Last night saw arguably the biggest gaming launch of the year take place in London's Leicester Square. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was unveiled to a mass of screaming fans that were treated to celebrity guests, parades of soldiers in full-on army gear, and a midnight launch at HMV.
The hysteria surrounding the launch has not escaped the attention of longtime gaming critic Keith Vaz MP. The Leicester East Labour MP and Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, recently spoke out on the controversial airport massacre scene from the game in the Daily Mail saying, "I am absolutely shocked by the level of violence in this game and am particularly concerned about how realistic the game itself looks." After promising to bring up his outrage in Parliament, Vaz has clashed with Tom Watson MP, former minister for digital engagement and longtime supporter of the video game industry.
Speaking to Sion Simon, Culture Media and Sport Minister, Vaz asked "Is the Minister aware that at midnight tonight a new and violent video game called Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is to be released? It contains such scenes of brutality that even the manufacturers have put in warnings within the game telling people how they can skip particular scenes." He went on to question how the government is ensuring that violent games did not fall into the hands of young people, adding "It’s not about censorship; it’s about protecting our children."
Watson then stepped in to defend the game, "I’ve seen the content in this video game; it is unpleasant, though no worse than in many films and books; it is an 18-plus game and carries the BBFC 18-plus rating as well." Watson also took snipe at Vaz's quote in the Daily Mail saying, "Does the Minister agree that it would be better for this House to support the many thousands of games designers and coders and the many millions of games users, rather than collaborating with the Daily Mail to create moral panic over the use of video games?"
Tiga, the UK's game development trade association, has backed Watson, calling it "encouraging" to see MPs stand up for video games. Recently Tiga helped set up an All Party Parliamentary Group for the games industry, which promised to "discuss issues crucial to the video games industry."
Watson has gone on to start a Facebook group entitled Gamers' Voice, whose mission statement reads, "Are you sick of UK newspapers and (my fellow) politicians beating up on gaming? So am I. The truth is UK gamers need their own pressure group. I want to help you start one up." The group has so far gained over 7,000 members.