures such as bricks and even heads.  These are used to throw and attract hunters to get them into a position which could be used to your advantage...

These kills are the main reason for the 18 rating, and I say this because it contains its fair share of colourful language and could also be a contributing factor, but more than likely w/o these kills and just standard violence, it may well of just been a 15.

We'll never know.

Of course, if this was an RPG and you massacred enemies like giant robots and multi-eyed dragons - that wouldn't be realistic or imitiable in real life.

All this is history but at the time and even now, many questioned how it was released at all.

As mentioned, the BBFC have a responsibility and obligation under the Video Recordings Act, to determine if a video or game work passes the 'harm' test which will influence the behaviour of others and damage society.

Even if it didn't - I'm sure Rockstar would've appealed the decision to the VAC and eventually win.  In a strange way, I reckon Rockstar might have benefitted from the use of a functioning DeLorean and preferred a rejected work.

More press coverage and pound signs maybe?

When you think of the fuss made over Carmageddon, this took video game violence to an extreme level and made the latter look about as harmful as a Tweenies episode.

It would even be linked and blamed by some for a murder.

In 2004, Stefan Pekeerah was murdered by friend Warren Leblanc.   After which, the mother of Pekeerah claimed Leblanc had become obsessed with game due to his prolonged attack that led to the murder as he used weapons that were available for use in the game i.e a knife and claw hammer.

So after the copycatting executions claim, made after his guilty plea, the inevitable negative press coverage followed in its droves and was temporarily banned by some game chains in 2004.

Those game chains who didn't take the biohazard off the shelves would reap the opposite effects...

I also reckon this was a statement to gain positive press coverage.

Here's the reality - the bullshit thing is that Manhunt and Leblanc's apparent obsession with video games had not formed any part of the case.

Police denied this 'obsession' link, citing it as a drug related robbery as he owed money (£75) to pay off a debt to a local gang.

Here's the definitive proof, which as I far as I'm concerned - undeniably clears Manhunt for been in any way responsible.

Police confirmed that Manhunt was found in Pekeerah's possession and Leblanc NEVER even owned a copy.
The judge said he attributed all blame to Leblanc too.

For once, the BBC’s coverage of Manhunt was more balanced as they approached Rockstar, ELSPA (Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association) and a child psychologist.

ELSPA stopped rating games in 2003 - this duty now falls to the BBFC and PEGI.

Rockstar offered huge sympathy and rightly stated that the absolute but necessary obvious that the game was an 18 and only suitable for persons of that age or over.

They rightly refused to accept any suggestion that the events were in no way connected with and the sale of Manhunt.

The child psychologist also admitted that there’s no proof in how gaming violence might affect a adolescent's behaviour.

So that's the opinion of professional and even if he said otherwise, I say that nobody can confidently state that any game, (regardless of its content) can influence any action and certainly can’t be blamed for whatever appalling act, a clearly already disturbed individual decides upon - even if it's imitable.

Reuter’s (an international news agency), who’s headquarters are based in London accused it of "Awarding extra points to players who carry out murders in an extreme and bloody way."
Sorry Reuter’s, what’s that smell that’s attracted my twitching nostrils, sheep is it?  Cows?  Of course not, it’s bullshit.  It’s not just one steaming pile of it, it’s one of many strewn far and wide; so much so - there’s not much greenery left on the field.

There are no actual points awarded in the game, yes Reuters - I’m 100% right.
Have I played the game in length - yes indeed, carried out every execution possible have and always will resist the temptation of murder.

So what’s the actual point to this controversial, now cash cow for Rockstar?

Allow me to explain.

The game is viewed from a third-person perspective and follows a death row convict called James Earl Cash who has supposedly been executed by lethal injection (as the news reel informs).   But in reality, was kidnapped and only sedated by a film director (voiced by Brian Cox) who promises his freedom but only if he repeatedly gives the audience what they want by killing assassins who he is constantly hunted by.

Starkweather assists you in narrative form by telling you how to progress from level to level, which in effect is being filmed to create a snuff film.  This is also reflected in the manual.

This is definitely in self-defence and by whatever means necessary in the fictitious run-down Carcer City.

The director soon reveals himself to be a snuff film maker (who’s real name is Lionel Starkweather).

Starkweather’s name is revealed much later in the game to Cash by the journalist at the start of the game.

I like to think of it as the nearest thing to Delta City from Robocop.

So considering that brief synopsis, survival is the primary objective and you’re really forced to participate in a 'kill or be killed' or a 'him or you' scenario and not a senseless murder spree as originally suggested.

