i get sick of these censors. who are they to tell a adult like me i can't play manhunt. it should be my discision not there's. they should give it a 18.
The "man from the BBFC" chats to GameSpot about the ratings system, theoretically discusses Manhunt 2, and explains why movies like Hostel don't get the same treatment.
The British Board of Film Classification is the ratings body responsible for video games in the UK. The country also uses the Pan European Game Information system, which is used by 29 countries. The difference between the two is that whereas the PEGI ratings system is an information guide only, the BBFC rating is legally binding, and anyone selling games to a child under the age limit is breaking the law. Some countries in Europe have also made the PEGI system statutory, whereas others--for example, Germany--rate games themselves.
Back in June, Rockstar Games' sequel to 2003's Manhunt, action adventure Manhunt 2, was denied a rating, which effectively banned the game in the UK. The game managed the dubious honour of being only one of two games ever banned by the organisation in the UK. The reasons given included the game's "unremitting bleakness and casual sadism." The game was also given an Adults Only rating by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board in the US, although after an edited version of the game was submitted, the game was passed with an M for Mature.
However, when an amended version of Manhunt 2 was submitted for review by the BBFC, the appeal was rejected, and the new version of the game was again refused a rating. Rockstar Games is currently in the middle of an appeal against the organisation's decision, with a decision expected to be made in the new year.
Jim Cliff is one of 12 examiners at the BBFC who deal with video games, and GameSpot caught up with him at Nottingham's GameCity event to ask him about Manhunt 2, whether the Wii controller makes a difference, and the "games versus movies" ratings debate.
GameSpot UK: Can you tell us a little about the decision to ban Manhunt 2?
Jim Cliff: This is going to sound like a cop-out, but I can't talk about it because it's under appeal. You know they submitted a modified version, and had that been passed, then obviously I would have been able to, but I can't right now as it stands. Sorry!
GSUK: When is the appeal likely to finish?
JC: Sometime next year. I really don't know specifics unfortunately.
GSUK: Why does it take so long?
JC: There's a lot of people to get involved and talk to and talk about it to.
GSUK: How do you defend the decision when faced with the fact that movies like Hostel have been released with 18 certificates?
JC: If the majority of Hostel was the same as some of the most violent scenes in it, it's entirely possible it could have been banned. But it's not. Most of the running time isn't violence; that's mainly crammed into a few short scenes. Also, in Hostel you are very much required to identify with the victims more than in most games.
GSUK: So I'm just going to ask you some questions about Manhunt 2--you might be able to answer them, you might not. If you can't, just say, "I can't." Everyone's wondering about this phrase, "Casual sadism and unrelenting bleakness." What is that? What does that mean?
JC: Yeah, I can't, sorry.
GSUK: This is only the second game to get banned in the UK, and the other one was overturned on appeal. But is this likely? A lot of people are worried that this is kind of a sign of what's to come as games get more realistic, that more and more are going to get banned. Do you think that's going to happen?
JC: I think the fact that we've only banned two in 21 years of classifying games is a sign that it's not likely to be a problem. You know we very rarely cut games, we extraordinarily rarely ban them, whereas films and videos occasionally get cut--usually to get the specific age category that the company wants. We used to ban and cut a lot more films than we do now. So I don't think there's any worry that we're going to go the other way on games or back the other way on films.
GSUK: So you think it's maybe because it's a younger industry, and in 10 years games like Manhunt 2 might be released without problems?
JC: I think the fact that it's a younger industry means that people are trying out a lot of things that have never been done before. So we're going to see new things all the time and done better and in better--more interesting and more graphic ways. Whereas you could argue that with film it's got to a point where they can pretty much do anything and we've seen most of what we're going to see. Although I expect most filmmakers would disagree.
GSUK: Are there any areas where you think people are becoming more conservative?
JC: Drugs, I think. In the '70s there were films that got a PG that would get a 15 now.
GSUK: How about the Wii controller? Does it make any difference, the fact that you can kind of make gestures to strangle people or stab them?
