Pro Censorship MP Claims Games Glorify Nazis and Rape

The pre-Byron report debates go barmy

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Pro Censorship MP Claims Games Glorify Nazis and Rape
Friday February 29th saw a heated debate in the House of Commons regarding the second reading of Julian Brazier's (Canterbury, Conservative) private member's bill to introduce yet another level of censorship to the United Kingdom. Of course, this used video games as a major wedge.

Brazier's bill, supported by Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour), seeks to introduce an official body that can challenge BBFC rulings. Effectively enabling people to delay the release of intellectual properties because those films, DVDs or video games have not been rated harshly enough.

The debate ranged over such inflammatory claims as the fact that people playing video games - in the words of Mr Vaz:

"They can shoot people; they can kill people. As the honourable gentleman said, they can rape women."


The honourable gentleman in question was Julian Brazier. To give Vaz's quote its full context, here it is with more of its well-researched detail, "People who are watching a film at the cinema cannot participate in what is happening on the screen, or if they do they are removed from the cinema.

"However, someone sitting at a computer playing a video game, or someone with one of those small devices that young people have these days, the name of which I forget— [Interruption.] PlayStations or PSPs, something of that kind. [Interruption.]

"Well, whatever they are called, when people play these things, they can interact. They can shoot people; they can kill people. As the honourable Gentleman said, they can rape women."

Later in the debate, Conservative MP Edward Vaizey (Wantage) was able to bring a smidgeon of fact to Mr Vaz's statement. Vaizey pointed out that, "...the right honourable Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, mentioned that some video games allow the participant to engage in a rape act..."

"I checked the point with the BBFC and found it to be completely unaware of any such video game.

"Is the honourable Gentleman aware of any video game that has as its intention the carrying out of rape or that allows the game player to carry out such an act? The BBFC and I are unaware of any such game."

Mr Vaz was unable to respond directly, as he'd left the building at this point. Mr Brazier, on the other hand, was able to contribute with yet more lack of knowledge supported by hearsay.

"I cannot comment on the rape in games issue, but I can tell the House what Stefan Pakeerah's father said after Warren Leblanc had murdered his son. He said that "Manhunt" is a game

"'using weapons like hammers and knives...The object of Manhunt is not just to go out and kill people. It's a point-scoring game where you increase your score depending on how violent the killing is. That explains why Stefan's murder was as horrific as it was."

Of course, that game was passed by the BBFC."

This time it was Margaret Hodge (Minister of State (Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport) to introduce a correction:

"Let us consider the Stefan Pakeerah murder. That was an horrific, terrible crime, involving a horrible way to die. Stefan was subjected to a hammer and knife attack by a 17-year-old, who has since been given a life sentence.

"Stefan's mother and father suggested that the actions of Warren Leblanc—the man who was found guilty of murdering their son—had been influenced by his alleged obsession with the video game Manhunt.

"They may have made that statement, but the rationale for the statement is less clear. The game was discovered not in Warren Leblanc's possession but in the victim's possession.

"It does not feature the use of a hammer, and it was not considered by the police to be a contributory factor.

"No such connection was ever suggested in court. Indeed, the prosecution and defence barristers insisted in court that the video game had played no part in the killing.

"It was reported that Leblanc was motivated by fear of a gang to which he owed money."

So, even in the House of Commons, it would appear that some grasp of fact is available - and possibly even bodes well for the Byron review which is due out this month.

But is that enough to stop Mr Vaz from expanding his crusade? That is doubtful - it's also a shame given that a sensible viewpoint taken on hyper-violent games of no merit would be useful to everybody.

It's doubtful given Mr Vaz's stated view of the industry and of the apparent conspiracy between that industry and the press. Here's what Mr Vaz had to say on the subject on Friday:

"The industry is one of the strongest and most powerful in the media today, and London is the centre of that industry.

"Whenever those of us who raise the issue of video games have done so positively in relation to concerns about violence, we have been pilloried in the press that is sponsored by the video games industry for trying in some way to destroy it."


Strange that one of the strongest and most powerful industries in media today should have been cast as "small business" in a government report... last week.

As for the assertion that the press is sponsored by the video games industry - Mr Vaz is correct that the gaming media - including ourselves here at SPOnG - takes advertising money from the video games industry.

