Archive for June 2007

Give me liberty; give me ‘Manhunt 2’

I drove my first tank at age 7, using it to blow up my sister. By age 9, I’d killed hundreds upon hundreds of aliens. The following year, I slayed my first dragon. And soon, I was a veteran of countless fist fights.

Of course, none of this happened in reality. It happened on my parents’ TV screen. I was born at just the right time to be among the vanguard of the world’s first generation to grow up with video games.

From the time my father brought home a PONG console when I was six years old, I started playing video games almost every day. I still do. By a conservative estimate, I’ve probably logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 hours playing games.

And yet, despite the fact that roughly 75 percent of all video games contain violent content, I have never hit, stabbed, shot, run over, ignited or otherwise maimed another human being.

To hear some people tell it, that would seem improbable if not impossible.

Take the British, Irish, Swiss and Italian governments, for instance. This week, all four countries banned the release of the upcoming Rockstar video game “Manhunt 2,” claiming that it encourages violence and murder.

Thank goodness I live in America, where I’m allowed to make my own decisions about what sort of entertainment I bring into my home. Well, sort of.

As it turns out, there are loads of people even here in the “land of the free” who are conspiring to keep “Manhunt 2” out of my hands.

First, there are the retailers. Because the ESRB justifiably applied an “adults only” rating to “Manhunt 2,” stores such as Best Buy, Target and (of course) Wal-Mart won’t carry the game.

Next there’s Sony and Nintendo, the makers of the PlayStation 2 and Wii consoles for which the game was developed, who have established policies against “adults only”-rated content being released for their systems. Can you imagine if Sony sold you a DVD player but would only let you watch certain movies on it?

And don’t forget about the government. To my knowledge, no U.S. politicians have yet weighed in on the issue. But they will. They always do. Remember the last time Rockstar got in trouble?  It’s only a matter of time.

Finally, there’s Rockstar itself. In response to the uproar, the company has cancelled the game’s planned July 10 release. Perhaps temporarily, but for now there’s serious reason to doubt that “Manhunt 2” will ever hit the market here or anywhere else.

And that’s a shame. No matter how sadistic or gruesome they might be, video games are the creative expression of artists working with a non-traditional medium. They deserve to be seen and played — not banished to a developer’s hard drive by some self-righteous arbiter of decency who thinks you aren’t intelligent, competent or responsible enough to do what’s in your own best interest.

If “Manhunt 2” never sees the light of day, score one for the power-hungry politicians, greedy trial lawyers and meddling busybodies who want to absolve you of personal responsibility for your own behavior. You can already smoke cigarettes for decades and then sue a tobacco company when you get sick, and you can already eat burgers and fries for every meal and then sue McDonald’s when you get fat. Hell, you can even get drunk and crash your car into a tow truck while talking on your cell phone and not wearing a seat belt … and then sue the tow truck company!

Soon, it appears, you’ll be able to go on a murderous rampage and get off scot-free. “It wasn’t my fault — the video game made me do it.”