The ability to censor is an extremely volatile power to have, mainly due to the conflict of basic human rights that it raises. On the one hand free speech dictates that the public have a right to know every detail that passes through our courts, but when you combine that with the equally important issue of protection you begin to delve into a serious problem which is much more than simply black and white.
The super injunction is something that has been at the forefront of our media for weeks now, and is effectively a tool that enables celebrities to silence the appropriate outlets in writing about their private life. Most recently a top Premier League footballer was found guilty of a super injunction, only later for his name to be revealed on Twitter, where the injunction is difficult to apply due to the instant nature and popularity of the service, as well as its international nature. Over 200 million boast a Twitter account, and within hours many had made a mockery of the law that continues to beg the question; is censorship right?
The potent matter of censorship is one that also haunts the videogaming industry, in some countries more than others. Britain itself has an extremely lenient history when censoring videogames and this is reflected in the fact that only three games have ever been seriously questioned by the British Board of Film Classification, in the form of Carmageddon, The Punisher and Manhunt 2. All three were eventually released after reworking parts of the game, the most drastic change appearing in Carmageddon where the intended pedestrians were replaced with zombies to somewhat reduce the game’s realism.
Although we’ve only had three games that actually required it, is the censorship of videogames (or anything else, for that matter) insulting to the intelligence and maturity of the masses? The BBFC and PEGI currently share the role of rating our videogames, and as long as these ratings are followed and acted upon responsibly, theory dictates that there should be no need for censorship. Cases occasionally arise where videogames serve as a scapegoat for various violent crimes, but it is highly debatable whether these crimes are down to the content of the videogame itself or the state of mind of the player. The general consensus is that it’s most commonly the latter, so censorship is entirely unnecessary as long as the games in question do not fall into the wrong hands. But then is that a risk that any government seeking votes can hazard?[drop] The Australian government certainly don’t think so. Utilising a similar age badge scheme to Britain, the only noticeable difference is the lack of an “adult” rating, meaning that if any videogame is deemed to be only worthy of an “18” it is immediately refused classification. This has led to a large number of videogames being denied a release down under, and the titles that do see the light of day are often heavily edited to fit into the country’s arguably flawed rating system. The sufferers include both the public and the developers themselves; heavily edited games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Left 4 Dead 2, and Fallout 3 are a less attractive proposition to the public and as a result harm the developers, who are working increasingly harder to censor their own creations so that they are allowed into the prominent Australian videogame market. What makes the regulations even harder to take is the fact that they insinuate that only children play videogames, which is definitely not the case with studies showing that the average gamer is over twenty years old.
There is no right or wrong answer, but from a personal perspective I’d like to think that I am mature and old enough to make my own decisions in regards to what I can and cannot view. The motives of censorship are completely understandable – it’s a harsh truth that humans do kill other humans and then pin the influence on videogames, and I think that it would take a naive person to say that they didn’t have an effect at all. However, anything visual can potentially have an effect on the viewer, and if you decide to censor based on the concept of safety then you’ll find that other outlets need to be censored too for consistency.
And even then, the personal line for each individual is likely to be different, and as a result you will have a large number of people who feel strongly aggrieved by the censorship in question. It’s a topic that is endless and one that certainly warrants a healthy degree of discussion, but after the recent injunction farce you have to question the right of any esteemed body to decide what we can’t, and cannot partake in.