Updated UK consumer electronics retail chain Dixons and games retailer Game have pulled the computer game Manhunt from its shelves after the parents of a murdered schoolboy blamed the title for their son's death.
Stefan Pakeerah, 14, was stabbed and beaten to death in a Leicester park in February. Warren Leblanc, 17, of Braunstone Frith, Leicester this week pleaded guilty to the lethal attack.
Pakeerah's parents alleged that Leblanc's fascination in the game, in which points are scored for committing grisly killings, had influenced his actions.
The victims father dubbed Manhunt "a manual for murder".
Dixons and Game today began removing Manhunt from its store shelves. Under UK law Manhunt must not be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Retailer W H Smith told the BBC that it was considering whether to continue stocking the title. Virgin Megastores, however, will continue to do so. "While we take a level of responsibility, ultimately, censorship decisions are up to the consumer," a spokesman said.
Computer games that depict 'realistic' imagery must be certified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) before release. The BBFC today stood by its certification, which indicates that the game should only be sold to adults. UK retailers are bound by the law to ensure that games are only sold to buyers of an appropriate age.
Of course, nothing prevents an adult buying such a game on a juvenile's behalf. And some kids do get hold of pirate copies.
We've been here before. Computer games have been claimed to influence other adolescent murders, most notably the Columbine High School killings, which some observers blamed on an obsessive interest in Doom. More recently, Grand Theft Auto has been blamed for a road killing.
Influences are easy to claim, but direct causality is harder to prove, whether the alleged cause are violent computer games or equally violent movies. Two decades or more ago, it was Dungeons and Dragons that was felt to be at fault.
But for every child psychologist claiming violent imagery leads to violent actions, there's another who believes games and movies provide an outlet for aggression that might otherwise be directed toward other kids.
Certainly, the vast majority of game players, comic readers and movie viewers do not act out in the real world violent content they've consumed on a PC or DVD. ®
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