The director does offer a reward for players who dish out the more horrific executions (any one of three levels) to hunters and also taken into account is the speed for completion of that level.  This is displayed by a rating system of 1-5 stars.

Each scene is being filmed on video surveillance cameras (really shown during the executions) - hence the snuff adage, so hardly in a glamourous fashion.

The scenes include Cash rescuing his family in a zoo, then sees them murdered in a snuff film so makes it his personal mission to hunt the director down (at this point, he’s still only known as this).

After surviving the ending of a snuff film, Starkweather and his hired cronies are ordered to try and finish off what others couldn’t.

In no particular order, hunter gangs range from Hoods, Skins, Wardogs, Smilies and Innocentz (each spewing profanity and all sorts of crazy shit).

Eventually, you reach Starkweather’s mansion and after Piggsy (a pig mask wearing, chainsaw-wielding lunatic) finally loosens his chains, breaks free from the attic and murders everybody, he becomes the game’s end boss.

I can’t remember if it’s ever explained who he is or indeed why he became this monster but who cares, as he’s clearly a few pixels short of a sprite and obviously needs to die.

So after learning it's impossible to execute him in the traditional manner and after becoming chainsaw fodder many times, I stumbled across shards of glass that you have to stick him with.

After showing him the point a few times, you eventually lure him across a grating and because he obviously ate too many pies, this collapses under his weight.  He hangs on but Cash uses the chainsaw to great effect by slicing his arms off and happy landings demented arsehole.

I liken it to the scene with Ricther in Total Recall, who loses identical limbs albeit in a different fashion but ultimately meets the same fate.  But I wasn't invited to Piggsy's party.

Now armed with the chainsaw and after going through the motions with more baddies, he finally meets Starkweather and yup, his pathetic pleas ain’t gonna 'cut' it.

He is helpless as you hack him up and the cherry is put on top of this murderous cake by opening his skull and finally jamming the chainsaw in his back.

Gratuitous end eh!

The journo then turns up to expose his snuff ring and police involvement and in typical cliched fashion, Cash is gone.  I don't know about you but I never saw that coming.

I personally did what I had to do to complete the game and through curiosity, I always wanted to see what the resulting differences in performing an execution were.

After the intended shock factor wore off and after seeing the same ones repeatedly, it ultimately got rather repetitive and boring.

What kept it interesting for a while was the stealth element.  Using various lures to attract hunters and hide in a nearby shadow (rendering you 99% invisible), and then executing them would be quite satisfying.
I say 99% as the shadows are ineffective if you have been seen and try to hide - unless you did a Run Fatboy Run.

Speaking of this shadow gameplay element, this in a way was sort of stolen from a PS1 classic, albeit in totally different circumstances.

This fairly well known classic was Oddworld: Abe's Odysee, yes that's Odysee and not Odyssey.  It was also a 2D platform stealth 'em' up as the object was survival, saving your buddies and escaping the onslaught of strange looking enemies.

You did this in a variety of cunning ways as you couldn't just blow them away with a highly-charged blaster.  Luring them into traps and dentonating mines were effective.

A really cool thing was the gamespeak mechanic which allowed you to could bark out orders to your friends and prevent them being killed.

Once under your control, you could even use other enemies to turn on others but despite all this clever stuff, I always remember been able to fart - which was amusingly greeted with disgust by the sligs.

To add another future game into the mix, Resident Evil 0, Zero or Alpha (depending which country you're in) would also use this voice command mechanic.  It was in a very limited way but I do believe its character or player zapping remains unique.

Before I get into a major digression, the point I'm trying to make was you could also evade enemies in shadows.

This was released in 1997 and published by GT Interactive so if you thought Manhunt invented the shadow evasion - you'd be wrong.  It's too similar to be a coincidence.

The only way to execute was to approach somebody from behind and use that target... in whatever colour.  I always referred to it as an extremely violent Metal Gear Solid but later that was thrown outta the window as the later levels solely relied on 'shoot first, ask questions later'.

Many forget that Metal Gear Solid on the PS1 had a 15 rating - it wasn't particularly gory but even so, you could break people's necks in a realistic fashion.

Yeah, I'm not gonna fall into the trap that the PS1 was host to the first Metal Gear as that privilege belonged to the ancient MSX in the late 80s and later would appear on the NES.

Further more, I carefully distinguished it MGS on the PS1, as when first released - the word 'Solid' didn't exist and wouldn't become so until the PS1 release in 1998.  Fans will always call them Metal Gear games but I thought it important to distinguish between the past and present.

