herrstraw.jpgJack Straw, Leader of the House of Commons in the UK, has criticised games developers (not mentioning anyone in particular Rockstar) for a lack of social responsibility. What this basically means is that he has let parents who let their kids play violent games off the hook, and laid the blame for all of society’s ill at computer game’s feet.

His comments are a response to Labour M.P. Keith Vaz’s questions regarding Manhunt 2 and the latest Law and Order title which was withdrawn because it featured real life CCTV footage of the abduction of Jamie Bulger. At the time 5 year-old Jamie Bulger’s abduction and murder by two 10 year-olds was blamed on violent films. The conflation of these two cases, Manhunt and Law and Order into a single issue could not be more misleading. The developer has apologised for using the CCTV footage and withdrew the game voluntarily and will re-release it with the footage removed. This is showing some kind of responsibility and consideration for Jamie’s family. Now Mr. Vaz is well known for jumping on whichever bandwagon is passing if there’s a chance of some free publicity, he generally doesn’t know what he’s talking about, especially in this case.

The Manhunt 2 issue is not the same at all. The publisher has basically been prevented from releasing the game by censorship. Which, in my opinion, shouldn’t have happened. It leads us to the question of art and freedom of expression in general. People who don’t want to play the game, or allow their children to play it, shouldn’t buy it. If the game had been released with an 18 rating in the UK, or an M+ in the states, without fuss and fanfare, all the politicians who are now procaliming themselves experts on gaming and its effects on society wouldn’t even know it existed, and neither would the kids who are now desperate to play it because they’ve been told they can’t.

In my opinion it is not the developer’s job to be responsible, it is the people who buy and play the games job to be responsible. If a parent allows a child to play a game which they have been told is not suitable for children. Any actions of the child’s resulting from them playing the game are the parent’s fault, not the game, and not the developer’s.
(From Game Politics.)
Note: I apologise for the clumsily manipulated image above but I couldn’t resist. For my American readers the reference is to a character in a British comedy show from the ’80s called Herr Flick who Jack Straw bears a striking resemblance to.

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