Network: So violence is only a game?

Is violence OK as long as it's virtual? Yes - judging by the censors' reaction to `Kingpin'.

IT NO doubt comes as a relief to some of the developers who were showing previews of their wares at ECTS last week that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has adopted a new attitude to violence in computer games.

In Britain, any computer or video game that depicts human beings and features sex, violence or criminal activity must be submitted to the BBFC. Two years ago the BBFC refused to issue a certificate for the game Carmageddon, in which the object is to run down pedestrians with a car, because of what it described as "killing for kicks". The ban was subsequently overturned by the Home Office.

Recently, the BBFC gave an 18 certificate to Kingpin: a Life of Crime, the top-selling game that has taken violence "to another level". Kingpin places the player in the role of a street punk who must kill his way to becoming the "kingpin" in an urban neighbourhood. It is filled with extreme images, including gory exit wounds and trails of blood, along with copious amounts of profanity. So why did the BBFC pass Kingpin without any fuss or controversy?

Jim Barratt, the BBFC examiner who certified the game, explained that the difference between decisions on these games is a result of "getting used to the material". "We had never seen a game like Carmageddon before and when it burst forth it was a real shock to the system," he said.

Computer games are still a new medium, said Mr Barratt, and the BBFC is starting to commission research on the effect of computer games on the player. The release of Carmageddon II was delayed in this country pending the results of a BBFC investigation last November. The BBFC talked to child psychologists, because they were concerned that "damage" might be caused to children who were exposed to the game.

"In terms of Kingpin, a lot of what was said in [the Carmageddon] reports was very useful - especially about the effect of computer graphics on the viewer," Barratt said. "The literature out there suggests that the more realistic the graphics, the more investment the players are likely to have, and the more likely it is to have an effect on them.

"Kingpin has taken game violence to another level, but it's still a long way from virtual reality. The effects still look [as if they have been generated by] computer."

Barratt said that Robin Duval, who earlier this year took over from James Ferman as director of the BBFC, is committed to making quick and efficient decisions, which pleases games publishers.

Roger Bennett, director general of the European Leisure and Software Publishers Association (Elspa), the industry's self-regulatory body, said: "Things have improved greatly in respect to the games industry's relationship with the BBFC since Robin Duval took up the role of chief censor.

"Communication is better, and speed is better. All that we ask is to know at the early stages of game development if there is a problem. These days, the BBFC will go to a publisher while a game is in development, which is a big move forward."

Mr Barratt says that the BBFC will progress by "actively educating ourselves about games... We have put in place a multimedia room with a high-end PC, PlayStation and Nintendo, which we encourage examiners to come and play. I am part of a new influx of examiners, and within that are people like myself who have quite an extensive history of game-playing."

The BBFC's re-examination of computer game culture and the improvement in relationships between the censors and publishers could be in for another challenge, though. The arrival of Sony's next-generation PlayStation, which claims to make games look like films, could further test the censors by blurring the boundary between reality and virtual reality.

Bafta Interactive will host a discussion, `The Rating Game: Doing it for Themselves', tomorrow at 7pm in the David Lean Room, Bafta, 195 Piccadilly, London W1V 0LN. Admission: members free, non-members pounds 10. More information is available from http:// www.bafta.org

Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week