JC: I think it affects how you see the game, but it would have to be a demonstrably different type of game; for example, the Godfather and Scarface have both been passed on the Wii without a difference in classification. It makes a difference inasmuch as it changes how you approach the game and the impact it has on you. But in order to have a difference to the category, it would need to be a really very borderline decision to start with. So where I can envisage it perhaps making a difference is maybe, say, between 12 and 15, or 15 and 18. Where a game is right there, it could be either, and that is the thing that makes it seem stronger on one console than the other. But outside that context, I really don't think it makes much of a difference.
GSUK: Because games are interactive and movies aren't, does that mean they are treated differently to movies? What does the BBFC think about that?
JC: Well, as I said, our stance is that in terms of harm, they're treated essentially the same, and that there are areas which you could hypothesize people would be more offended by. Like the sex angle, although we've recently passed--it was a fairly widely publicized, the sex scene in Mass Effect which was essentially a 12-level sex scene. The sex itself wasn't interactive but there's a kind of conversation leading up to it which was, and therefore 12-year-olds are leading their character into bed with another character. If the sex itself had been interactive, it wouldn't have been a 12. So that's an area where, yeah, the interactivity makes a difference.
And other areas, from the most mechanical point of view, things like swearing. Where in a film if they say "****" once, it's not going to be a PG, and it depends how many times they say it, to an extent. Although context, again, comes into play with that. But we don't put that word out in PG because people are offended by it, they don't want their kids to hear it.
Now it might be a 12, because it's not said very much or with very much strength or whatever. But in a game, even if [it] only occurs once, if it, say, happens--if it's said on a street corner every time you go past that street corner you might hear it, and so the interactivity there or the nonlinear mechanic of the game means it's unlikely then to be a 12. It would be more likely [to] be a 15 because it's possible that you could hear it a lot, and people don't like that.
GSUK: Since we're talking about sex, I mean is there any difference between, like, homosexual sex and heterosexual sex? Would that still get the same age rating?
JC: Yes. In fact, in Mass Effect there is a lesbian sex scene that you can have if you happen to set up your character as a woman in the first place.
GSUK: Do you think parents understand ratings?
JC: I think it depends on whether they've played games before. They understand ratings on video undeniably. Ninety-seven percent of British parents are familiar with and understand our ratings. When it comes to how they apply to games, I think that the biggest issue is with parents who've never played games and are either not interested in what their kids are playing, or don't feel they would be able to understand, and so they don't take an interest. And I think it's not necessarily that they're not interested in the ratings, it's that they don't know how they would apply to games. They don't know--whereas they might know what a 15 film is like, they've got no clue what a 15 game is like. And so it's much harder for them, and if their kid says that's fine, then they think it's probably fine.
I think we're in flux at the moment. We're in a stage where there are young teenagers with parents who haven't played games, I think we're moving into a time--my kid is just coming up four, people of my generation grew up playing games, and as their children grow, the parents will be much more knowledgeable. And I think it'll be much less of an issue. I know what kind of things I want to show my kid, and as he grows, I will continue to do so.
GSUK: Are you guys going to change the name from the British Board of Film Classification to reflect the fact that you now do video games as well?
JC: Well, we didn't change it in 1984 when we started doing video. We do near to 600 films a year. About 300 in general release. But anyway, we deal in a matter of hundreds of games a year. Whereas video elements are around the kind of 15,000 mark. So that's by far the biggest thing that we do, and people don't tend to complain that we don't call ourselves British Board of Video Classification.
The vast majority of what we do is old TV series or DVD extras or that kind of stuff. I don't think that a name change is going to be the way to go. But I think that people will get more and more of that--more and more games are being classified. They just see them on the shelves and as I said, the symbols are so recognizable to people through film and video that, hopefully, it will start to get through.
GSUK: Are you guys involved in the Byron Report in any way?
JC: Only as much as we've had Tanya Byron in and just explained to her kind of who we are and what we do. I think she was coming from a perspective of starting off blank, certainly with regard to games and just wanting input from everyone who is involved. So we offered our services and explained to her what we do and why. What she does with that is then out of our hands, I think.
GSUK: What does the BBFC think about the report? Are you worried that the rating system's going to be overhauled?
