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Friday, December 12, 1997 Published at 02:41 GMT


Campaigners call for computer games to be censored
image: [ Carmaggedon: points for running down pedestrians ]
Carmaggedon: points for running down pedestrians

Campaigners are calling for a clampdown on the more violent computer games on sale this Christmas.

They say parents may be shocked by the violent and explicit nature of some of the games and have called on the Government to protect youngsters.

They want the classification of computer games to be reformed and efforts made to remove violence from the industry.

Earlier this week a petition was handed in to Parliament by the Movement for Christian Democracy, which was co-founded by the anti-abortion campaigner Lord Alton of Liverpool.

It urged the Government to clamp down on violent and sexually explicit games and also called them to take measures to control the downloading of "harmful" images from the Internet.

[ image: Many of the best-selling games feature guns, knives, martial arts or other forms of violence]
Many of the best-selling games feature guns, knives, martial arts or other forms of violence
Grand Theft Auto, one of the hottest games on the market this Christmas, is a game in which players can rise through the underworld by performing jobs for gangster godfathers.

Points are awarded for murder, arson and drug running.

It may not be ideal educational fare but it does at least have an 18 certificate.

But the whole classification system is, to say the least, confusing and some shopkeepers have also been accused of failing to prevent youngsters getting their hands on the games.

James Binns, editor of PC Format magazine, says the British Board of Film Classification, which is responsible for the games, was taking too long to deal with games.

Jonathan Bartley, of the Movement for Christian Democracy, says: "We need a mechanism established whereby the decisions of the BBFC can be routinely challenged by members of the public."

He says there was a "stack" of evidence that young people were detrimentally influenced by violent games.

Mr Bartley said the evidence was "overwhelming" and he said a Home Office report due out next month would confirm their harmful effect.

But Simon Butler, general manager of game makers BMG Interactive, says: "What the research we commissioned said was that if this game gets in the hands of children who have not formed their moral make-up it can influence them.

"But it has an 18 certificate and it should not be getting into their hands. Grand Theft Auto is not a game for kids. The average PC gamer is aged 26."

He says the blame lies with the retailers who sell the games and the parents who allow their children to watch 18-classified games.

Mr Bartley says many children play the games in their bedrooms and he claims few parents know what their children are doing.

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BMG Interactive homepage (makers of Grand Theft Auto)

Info on Movement for Christian Democracy

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