'Crime pays' video attacked

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The Independent Online
An inter-active computer game which awards points for committing murder, arson, drug smuggling and car theft has been given a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification, enabling it to be sold at high street outlets.

The video Grand Theft Auto has been criticised by police and parliamentarians for its alleged potential for inciting violence. The aim of the game is for players to climb the hierarchy of the underworld by successfully completing a series of criminal tasks given by "godfathers".

The publishers, BMG Interactive, say they have taken steps to prevent children from getting access to the video. They have obtained an 18 licence from the BBFC and also commissioned a report from a psychologist.

But the company, part of a German conglomerate, acknowledges that getting the certificate would enable the game, on sale for pounds 49.99, to be on display at main shops in time for Christmas sales. Initial research shows demand will be high.

The BBFC said: "We are confronted with new problems and new forms of violence. This kind of video has already provoked concern in Parliament and government. They involve the player in potentially criminal behaviour and the infliction of violence on innocent parties. Such subject matter is unprecedented."

Dr Mark Griffiths, a senior lecturer in psychology at Nottingham Trent University was asked by BMG to study the game and compile a report. He said: "I would not want this game to be accessible to anyone of an impressionable age, thus it is quite right that it should have an 18 certificate. However, there is a difference between that and adults using the game. There is nothing to suggest this will lead to people going out and committing crimes just because they take part in game playing."

The Conservative peer, Lord Campbell of Croy, the former Scottish Secretary and now a member of the cross-party Consumer Affairs Group, intends to raise the matter in the House of Lords. He feels this game will give "entirely the wrong message to children".