But it's only a game...

The BBFC says a new video game is too violent. The rest of the world disagrees.

Successful UK software publisher SCi is squaring up to the British Board of Film Classification for what could be an important test case for video-games censorship. The BBFC has been stonewalling SCi over the certification of its latest PC title, Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now. SCi is taking legal action to force a decision on the game, a demo of which has now been with the BBFC for almost three months.

Carmageddon 2 is a driving game with a difference - the player is encouraged to mow down hapless pedestrians and ram opponents off the road. It is undeniably violent, but the violence is of the tongue-in-cheek variety that can trace its lineage back to the Acme explosives and falling pianos of Fifties cartoons. With its heavy- metal soundtrack and pneumatic female characters, the game is adolescence encapsulated, which begs the question: why has it been taken so seriously by adults?

The BBFC's objection to Carmageddon 2 is that it may cause "damage" to children exposed to the game. It claims the latest reason for the certifying delay is that it wants to put the demo to a panel of "child psychologists" to determine the extent of such "damage".

Jane Cavanagh, chief executive of SCi, described this decision as "ludicrous": "We're requesting an 18 certificate, which means this version is designed for adults. The original has sold 600,000 copies throughout the world. Nobody has been `damaged'. On the contrary, we've received sackloads of letters saying how much everyone loves the game and how entertaining it is."

SCi experienced similar problems last year with the first Carmageddon. The BBFC refused to issue a certificate, thus "banning" the sale of the game in the UK. SCi appealed against the decision under Article 10a of the European Convention of Human Rights and successfully overturned the "ban", the BBFC instructed to grant an 18 certificate.

"This repeat performance of last year's delaying tactics can only be a result of severe `sour grapes' at the BBFC for losing the appeal last year," Cavanagh said. "Why don't they just accept they made a mistake and move on?"

The repeated delays have forced SCi to release a version of the game with green blood and zombies rather than red-blooded pedestrians. This has been given a 15 rating by the European Leisure and Software Publishers Association (Elspa), the game industry's self-regulatory body, which is supervised by the Video Standards Council. Interviewed in industry journal, CTW, Roger Bennett, general secretary of Elspa, blasted the BBFC as being "patently inefficient" and "very difficult to communicate with". Bennett thinks that game regulation should be dealt with entirely by the Video Standards Council.

"We believe that the VSC have been have been extraordinarily successful at rating the 94 per cent of games published since 1994. There has been just one complaint in that time. Given our stated beliefs about the BBFC, we really do believe that the VSC are both better equipped and qualified to rate all games - their track record speaks for itself."

The BBFC's decision, when it eventually arrives, will be largely irrelevant to any UK gamer who wants to play the uncensored version. With the international release of Carmageddon 2, SCi posted several "patches" on its international Carmageddon 2 support Web site (based in America). With these patches, players can alter various aspects of the game, including the transformation of zombies into pedestrians. Within the first day of the game's UK release, thousands of players downloaded the patches.

"The patches are text files, not moving images, and they are available free of charge from a US-based Internet server [http://www.carmageddon.com]," Cavanagh said. "These points alone take any `patch' out of the jurisdiction of the UK's Video Recordings Act and, therefore, the scope of the BBFC. Apart from that, there are some 50 million Internet users throughout the world with no electronic territorial boundaries. It makes censorship on a country-by-country basis impossible for a national-based organisation.

The BBFC's unwillingness to explain or account for its actions indicates that its censorship decisions do not seem totally fair. Compare the delaying tactics on Carmageddon 2 with the preferential treatment handed out to Hollywood blockbusters. Tim Burton's Batman received a new certificate (12) rather than lose a lot of its audience to the 15 certificate that its violence merited. Jurassic Park, and its sequel, The Lost World, were also allowed to bend the rules, obtaining a PG certificate on the proviso that posters warned children of their "disturbing scenes".

In the added light of the recent decision by Australia's conservative Office of Film and Literature Classification to award the "full gore" version of Carmageddon 2 a 15 certification, the BBFC's stance is looking at best unreasonable, at worst childish.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?