The games we play: execution and murder

PC-users can now 'kill' people for kicks in a sick new road computer game, writes Mark Rowe
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The Independent Online
A violent computer car game in which players drive at high speed and gain points for knocking down people and animals goes on sale in the UK this week.

The game, Carmageddon - It's Murder on the Streets, is due to go on release across the UK on 20 June. It is trailed by its publishers as an "eagerly anticipated auto-carnage racing game".

Players increase their score by mowing down as many pedestrians as they can at more than 100mph. Players also attempt to crash into one another and collisions involve grotesquely realistic graphics. In one variation, a car that goes off course and hits cows gets extra points.

In a separate development, a Lancashire-based company, Nova Productions, has created uproar in Australia by launching a game in which children can sit in an "electric chair".

The game, called The Original Shocker, is in use at an amusement centre in Sydney. It was trailed at the Amusement Trade Exhibition in London in January.

The participant sits in the chair and grips two steel rods. They then receive a jolt simulating an electric shock from strong vibrations through the handles. A voltage display shows a needle passing through 300 and 1,000 jolts. The highest level is called "smoke".

A spokesman for Nova Productions was unavailable for comment.

Back in the UK Carmageddon has been condemned by road safety groups and Dixons Stores Group, which comprises Dixons, Currys and PC World, has announced it will not stock the game "because of the nature of the product".

The game, which will cost pounds 34.99, is a watered-down version of an original by its publishers, London-based Sales Curve Interactive. Colin Brown, marketing manager of SCI, said: "We have made slight cosmetic changes involving minor changes to the colour palette, giving the characters zombie- white faces and red eyes. When they are hit they emit a green gunk as opposed to blood.

"We don't have any regrets with the original version that we submitted but we are not trying to offend people. No other changes have been made and the original game play and features remain unaffected.

"The idea of cars deliberately hitting people is not new: it was aired by the film Death Race2000."

Computer games must obtain a certificate from the British Board of Film Censors if they include explicit sexual scenes or violence.

But because the Video Standards Council decided the new version of the game merited a 15 Plus certificate, as opposed to an 18, Carmageddon has not had to be submitted to the BBFC. However, the original uncensored version is due to go on sale in Australia shortly.

A demonstration of Carmageddon on the Internet has attracted 500,000 users to the site and Jon Evans, editor of PC Power magazine, said that the game had enjoyed good reviews from computer game magazines.

"We liked it. Mowing down pedestrians clearly isn't something we would like to encourage but it is so obviously over the top as to be pure fantasy.

"It may not be morally correct but it is fun. There is no question that it will sell well."

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it found the game "disturbing".

"It is not an appropriate message to be sending out. People endure a lot of pain and grief because of reckless driving. Glorifying such behaviour can deliver a dangerous signal to future and current drivers who use the game."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The Government is concerned about violent computer games. While we are happy with the regulatory work of the BBFC we intend to keep the issue under review."