JC: No, I don't--I mean, I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think it's a worry. We're very happy with how the system works. It seems to do a good job. The anecdotal evidence of kids playing Grand Theft Auto and so on is really not borne out by the research in terms of general underage playing of games any more than it is of kids watching videos. Which in the home, they are allowed to do. You know if a parent chooses to allow their child to watch an 18-rated film, we don't advise it, but it's not against the law, and it's the same with games. We are there to essentially give advice and to stop kids from freely getting things without their parents' knowledge or help.
So where parents are complicit, there's only so much we can do. But no, I think inasmuch as what happens with games, both as they come through us and after, I think the system works quite well, so I don't see a lot of change coming, really.
GSUK: In the US, the Nintendo DS game New York Times Crosswords got a teen rating, because it had "adult language" in some of the crossword answers. What do you think of that?
JC: Well, our remit is fairly narrow in that respect and, I mean, plays used to be classified, [though] not by us. The Lord Chancellor's office, I think, used to classify plays. Books, I don't think have ever been done, although obviously some books have been banned. But, you know, it's a public policy in this country that books are for everyone. There is no parental control or general control on plays. Although theatres are completely within their rights to stop under-eighteens getting into certain plays if they want to.
Music, again, you can put the parental-advisory stickers on but there's no one going to stop you buying it when you get to the counter. So I think there's, you know, we have a society where it's deemed that some things need control and others are innocuous enough to be okay. I suspect crosswords would fit into the latter category.
GSUK: You say you were under pressure to give Canis Canem Edit/Bully a higher certificate. Has this kind of outside pressure ever swayed ratings?
JC: No, absolutely not. No, we're an independent body. We're not controlled by the government at all, and we're certainly not controlled by the press. The only thing it did was make us aware that it was going to be a public decision and that whatever--essentially whatever way we went, it was going to get a lot of press and people weren't going to be happy about it. But no, we looked at it on its merits and that was it, really.
GSUK: Are there any other games that you guys have been under a lot of pressure to kind of ban or rate higher than you did?
JC: Not that I can think of.
GSUK: The first Manhunt maybe?
JC: Manhunt didn't get a lot of prepublicity. With films, it happens a lot after the fact. People see films or at least critics see them and think "that's horrendous." But usually after they've been classified, because we get them several months in advance, usually. So they usually know what it's been given and complain if they don't like it. But with films, often there's such a lot of prepublicity and such a lot of clips on the Internet for months before it comes out and so on, that those who get upset about that kind of thing, think that they know what it's going to be like. I mean Jack Thompson's a case in point. He's exactly the kind of person who thinks they know exactly what is going to be in a game before they've even seen it. And before anyone's seen it in many cases, and therefore that he knows what should happen to it. Whereas we think you should probably play it before you make your mind up.
GSUK: Just as a theoretical thing, Manhunt 2 has been rated as an 18 in the US. So if I imported a copy of the 18 version, would I be breaking the law?
JC: No, but if you sold it to anyone, then you would be.
GSUK: Do you play games yourself?
JC: Absolutely, yeah.
GSUK: What are your favourite games?
JC: I have just been playing Black but was a bit annoyed by how not-backwards-compatible it was with PlayStation 3. It was quite buggy, crashed a lot when I was most of the way through a level. It is a hard game. I like driving games, mostly. I played Burnout, and I mean the GTA series I kind of play more as a driving game. I tend to spend quite a lot of the time driving around the city and playing in vigilante mode and trying to get away from the cops or catch bad guys. But yeah, the driving games are the ones I particularly enjoy.
GSUK: Many thanks for your time.
Yulaw2000 Of course it's illegal for someone to have sex under the age of 16 in the UK. For a guy that would be mandatory registration on the sex offenders register! I think you should review your UK law before posting,
If a game like manhunt 2 came around in 10 years itll deffinitely come out - In 1997 they banned Carmageddon coz you could run over passers-by. Gta 3 was like a hit and run frenzy and that just had an 18 slapped on it. I think the appeal will go 50/50. Hopefully the ban will be overturned just because of the principal.