I hope that was interesting as Steve Davis.

So at the time, the most controversial game ever wasn't even banned, (unless you lived in the temporary world of Game and Dixons), whose actions subsequently made it more popular than what it deserved to be and made Rockstar an absolute fortune.

Certainly not an awful game but there’s so, so much better.

Rather more inevitable than a Friday the 13th sequel et al - there would be a sequel and the BBFC gained sweet revenge and this time there would be no Carmageddon happy ending but that's only half the story.

The execution kills return and sensing that killing those with just weapons would become even more boring, Rockstar would allow the background to get in on the action.  These would be known as 'environmental' kills.

So as Manhunt's content had reached the absolute in pinnacle in what the BBFC considered acceptable, this would surely be banned and was.

Before we get into the complicated legal wranglings, I have no choice but to describe the game (although sometimes, it was purposely difficult to see what was going on...)

It's much in the mold of the original with its mechanics (albeit expanded), so is basically the same game but with a different albeit, more interesting storyline.

Daniel Lamb is the new protagonist who is a seemingly disturbed patient, who wakes up in a mental facility.  He was a scientist and worked on the Pickman Project (a secret experimental organisation named after its founder, Dr. Pickman and led by Dr. Whyte).

Pickman was convinced a breakthrough was near but he needed a guinea pig - Lamb agrees to become one of many.

Years later, Lamb wakes up and has almost no memory and escapes in an attempt to discover who he is.

A storm allows other test subjects - who having suffered unpleasant side effects are in Dixmoor too and escape.

These people are not Danny's friends....

Under the guidance of inmate Leo, during Lamb's journey of collecting clues and information about his identity, a new set of 'hunters' will attempt to kill him who have been employed and/or hired by 'The Project'.

So like before, you can choose to either kill or avoid them to ensure your survival and continue your pursuit in solving this 'identity' crisis.

It's these kills that the BBFC labelled as 'sadistic'.

Familiar weapons would return but new portable cruelty was now available through syringes, pliers, barbed wire, pens, scissors, shears and many more.

The lures and shadows would return to achieve an identical purpose but you could also perform 'jumping' and 'environmental' kills.  Achieved at a height and using the environments respectively.

The environs are the most interesting addition and sometimes a hunter has to be lured into a certain position for this to work.  These include the novel use of a dentist chair, fuse box, manhole cover and a telephone.... with gruesome results.

Sounds more interesting than the original - well yes it was, but was it any good (in its intended or other form)?  That's in brief and saved for later.

In 2007, Manhunt 2 would have its original work rejected for the PS2 and Wii and be only the second game in video game history to be refused a certificate.

It concluded that it was different to other recent high-end games due to the unremitting bleakness and callousness of its overall content which constantly encourages visceral killing and little else.

There is also a sustained and 'casual' sadism in how these killings are committed and encouraged.  Wow BBFC!

It continued, stating that aside of the relentless focus on stalking and brutal slaying and lack of alternative pleasures offered to the gamer, together with the overall different narrative content, contribute towards differentiating it from the original.

I suppose they deduced that the narration was basically inferring or encouraging 'Kill, kill, kill, kill and kill some more'.  'There are no alternatives, but to kill'.

I can't remember much of the narration (now voiced by inmate Leo) and can't be bothered to but I'm sure that the narration was never an issue?

I remember Starkweather encouraging similar actions - a sample of which I remember (who it's aimed at is of course irrelevant)

"Butcher them Cash, cut 'em, choke the fucking life out of them!"

If that's not encouraging a murder, I must be missing something and everything contained in Manhunt was totally uncut.

In America, it received an AO (Adults Only) so an 18+ rating by ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) which is the equivalent of a UK 18 rating.

What I find really crazy is that the rating before AO is M (Mature) and is suitable only for 17+ so logically is the equivalent of a 15.  So why that rating is massively differently baffles me, it's only a year?

If AO meant 21+, that would make more sense, right?  But does aging three years really make people more mature and responsible?

I remain sceptical but who the fuck knows?

Mulder and Scully are still investigating this bizarre mystery.

So get those seatbelts ready as we are about to delve in to what would boast the most tumultuous and complicated classification history of any game.

Those who appreciate horror in the silver screen of past and present would appreciate its shock value and controversy.

This had it in oodles, the kit and even caboodles.

So as already mentioned, its original work was rejected so how would Rockstar react - accept or fight it?  They would fight doggedly....

