Stickers put brakes on high-speed video driving

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The Independent Online
Perhaps the cinemas in Acton, west London, should show more James Dean or Marlon Brando films. In the summer, Michael Webster, a local resident, wrote to the House of Lords to complain that "I don't think it's far-fetched to suspect that [young people] get their ideas of driving from the way in which they have driven video racing cars."

Perhaps he hasn't seen Rebel Without A Cause, the James Dean film in which young men play chicken by driving at top speed towards a sheer drop, or The Wild One, in which Marlon Brando perfects his high-speed sneer on a motorbike.

But his views were duly forwarded to the Home Office, and to Jack Straw, who handed his letter to the Video Standards Council with a query as to whether computer games should have some sort of warning telling people not to imitate this behaviour at home, or on the road. The VSC forwarded it to the European Leisure Software Publisher's Association (Elspa), which represents the games industry.

Conveniently, the news of this emerged just as a new "driving" game called Grand Theft Auto was released for the Sony Playstation. Like most computer "driving" games it depicts high-speed pursuits, crashes and complete disregard for fuel economy - which has earned it a VSC "18" sticker.

But Steve Cheese, Elspa's operations manager, said a warning sticker on games would "serve no purpose". He commented: "I think most people are intelligent enough to know not to do that sort of thing. But there does seem to be a bit of a nanny attitude permeating through everything at the moment."

Elspa is meeting the Home Office soon to put its point. A Home Office spokesman said of the sticker idea: "We would like to talk to people in the industry first, not just dismiss an idea out of hand."

And surely Elspa should consider that children have been seen copying kung-fu leaps like those in Mortal Kombat, another hugely popular game? Mr Cheese was unconvinced. "It's no different from me as a kid pretending to be a knight in armour, or cowboys and Indians," he said. "There's no evidence that games actually influence behaviour at all."

And even if there is, what if someone invents a video game in which you have to help old ladies across the road, rescue lost kittens and paint pensioners' fences? Maybe that really will need a warning sticker - to say that it doesn't represent reality.