OPINION

Gaming Industry Peddles Murder-Ware to Teens

Take-Two Interactive Software, owner of the “Manhunt” video game that was banned in New Zealand and which sparked the adoption of new video/CD purchase and rental rules in Canada, recently announced a partnership with one of the members of the record label cartel that’s currently suing p2p users around the world.

Take-Two’s publisher Rockstar Games and Interscope Records, owned by France’s Universal Music Group, have formed a joint venture to release the soundtrack to “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.” Its release is scheduled for October 25.

PlayStation2 is owned by another member of the “sue ’em all” cartel, Sony. The other cartel members are BMG (Sony-BMG in Japan, Germany), Warner Music (USA) and EMI (UK).

Pushing Aggression

Recently a caption under a “Manhunt” graphic on CNET Networks’ GameSpot said, “You get to meet — and brutally kill — some very interesting people.” That caption has since been removed. But still there is a “Manhunt” description, prefaced by the statement that Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto III” and “Grand Theft Auto III: Vice City,” have done “pretty well for the company.”

The description says, “Manhunt … serves up a disturbing blend of third-person stealth action that’s equal parts ‘Splinter Cell,’ ‘Tenchu,’ and, because Rockstar loves its disturbing influences, snuff film.”

“Snuff” film? This refers to a type of grotesque “reality” movie taken to its ultimate extreme. The victim — usually a woman — is video-taped while she’s being mutilated and/or murdered. The “snuffy” is then sold to some very sick people.

But, “Rockstar loves its … snuff film.”

Real-Life Murder

“Grand Theft Auto III” was blamed for inspiring two brutal murders in California, and a Haitian civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” because it instructed players to “kill the Haitians,” awarding points for each kill.

File-sharing sites already have “San Andreas” listed for download, says SPOnG. One version — weighing in at a whopping, not to mention credible, 3.95 GB — is currently seeing a lot of activity. “If this proves to be the game, it marks a worrying turn of events for Rockstar and the industry in general,” says SPOnG.

That’s not all Take-Two/Rockstar needs to worry about.

Take-Two calls its Rockstar Games “a leading publisher of interactive entertainment geared towards mature audiences,” that “markets its games responsibly, targeting advertising and marketing only to adult consumers ages 18 and older.”

But “Manhunt” and other Take-Two games are being played enthusiastically bypeople under the age of 18, or whatever the “adult” age happens to be in any given country.

Earlier this year, a 17-year-old British youth admitted murdering a 14-year-old whose parents claimed the older boy was obsessed by “Manhunt.”

Teens Make Plea

In response to a p2pnet.net story on the murder, a reader wrote, “I am a frequent user of Rockstar’s ‘Manhunt.’ I enjoy playing the game with its intense scenario and its ferocious fights. I am a big fan of Rockstar’s ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series also, which has similar game play compared to ‘Manhunt.’ By the way, just because I like these games doesn’t mean that I am a violent person.

“Five news sites were running a poll. It was to do with ‘violent’ games being banned…. Why should these games be banned? Think of the other teenagers like me, who are not influenced by these games, who play the games to enjoy it, not to imitate what characters do in the game. If violent games were to be banned then the enjoyment of gaming will disintegrate.

“I am shocked at this incident, but it can’t lead to ‘banning’ these types of games. Even if they were banned it would influence people to download warez copies of these games, which is not good at all.”

The poster was 15.

Lack of Action

Meanwhile, UK electronics retailer Dixons was among the major companies which subsequently yanked “Manhunt.”

But the game — and many others like it — are still easily accessed. In the new “San Andreas,” for example, “players build a crime empire by robbing banks, stealing cars, running drugs and killing the competition,” as a New York Post story put it.

ELSPA (the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association) is the UK’s computer and video games industry trade group — something akin to the music industry’s RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), with all that implies.

“There should be a cautious attitude targeting non-adults with adult content,” ELSPA director general Roger Bennett told English gaming mag MCV, according to SPOnG. “It is up to the publishers what they do, but we would hope they would be careful and target the right audience. We don’t want to shoot ourselves in the foot again. What we don’t want is a situation where the indefensible becomes indefensible. We don’t want an Achilles’ heel like this given recent events.”

Clearly, Take-Two hopes the linkage with Big Music will inspire even more people to buy its murder-ware. And the labels? No problem. Business is business.


Jon Newton, a TechNewsWorld columnist, founded and runs p2pnet.net, a daily peer-to-peer and digital media news site focused on issues surrounding file-sharing, the entertainment industry and distributed computing. p2pnet is based in Canada where sharing music online is legal.


2 Comments

  • Ridiculous. Do we live in an age of censorship and thought control? If playing a murderous, depraved game should be illegal, what about drawing murderous pictures? Or making murderous movies? Or thinking murderous thoughts? Where is the line here?
    The problem isn’t the games. There will always be inspiration for the "less stable" to tweak out and kill somebody, or otherwise break the law. The gaming industry is just an easy target right now.
    I won’t even say that the problem is parents, that’s been done to death. Part of the problem is enforcement of the age limits. At least around where I AM , the age limit is essentially non-existent. What’s stopping an underage consumer from purchasing a rated M game online? A checkbox.
    That’s not to say that only under-age players will snap and murder somebody. But under-age players seems to be the only real demographic these anti-violence pro-censorship evangelists are targetting. If a 35 year old man kills somebody, he’s a criminal, or evil, or had some other categorizable motive. If a 15 year old kills somebody, somethings out of whack and there must be an explanation… the parents? the games? the bullies at school?
    Crack down on enforcing the Mature rating in video games, and stop debating this irresponsible possibility of banning violence from video games, or we’ll all be living in a world of Hello Kitty and pink muffins in a few years. Then when a 15 year old kills somebody we can blame it on music like we did in the old days.
    Ugh.

    • Yes, we live in a world were some irresponsible must be stopped as they bring to our child the biggest shit ever made : virtual reality violent games featuring mafias, violence, murder and such stuff which became with the advanced technology of today real danger for our futures life. We need to stop this now : video games are now really near the reality and child with their not so subtle minds and all the problems they face for their age have different things to do than adding even more playing such lame games. And don’t speak about music as an example : some musics are bad for the spirit like video games are. Music is a language for the soul so bad musics are bad for the health. Bad videos games are filling mind of child with bad pictures, bad scene and they have enough to suffer with their parents shouting and their problem at school. Video games which feature too much violence are the good path for them to believe that the values they learnt are a way of making our way in this life. That’s really a shame that such games are sold and are legal. I was playing since the appearance of Wolfenstein 3D and since this game, I have totally stopped such activity as I find it disgusting and bad for my health. I’ve seen all the mew games running and I fear about their realism and I advise anybody who have copies of them to destroy them right away. Then write to their maker to explain them that what they do are bad.

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