Following that rejection, Rockstar would later submit a revised version but while that was in motion, it had already appealed to the VAC against the refusal of the original work but was suspended while the alternative was mulled over for classification.

The BBFC said that it accepted there had been some amendments and while there was some reduction in the visual detail of some kills, others didn't and retained their 'sadistic' nature.

Before which, the BBFC suggested further 'changes' to the original work but obviously in their opinion, Rockstar didn't make them so the only way forward was to reignite an appeal.

An appeal was made to the VAC against the decision to reject the modified version in late 2007, and was narrowly successful.  So that meant that Rockstar had won the battle but maybe not the war as the BBFC could judicially appeal the VAC's decision.

Before any decision was made, the BBFC would chew over the possibility of overturning the decision made by the VAC.... but before making that decision, a statement was issued as to why both versions were rejected.

Amongst all that, they admitted they played Manhunt 2 for over 30 hours prior to their decision.

Wow, that's about 25 hours less than what I played it.
So after spitting their censoring dummies out, the law allows a judicial review which they gladly took.  Further to this, they also applied to suspend the Committee's decision to classify it.

The basis of this appeal is that the BBFC believed that allowing classification goes against the interpretation of the guidelines set by the VRA.

If the decision was suspended, it couldn't be classified and be distributed legally.  The requested suspension was successful so no rating until at least early 2008.

The chaos is nearly over but before the final curtain is drawn on this epic battle, something amazing and extremely stupid happened in the back end of 2007.

A Sony employee decided to take it upon himself to leak the highly illegal and uncut version on the internet - smart move and what brass balls eh?

The motivation - who knows?

Maybe a disgruntled and bitter employee seething at the BBFC's decision?  Because he could?  Or more realistically - a huge cash incentive to do so?

Who knows as it was never made public.

Regardless, it bye bye from their payroll and was swiftly given his/her marching orders.

Was it worth it?  Only that person can tell you.

So after that, 2008 came and with it, the judicial review.  As we are in 'that' review territory - the High Court quashed the Committee's decision to overturn the BBFC's rejection on the grounds of 'errors' in law - what those errors were, maybe a solicitor could tell us?

Subsequently, the VAC reconsidered Rockstar's appeal, in the shining light of the High Court's directions on law.

It however, gave in and decided to allow the appeal on the basis that Manhunt 2 be given an '18' certificate.

In case you're lost - this was the 'modified' version and not the original work.

After approaching the legal nest of advice provided by an unknown amount of eagles.

The BBFC did not believe the Committee's judgment provided a realistic basis to further challenge the VAC's decision and although dissatisfied, relented and finally gave it an '18' rating.
Phew, that's one hell of a true story and meant that although the Rockstar had won the battle but I see it as the BBFC had won the war.

What I mean is, despite some effort - the law eventually reached a compromise with the BBFC.  So although Rockstar got their work certified - it was not as intended, and while they'd take it - the BBFC would be unable to hide their smug smile.

The now legal version in circulation would feature the consumer advice "Contains very strong bloody and sadistic violence"

That's arguable as every execution kill is in black and white.

So I have revised consumer advice "Contains very strong, inferred monochrome violence and extreme squinting is ill-advised as it fails to bring any execution into focus and may incur incurable eyesight damage"

The original uncut work is still illegal (unless you know that Sony idiot) and is likely to remain so forever and a day.

So as promised, what did I think of this controversial mess?

Well the uncut version certainly wouldn't magically make it a far better game but of course, I would of preferred to choose the version that I and Rockstar wanted....

In summing up, it wasn't great.  It of course looked better and succeeded on expanding on its mechanics but even this couldn't prevent it from becoming boring and encourage droopy eyes and/or persistent yawning from its familiar nature.

What is guaranteed though, banning (whatever work) creates publicity and popularity and what's that saying - 'any publicity is good publicity'.

Rockstar were onto a winner and would there be a third to complete the trilogy?

That's always been in the pipeline but on the PS3 and/or 360?  Surely keeping with the former and latter trend of realism would be potentially be even more impossible w/o a huge legal war.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

The kings and queens of controversy would historically dip into the gangster and criminal underworld but this wouldn't really be known as Rockstar's as the first game was created by DMA Design in 1997.  These boys would later become Rockstar North and Rockstar games and a phenomenon was born.

Grand Theft Auto - up there with the most popular and richest gaming franchises of all time.

Deserved?  I don't know as although I delved into the madness, it didn't take me long to find a way out.

