Knives Are Daggerous (Geddit?)

By John Walker on January 14th, 2008 at 11:16 am.

Nothing inspires confidence like a politician making a declaration about the content of videogames.

It appears the latest reason to namedrop children’s most dangerous pastime is their incorrigible habit of containing knives, according to our Dear Leader. PM Gordon Brown has declared that as part of his total ban on carrying knives, he wants to see blades disappearing from games too. He explained to The Sun,

“I am very worried about video and computer games. No one wants censorship or an interfering State. But the industry has some responsibility to society and needs to exercise that.”

It’s an interesting logic. I’m fairly sure that bazookas, semi-automatic rifles and Land Shark Guns are all reasonably illegal in boring old real life, but they are being allowed to feature in games unhindered. However, the contents of everyone’s kitchen drawers have got to go.

It is of course a reaction to the tragic series of stabbings that featured heavily in the UK news over the last couple of months. Banning people from carrying knives around with them would seem, and maybe I’m overstepping my editorial privileges here, fairly reasonable. But just once, could someone citing videogames at least know one to reference in relation to their issue?

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85 Comments »

  1. Jim Rossignol says:

    Jumping on people’s heads is illegal in the UK too, bizarrely.

  2. cullnean says:

    politics is like pokemon “videogames i chose you”

  3. FaceOmeter says:

    Yeah – that’s why Pokémon are now also illegal on the streets. If over two inches long.

    Those damned Bradford gang wars. Those damned Video Games.

  4. Slappeh says:

    I totally agree with him, this isn’t a hard blow on games or anything like Jack Thompson but he is just saying that it does affect the youths.

    I agree with the knife ban laws an stuff though.

    Also, cullnean, that is a great line and is my new msn name =)

  5. Ryan says:

    “No one wants censorship or an interfering State, but if you don’t voluntarily censor yourselves we will have no choice but to interfere.”

  6. Andrew says:

    Thinly veiled threats, eh? What a nice new Prime Minister we have which is fully in tune with todays current trends. Hmmm…

  7. Link says:

    I would hate to see the spy’s knife removed from tf2, that would sadden me greatly!!

  8. essell says:

    “I am very worried about video and computer games. No one wants censorship or an interfering State. But the industry has some responsibility to society and needs to exercise that.”

    This quote, in isolation, I totally agree with. He’s not going put any nazi laws into position, so what’s the problem?

  9. yns88 says:

    Am I the only one who sees him holding an invisible tommy gun?

  10. Jim Rossignol says:

    The problem would be that the Blair/Brown Labour government has *already* proven itself to be one of the most interfering governments the UK has ever had. They seem to be under the delusion that a government is a business that produces legislation.

  11. Philip says:

    @yns88 – that’s probably because of years of brainwashing by violent computer games…

    But back to the real world. I think it’s fairly obvious, and has been mentioned before in various places, but it seems strange to me that no politician seems to mention the fact that children shouldn’t be getting hold of violent video games in the first place. Probably because it would lay the blame on the voters parents. Or am I being too cynical?

    A clampdown on shops who sell inappropriate videogames to minors, and parents who buy them for minors, would be welcomed by all I feel.

  12. Janek says:

    I don’t think there’s such a thing as too cynical, these days.

  13. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    The funniest thing is, as I’m reading this here article, theres a lovely google advertisement for…… some made in china swiss army knife.

  14. Matu says:

    Gladly, this won’t affect any future Riddick games. Because he can use cups and spoons instead, y’know.

  15. Max says:

    You mean it wasn’t already illegal to carry knives…? >.>

  16. Darren says:

    I specialise in bladed weaponry. Any such change as this will leave me at a disadvantage against kobolds.

  17. Butler says:

    Yeah Max. If they made it illegal to carry knives, all them there outdoor types would moan about not being able to defend themselves against overly violent wildlife. Like rabbits.

  18. Dude says:

    What is amasing is that it is always the fault of the industry. Yes the industry has it responsability but parents do as well. Around christmas I walked in a gaming shop, just shoping around with my wife and I saw 2 kids maybe 8 to 10 years hold playing CoD4… And after that obviously they took the game and the parents bought it without even looking at the box. How dumb is that, I would never give a game like that to a kid, way to violent.
    I think it the shops selling the games have more responsability than the devs because they won’t turn down a sale by saying “Is that for the 2 fellows there? Ya know they are way to young to play this game?”