Jaeme - i know what you mean about with the Unrated Cut but i see loads of films with that and the classification written on it, i think that happened on American Pie or the 2nd one
One big question that I'm surprised wasn't asked was what about the whole ?unrated edition/cut? trend in DVD/video? I seriously doubt any ratings body'd be hip to that in video games at this point, yet it is a total non issue in film. Also, as a parent, gamer, and former videogame store owner I can tell you that it is out right offensive how a great deal of ?parents? (being a parent is more than simple procreation) look at videogames, and more directly their views on what is and is not suitable for youngsters. As far as I'm concerned, if you haven't looked into what it is your kid wants and whether it is suitable or not before you drop the better part of a c note on it you have no right to blame anyone but yourself. No excuses. I'm too busy is an acceptable excuse for not vaccuuming but not for not parenting. Not just with videogames either. Games can be a great way to stary a discussion on a great many issues with your kids, but you have to use them in that way rather than as a baby sitter.
Range_finder has a point,it's the irresponsibility of the parents driving the war between games and the government,people need to take responsibility.
tgrace " @ thunkin1 What do you mean by "we can have sex at 16"??? Are you saying that it is illeagal for anyone under 16 to have sex? " I think he means we can get married at 16
Being fair i think Jim Cliff was actually very informative in what he said, the one thing i think i disagree with was when he said "and if their kid says that's fine, then they think it's probably fine." because what i would like to know is does he mean from the the approach of a 16 year old child saying its fine in reference to a game rated 15 OR does he mean an 8 year old telling their parent that the game with an age rating of 15 is fine for them to play? Quite frankly from what ive seen in stores its the second one, and if that was the case then its not the game makers fault that many parents in the UK couldnt give a flying monkey about what their kids are playing until they think they can blame the game when the child that they have been neglecting commits a crime or something.
"If the majority of Hostel was the same as some of the most violent scenes in it, it's entirely possible it could have been banned. But it's not. Most of the running time isn't violence; that's mainly crammed into a few short scenes. Also, in Hostel you are very much required to identify with the victims more than in most games." I don't think this guy actually saw Hostel: when they weren't getting tortured, they were having sex. Regardless, if you take this as a percentage than I am sure they are even.
I just checked GameRankings and the few ratings Manhunt 2 does have come from UK publications. GamesTM, Games Master UK, and NGamer UK reviewed the Wii version. Play UK and PSM3 Magazine UK got to review the PS2 version. Weird. I guess that does make sense since it was developed by Rockstar (London). That kind of sucks some more for them though since the game is banned in the UK, where it was made.
"I have just been playing Black but was a bit annoyed by how not-backwards-compatible it was with PlayStation 3" jeez, I expected to see more of those "GameSpot hates the PS3" kind of people responding to that
"Whereas we think you should probably play it before you make your mind up." Paradoxical statement of the century - I would love to play Manhunt 2 and make my own mind up.
@ thunkin1 What do you mean by "we can have sex at 16"??? Are you saying that it is illeagal for anyone under 16 to have sex?
England is stupid though (i live here i know) because for example you can have sex at 16 but can't play a game, watch a film with sex scenes in it until you are 18.
When i first heard manhunt 2 was banned, i was outraged, i thought they were trying to mother me when i'm a fully grow adult capable of making my own decisions. However i've changed my mind. I totally agree that parents are not involved enough in their kids gaming lives to pass judgment on whether a game is suitable or not for them. They'd take their kids word for it and next thing they know their 11 year old is having nightmares about the monsters in jericho. Our genration might be different, say, in 20 years, when we have kids and will probably still be playing games, we'll have a better understanding as we are a big part of this generations gaming community. But i think this was sensible. Anyone can be sensitive regardless of age. My girlfriends mum for example. She played Theif and didn't like it, she found it scary in the first person veiw coming up against undead and things, so now avoids first person games. Me on the other hand, am half her age, and really enjoy horror films and games, generally having a good scare, lets me know i'm human. If my GF's mum had sat down to Jericho or Doom 3 as her first try of FPS games, she might have been truly terrified, which would have been horrible for her. Games are meant to be enjoyable, if you dont enjoy being scared out your wits, it can be very traumatic. These guys have no way of telling who is getting a hold of this game, its not illeagal for someone of the age of 14 to play an 18 game, its just illegal for them to BUY it. By doing this they eliminate any way of someone under age playing this game, the hardcore guys who really want it, can get it if they really want to. However i still think it's funny, how someone at the age of 16 can get married and have a family, but can't drink or smoke at their wedding ... or play F.E.A.R lol.