Still, being impartial - I appreciate and respect its popularity.
I hope you're hungry as we are all set to take a bite of this freshly prepared shit sandwich.

Each game allows the main protagonist to portray the role of a criminal or similar wannabe in a big, big city and to dish out the shit would ultimately earn respect because as they say - those who are feared can do anything they want...

Although mission based - it didn't force you to really follow it in a particularly strict fashion.

Those who could be bothered would rise through the ranks and access later areas of the city.  After unlocking these areas, some missions became linear.

Aside from the familiar missions, such as chasing and drop offs - you could race and be a taxi driver.

The original was viewed from a bird’s eye perspective and the cartoony graphics left a lot to be desired but even I'll admit you could do some interesting stuff.

In 2001, the dimension of three would take it by the balls with an open and grateful hand.

In the later games, the idea was that more reason was given to your wanton rise up the criminal and most wanted ladder.  Being Left for Dead and betrayal were common reasons.

It did fall into the sandbox mold and granted the player a large amount of freedom.  Even while on a mission, could become non-linear and allowed you to do other things that wasn't part of that mission.

Choices could be made and these choices would determine relationships and how the game would later pan out.

All games featured a choice of radio stations, music and advertisements but major voice talent input would mainly come into play from III onwards.

Its controversy would come in many forms but surely its worst was being able to 'jack' a vehicle at free will and then go on a pedestrian lawn mowing spree.

This would incur a wanted rating but was irresistible.  Dishing out physical violence was also available and would earn money.  Great stuff?

The car owners were always law-abiding citizens and followed traffic lights which allowed an easy jack.  The games were stupid and unrealistic on purpose to permit such a simple crime.

I mean you could outrun most vehicles to change your wheels and few chose to argue.

The cops did put up more of a fight but even then would ask questions, shoot later.

There were loads of ports, sequels and add-ons abound.  In turn would mean loadsa money for Rockstar.

So GTA, with two London expansion packs would quickly make three.

Then before falling under the hypnotic spell of Street Fighter, it would get a proper sequel.

GTA III was considered the major leap as its perspective would become third-person but top-down was still available as an additional camera view.

Of course it was massive and like a fucked up long-running movie franchise - the numbering fashion would fall away quicker than an innocent relenting to peer pressure.

[All games still remain as Grand Theft Auto but I can't be bothered constantly typing 'that' so it's just gonna be GTA from now on just so there's no confusion in thinking that all future games would be simply called 'GTA'.]

Fans and others alike would just call it GTA anyway.

In 2002, GTA: Vice City appeared and was based around the cocaine trade which first introduced flying vehicles.

Two years later San Andreas focused on gang life and crack cocaine.

We would then have GTA Advance on the Game Boy Advance.  Although based on GTA III, this is considered an original game.

The PSP would have two exclusive games in Liberty City and Vice City Stories.  Both would later become PS2 games.

This would be the last of the GTA III era of games and the next would be extremely big budget.

In 2008 - GTA IV arrived and would be incredible in terms of its size, options available and graphics.

To me though, it's still a case of same shit, different game.
PS3 and 360 owners would be salivating and they wouldn't be disappointed and admittedly - was an epic game.

Microsoft would own the episodic right with Rockstar and this content was only available for download.  In 2009, 'The Lost and the Damned' and 'The Ballad of Gay Tony' were download exclusives for Microsoft's full circle.

The exclusives for the 360 have now descended into farce...  Mass Effect 2 et al?

Although Sony owners still can't play Alan Wake - but then again, why would you want to?

This didn't last though as this was agreement had a time limit so could and was released as a compilation on a single disc for PS3 and PC.

This was called GTA: Episodes from Liberty City and didn't even have you over a barrel by requiring the original GTA IV.

Getting with the touch screen lovely that is the DS, it would get an untouchable exclusive in GTA: Chinatown Wars.  This featured touch-screen mini games and a very controversial drug dealing feature.  Although how it can be played remains exclusive to the DS - it would later be released on the PSP and mobile phone.

The future is bright, the future's GTA V and several noises have already been made about it.

Unfortunately, not through the want of trying, I remain unexcited.

As far as I know, the BBFC has never forced any cuts to content or story and anything that has been changed was down to Rockstar and not the law.

It would be blamed for shootings, murder and before he crashed it - teaching a juvenile how to drive.

It was condemned in the UK and other countries due to its 'extreme violence'.

Hmmmm, so teaching a juvenile how to drive eh?  So was his vehicle suitably manufactured and modified to be steered by a joy pad?

