- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A computer game that encourages players to kill all in sight in ever more gruesome ways has become the first video game banned in New Zealand.

In a 12-page statement issued yesterday, New Zealand’s Office of Film and Literature Classification said the game “Manhunt” depicts horror, cruelty, crime and violence in such a manner that its availability was likely to hurt the public good.

Chief censor Bill Hastings said that computer games generally appear to be getting more “edgy” — but that “Manhunt,” for the PlayStation 2, goes further than any that has been referred to his office.

“It’s a game where the only thing you do is kill everybody you see,” he said. “You can choose to kill ‘mild,’ ‘medium’ or ‘hot.’”

Weapons used ranged from glass shards to garroting wire, plastic bags and machetes. The game has a mature rating.

“You have to at least acquiesce in these murders and possibly tolerate or even move toward enjoying them,” Mr. Hastings said.

“Manhunt” was banned from sale or rent in New Zealand for its likely effect on “players of any age,” Mr. Hastings said.

The game was developed by Rockstar North, an Edinburgh, Scotland, division of Take-Two Interactive Software in New York. They are “the same people who brought us Grand Theft Auto,” the classification office statement said.

The Grand Theft Auto series is the subject of a $246 million lawsuit filed in the United States by families of two people shot by teenagers purportedly inspired by the game.

The suit says marketer Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive Software are liable for $46 million in compensatory damages and $200 million in punitive damages, along with retailer Wal-Mart.

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