Banned - but still on the road - Life and Style - The Independent

Banned - but still on the road

In May, Carmageddon became the first video game to be refused a certificate by the British Board of Film and Video Classification. In June, it went to the top of the charts. Confused? You should be. Because, as the story shows, even those charged with certification do not know what to do about entertainment software.

A driving game in which players smash into other cars but can also mow down pedestrians and cows, Carmageddon has kicked off a debate about the censorship of games.

The industry set up a voluntary ratings system for all games after an outcry in 1993 over Sega's Night Trap, a "girls in peril" game, while the most violent titles were included in the BBFC's remit. The law says games are exempt unless there is "human sexual activity or acts of force associated with such activity; mutilation or torture of, or other acts of gross violence towards, humans and animals; human genital organs or excretory functions; techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences". But most violent games involve mutant foes rather than humans, so they can still be deemed exempt.

The Carmageddon affair started in January when the publisher, SCI, sent out a press release called "Murder in the Streets" to a media already obsessed with the movie Crash. The press had a field day. Questions were asked in the Commons.

So SCI submitted Carmageddon to the BBFC, even though legal experts said the game would not need legal classification. According to SCI, the BBFC never gave a written decision. To be on the safe side SCI produced a version with zombies rather than human pedestrians.

It sent a copy to the BBFC but, come the June release date, no response had been received. Carmageddon 2, with a voluntary 15 rating, came out on 20 June. It went to number one.

The BBFC says Carmageddon 1 was "refused a certificate because the pleasures on offer were those of killing for kicks". On the release of the second version, it is angry but neutral.

SCI itself feels battered by the whole affair. Jane Cavanagh, managing director, is particularly aggrieved at the BBFC's lack of accountability: "Ultimately [the BBFC's] processes are secretive. There are no minutes you can look at to fathom why they've asked for the changes they want."

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, the key question remains: who decides whether a game is exempt? The BBFC does not. Neither does the Video Standards Council (which classifies games for the voluntary rating). In practice, most games companies submit their game to the VSC, and if it comes back with an 18 voluntary rating they then pass it on to the BBFC.

But they do not have to. Although breaking the law carries a two-year prison term, it would require a court case to determine the illegality of a non-classified game. None has ever been brought. In other words, do not submit a title, save yourself some money and you will probably get away with it.

So where does that leave Carmageddon? SCI is appealing against the ban on the first version. If it wins, expect to see Carmageddon: The Uncut Version on the shelves by Christmas

Tim Green

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
i100
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Project Manager with some Agile experience

    £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

    Data/ MI Analyst

    £25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

    Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

    Project Manager (upgrades, rollouts, migrations)

    £350 - £425 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager - 3 mont...

    Day In a Page

    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