Rumour has it that this advanced model also was custom built with a rumble feature.

There would be some famous controversy but regardless - it was never banned.

I find this incredible as it was allegedly blamed for so much and judging by the BBFC's track record - unbelievable.

Prostitution, full frontal male nudity, violence, receiving awards for general criminal acts and drug-dealing all featured.

Of that male nudity, the dingle dangles aren't even realistic and the afro surrounding it certainly outdoes forestry growth.

The acts are extremely imitable (in theory) and prevalent in order to progress.

Other games would be inspired to be similar like Simpsons - Hit and Run, Driver and Saints Row.

My take on GTA - pretty boring and despite its controversial nature, not one was ever a great game.

Limited fun to me, like a very violent and suitably expanded Crazy Taxi.

Personally, all I mainly did was jack a car, achieve a wanted rating in the traditional fashion and see how long I'd last before I died, then repeat.

Was I missing out on the huge amount of missions?  Maybe, but having tried and believe me, I really tried to get into to it - I just couldn't be arsed with it.

So that's GTA sewn up but there's much more to disect.

Before we do, I blame that evil game Pac-Man for obesity.  Decades on I have become hopelessly addicted to smarties.  I also blame it for eating far too many pills, then hallucinating temporary invincibility and chasing after ghosts.

Mortal Kombat was and still is a decidedly average one on one fighter which featured digitised characters, staple-diet special moves and 'fatalities'.

Using live actors as sprites was an early use but not unique as Pit Fighter was one of the first to use this graphical technique.

The mispelling of 'Combat' was on purpose to put a greater emphasis on the 'harder and tougher' sound of 'K'.

Macho?  No.  Clever?  No?  Would it become famous?  Sadly, yes.

I am as a bitter as an elderly lemon.

It was these fatalities that would spark much controversy.  This was a special move that could only be performed when 'FINISH HIM' or 'HER' was announced.

Players would then have a few seconds to attempt to maddenly input a variety of ridiculously complicated d-pad and button commands and if done correctly - the screen would dramatically darken and would see your character deal a unique and gruesome death.

It was these fatalities that largely contributed to the creation of the ESRB ratings board in 1994.

Cheers Midway.

The first had only one per character and then inevitably, would have multiple options.  You could even dish out comical finishing moves such as Friendship, Animalities and Babalities.

This ensured that most of these made-up words became language among fans.  Apart from the obvious ones like friendship and brutality, did people really believe that these 'words' existed?

Before moving on, why was Friendship (first introduced in MK II) not Friendshipalities or Friendshipality?  After all, all they did to invent most words was shove 'ality' or 'alities' at the end.

Easter eggs would also be popular which involved doing something during a certain point and sometimes even in a certain stage to unlock a hidden character.  Toasty!

So smelling cash, Midway would churn out sequel and sequel.  MK II was actually pretty good, albeit very similar but after that - yawnometer time.  See, I can make up words too.

I have a huge problem with these games as all characters played the same.  Hence the only main incentive was to perform a different fatality.

Of course this failed to adjust fans' rose-tinted glasses.
However, the latest game in 2011 is actually pretty good and introduced some nice new features.  Ultimately, it must be played online because unlike these games of yesteryear, playing this genre with one's self just isn't fun anymore.

The fatalities console ports really made censorship famous and was at the height of the 16-bit console wars.

During this heavily debated and biased war, it would see many rival Sega and Nintendo owners spout off 'the Megadrive is better than the SNES because...' and vice versa.  Humph!

I think we're all in agreement that the SNES was superior....

Mortal Kombat was of course ported to most and many home formats and in particular, the Megadrive and SNES.

The former had blood and the uncut fatalities but the latter featured odd 'brown sweat' and totally different fatalities.  Could you even call them fatalities?

This of course caused outrage and had Sega fanboys display grins wider than the Grand Canyon.

I suppose allowing the uncut version would damage Nintendo's family friendly image.
From an unbiased view, despite being bloodless and fatalitiless - the SNES version had far better audio and visuals.

But despite being a superior port, the lack of redness and extreme fatality censorship resulted in poor sales.

Sega fanboys would have their grins dramatically droop as Nintendo relaxed its family friendly policy and the SNES sequel would be fully uncut and given a BBFC 15 rating.

This would continue further and beyond.

We're talking the early 90's here and while a big deal at the time, the blood was more like tomato ketchup and very unrealistic in how it was depicted. 

Bully in 2006 was another controversial Rockstar creation.