    But well, everyone knows gamers a clearly sociopath…

  19. Meat Circus says:

    No one wants censorship or an interfering State

    Oh, Gordon, you naughty little tinker. You love a bit of interference up your state-hole. That’s been your entire MO for the last decade. That and destroying the UK through unserviceable levels of debt and making everybody hate you.

  20. cullnean says:

    jim said = The problem would be that the Blair/Brown Labour government has *already* proven itself to be one of the most interfering governments the UK has ever had. They seem to be under the delusion that a government is a business that produces legislation.

    oh so you would like a return to the dark days of the conservatives?

    no thanks

  21. cullnean says:

    also before bashing labour so a real alternative.

  22. Seniath says:

    Tbh, the last few times I’ve been in Game they’ve been good with the ol’ age rating thing, be it asking clearly under aged kids for id, or asking doting parents if the intended recipient of the game was the young’n who scampered up to the counter, game in hand and grin on face, dragging said parent with them.

  23. John Walker says:

    Cullnean – While the last thing we need is for this thread to be a debate over the merits of Labour and Conservative, I think it’s fair to say that observing the rather terrifying behaviour of New Labour does not directly translate to an appeal to vote Tory.

  24. Meat Circus says:

    @Cullnean:

    “Dark days of the Conservatives”? What, as opposed to the utopia of squinty Scotch bliss that Gordon has blessed us with?

    Pffft.

    Gordon is a power-hungry, angry, malicious and intellectually bankrupt control freak, and people like you voted for him. When he does try to legislate gaming violence out of existence, I’ll be sure to thank you for saving us from the Dark Days.

  25. cullnean says:

    just replying to jim really my bad

    on topic = stricter control of sales is necasery or some kind of awarness campaign for the ill informed

  26. Phil says:

    yns88:
    Brown looks more like he’s giving Jack Griffin a rather lacklustre session of manual relief.

    This is unlikely to come to pass; banning knives in games in would be perceived to be a knee jerk, faintly pathetic thing to do considering the scale of problem in London and its widely agreed on root causes, namely disaffection, deprivation and a steadily spinning cycle of violence.

  27. mb says:

    As much as I loathe New Labour’s focus group crowd-pleasing & erosion of civil liberties, I’d welcome german-style censorship or restrictions on violent game content in the hope that it’d stimulate some creativity in game design. Although that’s not likely to be effectual unless the US did it, & there was a real market effect that the devs/publishers had to respond to.

  28. Jonathan Burroughs says:

    Can’t we ban idiot children instead?

  29. Lu-Tze says:

    I think there’s a need to see what he’s attacking here. If he’s going after games like Manhunt 2 then the key thing to address is the sale of these games to minors.

    Alternatively though, a moment of inspection will show that a LOT of games featured bladed weapons (Zelda, Soul Calibur, Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4) and some of these are rated at a level that makes it acceptable to kids. Weapons like swords, knives and a whole variety of other melee equipment make hitting someone into a cheap cartoon like attack, something that might stun them, knock them down, or just cause them to respawn. Does this engender the idea that they do not inflict real and serious injuries? Soul Calibur for example has people with weapons that would in real life be incredibly deadly having great fun causing fireworks to go off when they hit each other, and this could send the wrong message to people about the kind of damage an attack of this kind could cause.

    I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here, but I can think of no other media that enforces the idea that after slicing someone with a sword 30 times they are merely winded. Even something that takes it with a pinch of salt like Itchy and Scratchy shows that when you stab someone THEY GET STABBED. Scratchy may live on (in serious pain/multiple pieces), but the damage is representative.

    Just a thought.

  30. Iain says:

    @Link: Actually, I would very much like to see the Spy’s knife disappear from Team Fortress 2… Dastard, chuffing Spies. My back has more holes in it than a cubic kilometre of Edam cheese. (My fault for being rubbish, I know)

    As for this government being a legislation-producing business, does the phrase “Self-perpetuating bureaucracy” mean anything to you? If they don’t create stupid laws now, they won’t have anything to fix later… Politics has always been a silly merry-go-round of short-term, populist bandwagon jumping. I don’t see why anyone would think this statement is anything other than the norm.

