Manhunt 2 As you may have noticed, Ive been away for the past couple of weeks taking a well earned break in sunny France. But now Im back and slowly catching up with myself. One of the things Ive noticed while surfing through various news sources over the past few days is that a bit of a moral panic has been developing around the Manhunt 2 video game.

As has been previously mentioned, the game was banned in the UK in June. It has also been banned in Italy (via) , Switzerland (via) and Ireland.

And the excitement has crossed the Atlantic (via) with the New York state Senate and Assembly reaching an agreement on proposed legislation making it a felony to rent or sell video games with mature themes to minors. According to Bo Andersen, president of the EMA, a trade association for the retailers of DVDs, computer games, and console games:

The proposal to jail retailers and clerks for up to four years for selling certain video games to persons under age 17 is apparently based on misunderstandings about what retailers are doing currently.

But the bill is expected to receive formal approval when the legislature reconvenes in July and Eliot Spitzer, the New York Governor, has signaled his intent to sign the bill into law.

The furore has attracted a fair bit of press comment, such as this article in the Daily Telegraph that reminds us that the original Manhunt game became notorious on the basis of some deeply inaccurate reporting and goes on to make the point that the game may well be nasty and appeal to something nasty in our instincts. but:

banning something because its nasty wont make our instincts less ugly; and it is not the business of the state to police bad taste.

And in Spiked, Rob Lyons points out that:

[T]he supposed connection between computer games and violence is highly tendentious. And yet it is used to justify blanket censorships such as the banning of Manhunt 2. These games may produce cognitive changes – players can feel elated, frightened or a range of other emotions - but there is no evidence to suggest they produce behavioural changes.

and concludes:

The issue of censorship - whether it targets video games or adverts for eggs - ultimately comes down to this question: who should control our lives? Instead of letting a bunch of unelected regulators determine what we can see, hear, play or eat, we should start to trust ourselves on such matters.

The Melon Farmers have responded by organising a petition calling on he Prime Minister to Restrict the powers of the BBFC with regard to the banning of video games. Click here to see it and sign it.