But to say that this is the reason to openly and freely criticise his often factually flawed statements? Well, we've contacted his office to request a formal interview. We were phoned back this morning by one of his staff - very politely we might add - and we're now awaiting the opportunity to speak face-to-face with the member of Parliament regarding his views.

All questions for Mr Vaz - politely - to the Forum please.

Also, you can read the full debate - without SPOnG's viewpoint - right here.

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Comments

James 3 Mar 2008 12:17
1/11
I find it strange that some members of government want to ban videogames on their own predjudice, but the government admited 70% of 13 year olds drink alcohol and alcohol is one of the biggest factors in crime, violence, sex attacks (these are facts mind agreed by government/nhs/police and public). It's also so addictive we need to set up government schemes like AA. It costs billions every year.

So why aren't they banning alcohol? Mr Vaz is unfit to be a politician, he used the murder of a teenager(even after the police say manhunt was not a factor) to push is own sinister adgenda against a medium he has no understanding of and probably a great hatred of.

The games community is one of the best around, and he would see us all branded as rapists and make Britain's censorship on par with China's. Guess I'll have to vote Labour if I want to continue playing games in future.
Rich 3 Mar 2008 12:22
2/11
Vaz is an utter bellend. He's always jumping on the Daily Mail reading angry mob's bandwagon. He really needs to know when to shut the hell up.
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Tim Smith 3 Mar 2008 12:35
3/11
James wrote:
The games community is one of the best around, and he would see us all branded as rapists and make Britain's censorship on par with China's. Guess I'll have to vote Labour if I want to continue playing games in future.


Bear in mind that Mr Vaz is a Labour MP.

Julian Brazier is the Conservative.

Cheers

Tim
Bentley 3 Mar 2008 13:13
4/11
I've been playing computer games for nearly 30 years and I have to say that I can't recall ever playing a game where you can "rape women". What the hell are they talking about? Does such a game exist, or are they just plucking bullshit from the air as usual? It's ridiculous that someone can stand up in parliament, accuse our noble cause of such vile acts as encouraging rape, but then when pushed can't be arsed to back it up with a shred of evidence. Partly because they've already pissed off home? Disgusting.

Low-down dirty lying bastards.
Tim Smith 3 Mar 2008 13:17
5/11
Bentley wrote:
Low-down dirty lying bastards.


I'd encourage you to take a deep breath, have lots of coffee, and read the entire debate when you get a spare half an hour.

The more informed we all are, come the Byron Review and Braizier/Vaz's next attempt, the better.

I still wish that Manhunt 2 hadn't been such an unmitigated pile of old nonsense though...

Cheers

Tim
YenRug 3 Mar 2008 13:18
6/11
Bentley wrote:
I've been playing computer games for nearly 30 years and I have to say that I can't recall ever playing a game where you can "rape women". What the hell are they talking about? Does such a game exist, or are they just plucking bullshit from the air as usual? It's ridiculous that someone can stand up in parliament, accuse our noble cause of such vile acts as encouraging rape, but then when pushed can't be arsed to back it up with a shred of evidence. Partly because they've already pissed off home? Disgusting.

Low-down dirty lying bastards.


Well, they are a little bit late to the party, but even I am aware of Custer's Revenge on the Atari 2600:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Custer's_Revenge
Tim Smith 3 Mar 2008 13:30
7/11
YenRug wrote:
Well, they are a little bit late to the party, but even I am aware of Custer's Revenge on the Atari 2600:


Darn it, you're right. I've gone to the BBFC and they haven't even rated this vile heap of trash... which came out in 1982.

I've also gone to Game, GameStation, Amazon - but apparently it's not for sale. Go figure.

It is however, "widely available to our children" at Ebay.

Damn Mystique, that's my entire argument gone out the window.

Cheers

Tim

Joji 3 Mar 2008 14:37
8/11
Keith Vaz is a fool and to MPs what Jack Thompson is to a religious zealot. They both slate these games without playing them, just on a lot of hot air.

So games glorify rape now? I'm damn sure he'd have to show clear and convincing evidence of that beyond a doubt., which he knows well he can't do. Therefore, I see this going no where.

Hold up! Haven't books, music and films been depicting rape and nazis for many years? Obviously they are untouchable in comparison, because they are older and have earned their spurs. and acclaim. More hypocrisy and fear bs at work.