    It’s far easier for politicians to point fingers at an “industry”, rather than parents for not taking responsibility for knowing what their kids are doing. It makes them seem tough without actually alienating that many people, gaining them more votes than they lose. Videogames are just this decade’s expedient political target – especially now that they’re far more mainstream (not to mention graphic and realistic) than they used to be ten years ago.

  31. Thiefsie says:

    No cricket bats either? The poms might play better that way? *hides*

  32. Wholly Schmidt says:

    I miss the interference of State.

    …and in the game!

  33. Ging says:

    I know that Game enforces the age restrictions quite harshly and not only for BBFC rated games. I assume that Gamestation will follow suit once that acquisition is complete (if they don’t already – I’ve not been in one in ages). At this point, I think it does come down to education of the parents as to what ratings mean in regards to games.

    When it comes to Mr Brown, I can see where he’s coming from – as was said earlier, games often show bladed weapons doing no damage at all. But at the same time, pound shops and the like sell plastic swords for kids to hit each other with that also don’t (generally) cause any major damage – does that mean we should see those be taken off shelves?

  34. Iain says:

    Alternatively though, a moment of inspection will show that a LOT of games featured bladed weapons (Zelda, Soul Calibur, Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4) and some of these are rated at a level that makes it acceptable to kids. Weapons like swords, knives and a whole variety of other melee equipment make hitting someone into a cheap cartoon like attack, something that might stun them, knock them down, or just cause them to respawn. Does this engender the idea that they do not inflict real and serious injuries? Soul Calibur for example has people with weapons that would in real life be incredibly deadly having great fun causing fireworks to go off when they hit each other, and this could send the wrong message to people about the kind of damage an attack of this kind could cause.

    I think this is less about games not being realistic as it is about the inability of a player to distinguish between fantasy and reality. I’d say any five year old who’s seen their parents chop up vegetables as they make dinner knows that knives are sharp and dangerous and that you shouldn’t play with them… The real difficulty in this whole debate is not one of censorship being the answer, but keeping graphic games out of the hands of people who aren’t mature enough to experience them in the correct context; where people could make the kind of erroneous associations suggested above.

    I would like to see much firmer enforcement of sales, to make sure that the retailers actually have the legal power to withhold sales of games if they suspect it will be played by someone too young. I’ve seen people buy Grand Theft Auto 3 for 10 year olds, and the retailer hasn’t been able to do a thing, because it’s the parent buying it, not the child. But they both know that it’s not the parent who’s going to be playing it.

    Of course, in the short term it’s not in the retailer’s interests to withhold a sale (and controls on the High Street can be easily circumvented online), but introducing legally-binding restrictions at the point of sale would be a better first step than wholesale censorship, which would ultimately be far more damaging to the industry.

    In the end, though – it’s the parent who has to take responsibility to vet what they let their kids play. I don’t think we, as gamers, should let people’s ignorance be any defence any more. You wouldn’t get parents buying their 12 year old kids a bottle of vodka for Christmas, so why let them have something like Gears of War?

  35. MisterBritish says:

    Hang on, there are people that stab other people? Like, thrust a pointy object into someone else? WTF?

  36. Vaughn says:

    Yep, ban knives in games. Instead of knives, we can go about bludgeoning enemies to death with puppies. Much more society friendly that. I’m always reminded of the simpson’s episode where all guns are banned and then the aliens take over.

  37. Gulag says:

    So, more crowbars then…

  38. Theory says:

    It’s an interesting logic. I’m fairly sure that bazookas, semi-automatic rifles and Land Shark Guns are all reasonably illegal in boring old real life, but they are being allowed to feature in games unhindered. However, the contents of everyone’s kitchen drawers have got to go.

    Well, yeah. They’re readily-available everyday items.

    One of the issues with the debate itself is that none of us are in the kinds of social groups who commit knife crimes. We have no idea how they think and so can only apply the policy decisions to ourselves – unsuccessfully.