It followed the exploits of disruptive scally Jimmy Hopkins at the fictional boarding school, Bullworth Academy.  Many kids set about making your life a living hell so the objective is to take over the school my doing all sorts of imitable behaviour.

The title itself was never gonna please the public as bullying groups condemned it in encouraging the direct link to violence among pupils and accused it of glamourising bullying.

Despite this obvious reference, it wasn't banned and no content was even changed.

For its UK PAL release, it wouldn't be known as Bully but be renamed as Canis Candem Edit which is latin for 'dog eat dog'.  Waste of time to me as I'd always refer to it as Bully.

In 2008, it would be re-released on the 360, Wii and later on the PC and would bear the title Bully: Scholarship Edition.  This featured exclusive content that was not available in the PS2 game but why was the name relaxed?

Resident Evil 5 was alleged to have racist imagery as a white man (Chris Redfield) shoots black Africans in a village.  

Those who accused it would have a point if:

a) it wasn't a Resident Evil and/or survival horror game;
b) these enemies weren't infected and trying to kill you with numerous handheld weaponry; and most importantly
c) these were innocents.

The BBFC occasionally make sensible decisions and rejected all racism claims.

Forget the now out Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, as that's a totally different game but Resident Evil 6 will be based in China.  Uh oh!

To keep with the undead theme, Left 4 Dead 2 was again controversial.

Firstly, its cover was forced to be changed in the UK as the V sign was considered insulting.  So it was reversed, thus displaying the 'victory' sign.

How truly offensive?

If that wasn't bad enough, the Resident Evil 5 infection would spread as it was also accused of racism.

The zombies are a mix of all races so that's absolute bollocks.

Honestly, give me a rage gauge to power up.

Many other games on the SNES would be censored for PAL release.

A notable example is Castlevania, which would have nudity, crucifixes and even have blood changed to green slime or acid.

Crucifixes would also be censored on many other games to avoid religious controversy.
Wolfenstein had its Nazi references carefully edited for the port and all swastikas were removed.

Hitler had his name altered to 'Staatmeister' and thus creating a castle stuffed to the brim of boring red flags.

I must also mention the port of Final Fight.  The sprites of Roxy and Poison were redesigned and renamed to Billy and Sid.

So instead of prostitutes (I don't think you could call them anything else), you had punks instead.

It didn't stop there, other content was censored including removing minor blood splashes, the end boss had his wheelchair redrawn to look more like an office chair and after destroying the car in the bonus stage 'Oh! my God' was changed to 'Oh! my Car'.

COD MW 2 was the sixth Modern Warfare game but it's called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 so it's got '2' etc etc oh no, no, no I don't like it, i don't like it....  Its name that is.

There was one notorious and very infamous Russian scene involving an airport which the player was even warned they could skip it due to 'disturbing content'.

We all know you didn't have to open fire but the itchy trigger finger or thumb in most cases, would prove irresistible as you could commit a far worse act than any Manhunt execution.

These innocents would scream, run in terror and even drag others to safety.  The results would lie with the player....

There is no reward for the carnage and you cannot fail the mission in non-participation but the content is surely up there with the worst.

To some, this 'tasteless' mission would ultimately mean this was the first COD game to receive an 18 rating.

The inevitable follow-ups would follow suit but none would feature such controversy.

Battlefield is COD’s ultimate rival and to me, the former is the far better franchise.

COD: MW3 was also given an 18 and did have some reference to the London Underground terrorist attacks in 2005.  It was decided the storyline was far removed from these real events.

Before I get kind and rewind, right back to the beginning, here are some publicised incidents of how games have taken lives either through murder, inspiration or extreme addiction.

None of them, I repeat none of them - carry any proof, fact or guarantee that they can be blamed for the minority who choose to dip into their demented fantasy world.

I, like millions of others adore video games but regardless of content or the acts I'm forced to perform to progress - that's where it ends.

The reality and explanations (where applicable) should help a sensible head here and Manhunt won’t revisited....

A Mortal Kombat fatality was blamed for a stabbing murder.  So clearly having lost touch with reality, he really believed he really was the robotic ninja, Cyrax.
The fatality couldn't even be performed by Cyrax.  Hmmmm!

Students would massacre many in a school and were allegedly obsessed with Doom.  One of them did make WADs (Where's All the Data) which were a set of package files that allowed players to mod and create their own levels and layout.

So I suppose a Doom Construction Kit.

But contrary to rumour, neither created such a map or level that mimicked the school classroom and there was no evidence to suggest they even practiced the massacre in Doom.