If this goes any further, I'm sure it would get shut down, because Vaz's claims are a load of hear say he knows he can't back up.

CyberSkull 4 Mar 2008 00:53
9/11
I just love how when pressed for details he says he has none and tries to change the subject (and gets that wrong too).
Matthew O'Donnell 4 Mar 2008 12:17
10/11
Games are not a representation of people as they are a extension and personality of the developers imagination, therefore nonexistent. If such representation was present then it would be impossible to accept due to the uncanny valley theory.

Also to mention the victim had manhunt, not the murderer. In a harsh form of logic going by this purposive statement wouldn’t the victim of know if games influence us so, how to counter attack the murderer? I guess not due to context sensitive buttons are unable to produce the sensation of touch and weight of movement which critical to human reception. It may be able to invite such thought, but I see such movies like Saw going beyond any imagery that games have portrayed, and it is the total responsibility of the personality to control their own actions.

As for rape I am only aware of such sickening titles being in Japan, and they are more of a tool for the porn market than mainstream games.

They have no right to limit games as a whole to the consumers, however if they limited the consumption to the under aged then it might be practical. The systems are in place, too bad the knowledge and understanding does not exist with those in power.

Bentley 4 Mar 2008 15:08
11/11
Tim Smith wrote:

I'd encourage you to take a deep breath, have lots of coffee, and read the entire debate when you get a spare half an hour.


Thanks for the advice Tim, I took it and have now suffered through the laborious task of reading 3/4 of their waffle. I'll read the rest later... and by the way it took me waaaay more than half an hour. I made loads of notes but as the debate went on, and Mr Vaz vanished, the debate seemed to get more reasonable and less alarmist. Mr Vaz clearly has no idea what he is talking about, other than gathering shreds of inaccurate "evidence" from tabloid sources, I suspect... e.g.

Keith Vaz, Leicester East, Labour wrote:

...glorification of the Nazis, violence against women and, in the case of the game "Bully", violence against children...

Woah there Keith; nice line in exaggeration you have there. The kind of events that take place in "Bully" as you inaccurately call it take place in schools hundreds of times a day, at least, every day, up and down the country. My dishonourable friend Mr Vaz is, I feel, trying to make it out to be some kind of paedophile simulation. It's a school simulation, Mr Vaz, and the point of the game is not to "Bully" or be violent to other children, but rather (from the few hours I have played of "Canis Canem Edit") to stand up against the bullies and end bullying at the school. In fact, if caught bullying in the game you will be punished; and being good at your classes earns rewards. The idea of "Bully" being a "Bully simulator", or of encouraging violence towards children, was mostly being touted by uninformed detractors before the game was released; and anyone who has actually played the game or done a shred of research about it should really be aware of that.

I can't believe poor Bully is still having to defend itself; but that's not my fault; it's silly men in Parliament who need something to say and love to flog dead horses.

I don't quite understand the idea that gaming "glorifies Nazis" either, as most of the games I've played with Nazis in involve shooting them dead. Not that "computer games are great because it encourages you to kill Nazis!" is an angle I would consider adopting. But Nazis do make great bad guys, because, let's face it, they were pretty nasty; and the nastier the bad guy, the better it is to see them get their comeuppance. Hardly "glorification" though. I doubt many people ran out and decided to become a Nazi after playing Castle Wolfenstein.

From what I have read so far (and there is A LOT of waffle to wade through), they aren't ALL liars and bastards. Crikey, some of them even make a fair bit of sense. But I still say Keith Vaz is a tit, a liar and an uninformed alarmist who just wanted something to stand up and say, possibly to get his name somewhere in The Daily Mail. Fortunately, as you point out, some of his blatant lies are picked up by his peers.

The idea that someone can label me as someone who enjoys the depiction of the rape of women just because I am a gamer fair annoyed me, I must say.

I might write more about this later once I've finished reading the last 1/4 of the debate, but I've seriously got to do some actual real work now, I suppose.

Oh, and thanks for the info on Custer's Revenge. I'll most likely track it down, and in a few weeks I'm bound to be parading around deserts with a cowboy hat and my pixelated penis out looking for captive Native Americans. Well, it was in a game so I had to do it.
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