Does anyone know the if any of the other European Counturys are going to release it? Don't think i could wait till like next summer.
@BioHzrdSco - did you even read the article? It answered your question in there. Movies are mostly acting with violence taking up mere seconds of scenes, and you identify with the people in movies more. In a game, the violence takes up a much larger percentage of runtime. Meaning, during the experience of playing, a lot of it is killing. And you kill people who mean nothing to you, so it feels ok. This is technically a bad way of training people to feel ok to kill people they don't identify with.
GSUK ? what is the point in gamespot UK? as far as i can tell, Gamespot does not review anything until it comes out in USA... even games that have been out in the UK for months. My crazy sugestion to gamespotUK is... review games that are out in the UK. Actually dont bother, the reviewers suck anyway :)
Why is it that games like manhunt get band but then Movies like the Saw and Hostel are allowed to be shown in the movie and then sold as DVDs there just as gorry as any Game so why pick on ly on the gaming industrie !!!!!! ??
I don't understand why adult only titles can't be released? Shouldn't you be able to buy a title like that with a valid ID showing your an adult?
MavHZero is right, so in order to get the best without breaking laws, import the game! There are always leaks in laws/guides. and WTH is Jack Thompson doing here???
You have to take into account that the BBFC is under a lot of pressure from many people who have no idea what is involved in their whole system. Their involvement with the video games industry has mostly been popular because they know when a line should be drawn. They're much more leniant now than they were in the 1980s, when they were under pressure from figures such as Mary Whitehouse. Incidentally, I think the Video Games Industry is going through what the Film Industry went through, with all these activists thinking they know best. Mr Cliff makes two valid points. Their ratings only ever serve as a guideline, unless it is banned. They're only banned in extreme circumstances, such as mindless murdering in particularly gruesome means or explicit interactive sex. Sure some people get kicks out of that, but that doesn't mean its totally right. Don't get me wrong, Manhunt 2 does look great and I'm sure it improves a lot on the original. The second point made me laugh. Its people like Jack Thompson who are making lives difficult for many people, saying they know something that they can't possibly know because they're not in the gaming industry. I actually saw a woman in my local Gamestation who refused to buy Resistance: Fall of Man for her 20 year old son because "She knew what kind of game it was." She is not a gaming type when she makes claims like that. To sum up, the BBFC are doing ok whilst being under pressure, and people who complain should play the games involved before making a judgement (or at least get their facts right!)
Agreed gbrading! a really interesting honest interview. rather than half the people on this site seeing the rating boards as if they re the evil empire hopefully this will let them see that they are doing a great job. admittedly maybe not right in everyones opinions but u can never please everyone. plus the bit about Jack Thompson made me smile.lol!
"Books, I don't think have ever been done, although obviously some books have been banned." Oh yeah, that makes sense.
A really excellent interview with the BBFC, GSUK. It shows that they are not all raving bureaucrats who want to limit and restrict everything, they are just ordinary men and women acting with the best interests of the public. This guy seemed to be really honest and open about what the BBFC were doing, within all aspects of game rating.
F**K the BBFC .. i got the uncut version of the game .. and i'm 17 ... and i'm in britain ... and i got it illegaly over the internet ... leaked version mofo's !! ... an i rekon rockstar leaked it on purpose, u no they wanted the game out in it's entirety ... and it is, over the biggest place on earth .... the net !!!
Great work with the interview , I agree 100% with the way the ratings board works in this country and although i hope that Manhunt 2 gets a release i think he's put forward a reasoned argument and seems to not be in any way part of a witchhunt on games ... i would have liked to hear more about CCE/Bully as i'm sure they got a LOT of backlash for only giving it a 15 ( which i think is very fair ) i also agree with the interactive part of a sex scene .... from a games point of view it's a fiar view .... but notice how the hot coffee mod would get GTA a 15 rating by itself and in the States it makes it AO !!!