Some unstable parties chose various GTA games as their inspiration to kill by shooting and also stealing vehicles.

A Chinese teenager committed suicide in the hope of been reunited in the afterlife with his fellow virtual gamers.  Prior to his death, he had played Warcraft III non-stop for 36 hours.

Also, a South Korean died after managing to play StarCraft for 50 hours straight.  So that's 2 days and 2 hours.  Incredible!

Even more amazing is that online gaming claimed a Chinese man's life after he somehow played Internet games in a cafe consecutively for 72 hours.  Impossible but true!

Next a very depressing and unfathomable case involving a very non-violent game - Tony Hawk: Ride.

A young child was stabbed to death after an argument with the purchase of the latter.

A French gamer found and stabbed a fellow Counter Strike player.  The latter did this in a virtual world but unfortunately, the unstable former avenged this innocent in reality.

For all of the above, insanity and/or sickness can be the only reasons.

Addiction comes in many forms, but when this 'drug' takes over your life - either by legal or illegal means, accept the problem - seek help from a qualified professional.

So here we go, press that rewind button as we're about to go right back to the past, and not to play those shitty games that sucked ass.

The very first game to receive a mandatory BBFC rating was a text adventure (with static graphics) way back in 1986.

Dracula was published by CRL and slapped with a 15 rating due its gory images.  Strangely, achieving this feat wasn't enough for CRL as they would be aggrieved at its 15 rating as they wanted an '18'.

Tough luck lads but they would eventually be granted their wish.

It would become the first in a tetralogy of games by CRL, all of the same genre and BBFC rated in the 8-bit era - released on the C64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum.

The next was Frankenstein, also a 15 in 1987.

But the third would push the boundaries of damnation and receive the ultimate accolade.

Jack the Ripper was rated 18 and achieve this notoriety in 1987.

A year later, Wolfman would also boast the same certificate for its adult imagery.

Whoah, holy shit.  That number indicating an age rating would encourage a huge sales boom for CRL and all involved right?  Errr, no!

The genre or textual adventure (with gory images or not) would put the fear of God up most gamers as while undeniably classic, will infuriate most.

To tease is to intrigue lol!

Wanna know something?  These games only needed a BBFC rating because they displayed graphics.  If they didn't, the submission for a rating would be rejected and get a huge Family Fortunes style wrong answer noise.

Why?  Because the BBFC has no power to cast eye or judgment in the overseeing of printed media.

How foolish of Rockstar, if only they'd just made Manhunt and Bully text adventures with the inference of executions, bloody violence and bullying, all would be well.

Although, I don't see technology or gamers agreeing that this would be the way to go.

So in relation to 'those' cases, I have a few philosophical and final thoughts.

Millions (including myself) play games frequently but when the fun stops and a switch is flicked that tells you to replicate whatever act in real life; that's when we should say 'that's it' and take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror.

I have played the most controversial games ever conceived but I'm very confident no game, work or film can ever encourage a negative effect on my personality.

Apart from the frustration in 'dying' constantly in certain instances, only goes to create a 'positive' addiction in beating the thing.  This is due to anger as when clearly playing like a 'robot' is just soul-destroying and my performance encourages deserved ragging from my mates.

If I had the know how and ability, who knows - maybe I could create content much worse but even if this envious fantasy came into force, those who know me are quite safe...

All the above real-life incidents blame various games for alleged behaviour, either through inspiration, obsession or addiction.

Without keeping a straight face, it's wholly unfair for any game to be held responsible for the historic and appalling acts that the minority claim to have been inspired by way of joypad, qwerty or joystick control.

I'm afraid there are too many killjoys out there that seem quick to jump onto the media bandwagon of controversy.

It is therefore madness to bear a grudge against those who create this fantastic pastime as it's a way to relax from the stresses of work, let go and achieve extreme satisfaction in destroying whatever behemoth that has stood in your way for x amount of time.

It's really worth dedicating all those hours to beat a game but nowadays, your reward is to watch an endless 'credit' ending.  Dead Space 2 - stand back and cower.

Street Fighter IV received a BBFC 12 rating and was obviously passed with no cuts.

The consumer advice informed that it contained 'moderate fantasy violence'.

It definitely shouldn't have needed a BBFC rating as PEGI would have been fine, but regardless - the BBFC concluded it contained fantasy.

I think that's the overriding point and I conclude that's the world where all video games should stay and belong.

The sequel is in development and will be made available in the coming weeks.

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