Howells attacks savagery of video games

The producers of "blood-spattered" video games are spreading acceptance of violent crime, the Culture minister, Kim Howells, charges today.

The outspoken Mr Howells was accused of racism last week for denouncing "boasting idiot macho rappers" after the murder of two Birmingham teenagers in the crossfire of a gang shootout. But in an interview with The Independent today, he is unrepentant and widens his attack to include the makers of computer games.

Violence on video games has shocked many parents. In the best-selling Grand Theft Auto series players can club prostitutes to death, blow up police cars, start prison riots and fire sub-machineguns at drug dealers.

Concern at savage imagery has become so great that a classification system for games, like that for films, is being introduced this year.

Mr Howells, the father of teenage sons, said: "I don't think a child is going to be a killer or more violent as a consequence of playing those games, that is not what I'm saying. But it's the acceptance of that heartlessness that is at the centre of all those kind of games, the kind of joy of shooting innocent bystanders or running them over in the car."

He called on the games manufacturers and film directors to face up to their responsibility to society.

"I look at some of the video games my kids play, I look at some of the movies they and their friends think are wonderful and I see no humanity there at all, nothing that tries to highlight, and underpin, the finer virtues that are in people and in society. It's always playing to the lowest common denominator, which is a kind of vicarious pleasure in spilling blood," he said.

The Independent disclosed last year that Mr Howells had pinned a note to a message board at the Tate Britain condemning the "cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit" of the Turner prize contenders.

He says in today's interview: "Sooner or later you have to try to say things as simply as you can and sometimes they make a bit of sense to people, sometimes they don't."

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