  39. Radiant says:

    He’s right.

  40. FaceOmeter says:

    Actually I think knives in Videogames are a good thing.

    Because they’re always the worst weapon.

    “If you’re gonna kill someone on the street, you got no chance with just a blade, kids! The others are gonna have BFGs. You need glock, minimum.”

    Video gaming: a positive message

  41. Seniath says:

    I doubt our sneaky sneaky spy friends would agree with you FaceOmeter :p

  42. Jon says:

    I too see our PM holding a gun, I saw the Heavy’s Sasha instead of a tommy gun though…

    Time and again this comes up that videogames are the death of our civilisation as we know it, and yet, using hindsight we can laugh at those who thought rock and roll and Elvis’ swinging hips would be the death of civilisation as we know it. Oh and we laugh at those who thought trains going over 30mph would make your brain melt…. Ah, hindsight, what a wonderful thing.

    I’ve always wondered how age restrictions on films seem to work in the cinema but never do with games… Maybe we should start with enforcing those little red circle rather than blaming the gaming industry.

  43. Link says:

    Seniath “I doubt our sneaky sneaky spy friends would agree with you FaceOmeter :p”

    hehe this is oh so true, i cant ever remember a game where ive enjoyed a knife so much as tf2.

    would gordo want to ban them entirely – or only include them in games for over 18′s?

  44. ianwest says:

    OK, fine, take knives out of games. But you try and take my AK away from me in Grand Theft Auto and I’m gonna pop a cap in yo ass, beeyutch…

  45. Nick says:

    I agree that some games are almost tastelessly violent, and shouldn’t be sold to under 18s but we shouldn’t be naive about the people responsible for these stabbings. They know perfectly well what they’re doing, that knives can do serious often fatal damage even if they claim their use isn’t necessarily to kill.

    I wonder, have the government actually done any research with knife carrying youths to see if they play computer games with knives in, or if any other media they regularly watch shows the use of knives for that matter? In fact have they done any research on the social and family backgrounds of these people? Or is it just a knee jerk reaction to scapegoat a medium that is seen as alien and weird by middle aged middle Englanders?

    Anyway, as long as the knife ban nerfs rogues I’m happy to go with it.

  46. Lady Thief Of Pearls says:

    As someone who has had to deal with age-restricted sales through working in a supermarket, I have to say that it already is illegal to sell games (or any other age-restricted product) if you believe that it will be passed on to someone under-age. This quite often got me a torrent of abuse from customers, but the fine for breaking this law can be up to £5000. For the cashier, not the shop. And Trading Standards does regular undercover checks; our local charity shop recently got caught out and charged by one. So I’d say there are already quite strict measures in place. The problem is inadequate staff training leading to shop-front staff who are ignorant of the consequences, and mouthy customers who intimidate them into bending the rules to avoid causing a scene.

  47. Dude says:

    so I guess this story is what it’s all about:
    TF2 knife violence

  48. Mr.Brand says:

    Better ban dinners, because they contain knives. And forks.

  49. Dan R says:

    I agree with him generally, but not for the same reason. I doubt videogames are much of a cause of the knife-crime epidemic, I think there’s a larger problem with a teenage gang culture.

    On the flipside, I reckon the games industry is pretty obsessed with violence. Looking at the quantity of games that contain a violence, and comparing them to any other kind of media, my opinion is that there’s far more violence in video games. It pretty much makes the industry an easy target.

    In addition to this, most of the violence is free of any emotional baggage, or contains very little moral reasoning, and often occurs in worlds that not particularly abstract.

    As much as I like playing FPS games, they do get a bit boring and repetetive after a while, I’d really love it if the industry could come up with more intelligent groundbreaking games where you don’t have to kill people. Or at least something with the intrigue and thought-provoking nature of Deus Ex. Well done to the few developers that actually do this.

  50. Jocho says:

    Not having read the entire thread, I just got thinking about melee-combat. Knives are quite usual there, today. But, if you want to keep it, would TWO-HANDED SWORDS be ok?

    After all, what youngster 1) finds a two-handed sword, 2) picks it up and carries it without getting extremely noticed?