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If In Doubt, Bias Up Your Copy

From the BBC News site today:

“A US teenager killed his mother and wounded his father in revenge after they took away his violent computer game, a judge has ruled.”

The game in question? Nope, not GTA, not Manhunt 2, not even the chain-saw-mungus Gears of War. Nope we’re talking about Halo 3. Seriously…

I know it’s a shooter. I know it’s set during a war. But it’s a human super-soldier versus an amalgamated group of alien races, set, in part, on a giant space hula-hoop. If you’re confusing this thing with reality, you’re either nuts, or you’re a Spartan super-soldier from the future and you’re unlikely ever to face trial.

Furthermore there’s an appreciable difference between the Halo series and, say, the aforementioned Gears of War, another humans versus aliens saga. I don’t think that game’s especially damaging either (not to anyone in command of their mental functions; this kid did, after all, choose to steal the key to his dad’s lockbox rather than, say, just nick the game back), but there’s a noticeable difference in the nature of the violence, isn’t there? It’s more up-close-and-personal, less distanced, and delights rather more in the blood and splatter of battle.

The line between ‘action’ and ‘violence’ is a shaky one, but imagine the murderous kid had been angered by the confiscation of his The Fast and The Furious DVD. That’s a 15 movie (Halo 3 is a 15 in the UK for, well, ‘strong violence’), and the action is human-on-human. Would we refer to this as a violent film for someone over the BBFC age to watch? Would we consider Halo 3 appreciably more ‘violent’ than the movie? Would we say that that particular aspect defines either?

I dunno about you, but the neon blue blood spatter and bad guys comprised of heavily-armed space gorillas, amphibious-looking mini-mes and lizard jackals with laser shields pretty much separate the two for me.

Best of all, it turns out that the violent – ahem – nature of the game isn’t relevant to the verdict. The judge totally rejected the ridiculous ‘the game made him nuts’ defence on the grounds, presumably, of utter sense. So in the BBC story, at very most, the word ‘violent’ should have been given quote marks. But even that wholly misrepresents the nature and outcome of the case. It’s a more exciting read for people who don’t know the details, though, so presumably that makes it okay.

I know crap like this goes on every day. But BBC News, who still carry some vague weight of respect, seems to be letting this kind of nonsense slip through more and more often.

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Well, in fairness to the kid, Halo 3 (specifically on Xbox Live) is probably the most playable console game ever created. I’ve never really been the sort to play a game till my fingers hurt, but I’m well over 1,000 online games of Halo now, and I still turn it on every weekend to see what the “Double Experience” special bonus weekend game is.

That said, killing a parent because they confiscated a game is pretty extreme a reaction. Nothing to do with the game - more to do with a particularly badly strained parent-child relationship, I’d imagine.

By Ben
January 13, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

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The thing that makes me chuckle is the way the Halo series always bends over backwards to avoid putting the player up against humans during the single player campaign- the sections of Halo 2 where you controlled an alien assasination squad always found a contrived reason to send you against your own species only…

By Julian Hazeldine
January 13, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

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‘Halo’ and ‘convoluted’ pretty much go together anyway. I have no idea what’s going on half the time…

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By Andrew
January 13, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

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Pretty extreme, Ben? I’d hate to see what a very extreme reaction would be…

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By Muz
January 14, 2009 @ 12:45 am

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I know crap like this goes on every day. But BBC News, who still carry some vague weight of respect, seems to be letting this kind of nonsense slip through more and more often.

BBC broadcast news does but I wouldn’t say the same of BBC online news. Because of the sheer number of headlines this sort of crap pops up all the time. A recent example was the headline “Immigrants admits growing cannabis”, a click on the headline and read of the article revealed that they were, in fact, illegal immigrants and so distinct from legitimate immigrants which is what the headline had suggested they were.

Now, I doubt there’s much bad intent behind this sort of thing but the sheer number of stories BBCi runs and the somewhat inadequate state of their sub-editing means this sort of thing in quite common and I’ve seen other people remark on it. In this case, I don’t think it’s a problem so much of inaccurate information as unfair emphasis, but it’s the same problem of sloppy reporting which is something the BBC’s online wing really needs to sort out.

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By Zagrebo
January 18, 2009 @ 11:32 am

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Not that I’m defending every news article they publish because of this, but BBC News *does* have a problem in that due to the way their systems work, each news article has to be 33 characters or under, as the same headlines are used on Ceefax. So I can understand how that particular headline came about, even though it’s still unacceptable.

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By John Hoare
January 19, 2009 @ 2:12 am

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