Remember the days when a kunai-tipped rope and a throaty "Get over here!" in Midway's Mortal Kombat could stir up anti-violence loons like pigeons flocking to bread crumbs? Here we go again with Manhunt 2, Rockstar's just-released "killer" action game for the Wii, PSP, and PlayStation 2.
"The actions, you have to actually stab the person, so you are doing the same actions it would take to stab somebody," says one parent to a WATE reporter in Knoxville, Tennessee. "If kids do that at an early age, it would have an effect on them."
The same action if would take to stab somebody? Really? Are we still hung up on "mimicry" in a goofily Platonic sense, where the more it looks like the real thing the more intuitively affective it's supposed to be?
Where all the science suggests otherwise, are we seriously worried that our kids holding plastic guns in front of a TV screen are somehow more susceptible to suggestive violence than when they're running around outside wearing cowboy hats or helmets and slinging little plastic six-shooters or swords and not uncommonly physically using them on each other?
In related news, it seems a group of hackers has managed to unlock intentionally disabled content by tweaking Manhunt 2's initialization files on the PSP edition, ostensibly freeing up the content that elicited an Adults Only rating from the ERSB. No doubt it's just a matter of time before the ESRB reengages its AO rating for the same dubious reasons it slapped Bethesda's Oblivion with a Mature rating after a hacker modified the game in a way that allowed player to disrobe in-game characters -- wait and see.
Just because some tinkerer makes it possible to use something in a way it wasn't intended doesn't make the seller culpable. You certainly don't have to engage the nudity tweak to play Oblivion (in fact it requires a certain amount of specialized knowledge), just like you don't have to eat all that fast food or candy or ice cream. If you don't want your kids putting certain kinds of images in their heads, pay attention to what they're playing for the same reason you're supposed to be monitoring what kinds of food they put in their mouths. What's complicated about that?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it used to be called "taking responsibility."