The guy does seem nice, yeah, but some of the reasons he gives, though not his fault, don't make a lot of sense. Sex, for instance, there's no proof that sex scenes will affect children in any way. It's merely a moral issue, not a welfare issue, so the interactivity of the scene shouldn't be relevant, should it? Or how long the gruesome bits are. What's that about? So a movie in which Hostel-level violence happened more often would be a problem, but a couple of incredibly brutal sequences are ok? I think if you're going to be bothered by extreme brutality and gore at all you're gonna be bothered by some brutality and gore. The guy, though, is nice enough, and seems to have managed to find a job in which he gets to play games and watch movies for a living... even if he has to be a soul-less censor to get to that.
x-2tha-z "Wow. The hypocrisy really shines through when you read this interview. He wouldn't even explain what the BBFC meant when they said "Casual sadism and unrelenting bleakness." Given that this is basis for the ban I think thew owe it to Manhunts fans to tell us what they mean exactly. I've played the uncut PS2 version and I'd say Clive Bakers Jerico is more unrelentingly bleak." Sadistic: 1. The deriving of sexual gratification or the tendency to derive sexual gratification from inflicting pain or emotional abuse on others. 2. The deriving of pleasure, or the tendency to derive pleasure, from cruelty. 3. Extreme cruelty. Bleak: a. Gloomy and somber: b. Providing no encouragement; depressing: I'd say a game in which you control a mental-patient who runs around murdering people in tremendously cruel and grotesque fashion to be exactly that; sadistic and bleak. The fact of the matter is, the only people who would enjoy this game are people who have sadistic tendencies. Manhunt 2, while touted as a "mature" game, is the furthest from the truth. Saw isn't a mature movie either. Violence does not equal "mature".
The guy seems rational and realistic, he doesn't have anything against violet games, but its his job to keep them in check. If anyone read the whole Q&A, they can't say he's an idiot. Everything he said made sense. He mentioned at the end he plays GTA, so he's definitely not a Jack Thompson, which is kind of reassuring among government official types.
anton10000 - you seem to know what the deal is. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Charlotte Mother of Harlots banned WAY back in 85 or 86. Think it ended being renamed Twister and basically whole game was changed. That plus Carmageddon. makes two. You should see how many games get banned in Oz and yet get relased in NZ. All same region, but not allowed intop our highly tolerant country! ha! Good luck with getting the consoles!!
wow this guy is seriously out of touch with good games. "I have just been playing Black" (WHAT?) Black is a fairly old game and not near the caliber of game currently available, im assuming manhunt 2 falls into this category as well. I'm sorry that your rating officials are stupid, UK.
Seems like a down-to-earth guy doing his job that he gets paid to do to feed his family. No need to call the dude an idiot. While I don't think anything should be banned from adults; I think they do a good job on using the law to keep inappropriate content away from kids.
Fair play to him, he sounds like an intelligent and mature person who doesn't have a moral agenda here or anything. I don't agree with not giving Manhunt 2 a rating but I am increasingly convinced that it genuinely is with good reason, even if not good enough in my own book. However, I cannot marshal the words I need to express my rage that these people have played Mass Effect.
why is everyone making such a big deal about censorship? it isn't possible to make everyone in the world happy with the decisions they come to, which leads to complaints about the guidelines being too strict, and of course, if we lived in a world without guidelines, there'd be lots of complaining about immature teenagers spoiling the online experience for everyone, and there'd be more fuel for the Govt to sprout out if anyone could go out and get games that would be rated 18. as for the statements about sexuality, it has no effect on the rating, and shouldn't have an effect on your opinion of the game, or the main purpose of the game: Entertainment. people should take their time to read and ensure that they understand what something is about instead of just skimming through for points that they can use to complain, and should keep an open mind if entering uncertain territories of conversation. (ie: can0of0cheese's comment below)
I agree with everyone else, that Jim Cliff guy seemed very rational and centered. What gamers all need to do is focus on Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. They are the ones who do not allow AO rated games to be released on their consoles. So even if a rating board did hand out AO ratings we still wouldnt see those games because Sony, Micro, and Nintendo would be blocking them. They are the ones censoring us.
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