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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 December, 2004, 13:33 GMT
Game warnings 'should be clearer'
Screenshot of Manhunt for PS2
The government is worried children are playing 18-rated games
Violent video games should carry larger warnings so parents can understand what their children are playing, the trade and industry secretary has said.

Patricia Hewitt is expected to call for the law banning the sale of 18-rated games to children to be enforced better at a games industry meeting on Sunday.

She is concerned too many children are playing games aimed at adults which include "high levels of violence".

Parents are expected to spend millions on video games as Christmas presents.

You wouldn't let your child watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So you shouldn't let them play an 18-rated game
Tessa Jowell, culture, media and sport secretary
Violent games have been hit by controversy after the game Manhunt was blamed by the parents of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah, who was stabbed to death in Leicester in February.

His mother, Giselle, said her son's killer, Warren Leblanc, 17 - who was jailed for life in September - had mimicked behaviour in the game.

Police investigating the Stefan's murder dismissed its influence and Manhunt was not part of its legal case.

Ahead of Sunday's meeting in London, Ms Hewitt said she was proud of the UK's "vibrant games industry" but was concerned too many children were playing games which should only be sold to adults.

Roger Bennett, head of gaming industry body ELSPA, said banning violent games would be wrong.

He said: "We don't want to go down that route. We have seen that the government is supportive of the industry."

The government is holding a further meeting on Friday with industry and retail representatives as well as the British Board of Film Classification to discuss how labelling can be made clearer.

Ms Hewitt said: "Adults should be treated as adults and children as children. It is important that retailers respect the classifications and do not sell games with high levels of violence to minors.

Content warnings

"Equally parents need to know what they might be buying for their children.

"Video games are different to films or videos, and not all parents have grown up playing games in the way our children do.

"We need to look carefully at how we improve content warnings and strengthen sales enforcement."

Her call was backed by Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Tessa Jowell who said: "You wouldn't let your child watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You wouldn't let them go to a strip club.

"So you shouldn't let them play an 18-rated game. It's the same principle - adults can make their own informed choices, but children can't always and need to be protected."

Anyone convicted of selling an 18-rated game to a child can be jailed for six months and fined up to 5,000.

Rockstar Games, the makers of Manhunt, has said in the past it markets its games responsibly and only targets its adverts at adults.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Patricia Hewitt airs her concerns about video games



SEE ALSO:
PM backs violent game inquiry
15 Sep 04 |  Leicestershire
Manhunt game 'flying off shelves'
04 Aug 04 |  Leicestershire
Manhunt game withdrawn by stores
29 Jul 04 |  Leicestershire
Game blamed for hammer murder
29 Jul 04 |  Leicestershire


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