Video game 'sparked hammer murder'
Thursday, July 29, 2004 Posted: 7:33 AM EDT (1133 GMT)
LONDON, England -- Campaigners are stepping up pressure for a violent video game to be banned after it was blamed for the horrific murder of a 14-year-old British boy by an older friend.
The game, Manhunt, is described by its promoters as a "sado-masochistic" game in which players gain extra points depending on the viciousness of their killings.
Warren Leblanc faces a life sentence for repeatedly battering Stefan Pakeerah with a claw hammer and stabbing him to death after luring him to a local park in Leicester, in the English Midlands.
The 17-year-old pleaded guilty to murder at Leicester Crown Court Wednesday.
Britain's Daily Mail Thursday carried a front page headline: "Murder by Playstation" and another saying: "Horror images on computer drove teenager to kill his friend aged 14."
Outside the court, Stefan's parents said Leblanc had mimicked a game called Manhunt, made by Rockstar for platforms including Playstation 2, in which the players score points for violent killings.
His mother Giselle claimed her son's "inherently evil" murderer was "obsessed" with the game and called for it to be banned.
The game was banned by censorship officials in New Zealand six months ago and one campaigner had written to its producers warning the "murder simulator" could lead to copycat killings.
Giselle Pakeerah, 36, told the UK's Press Association: "I think that I heard some of Warren's friends say that he was obsessed by this game.
"I can't believe that this sort of material is allowed in a society where anarchy is not that far removed."
Stefan's father, Patrick, a civil servant, added: "The way Warren committed the murder this is how the game is set out, killing people using weapons like hammers and knives.
"I don't play these games but if they are influencing kids to go out and kill people then you don't want them on the shelves."
U.S. Lawyer Jack Thompson, who is campaigning against the sale of violent video games to children, told PA he had written to its producers warning that there would be copycat attacks.
He said there was evidence to suggest that teenagers playing such games had difficulty distinguishing between the fantasy and reality.
In the game, the more vicious the killing the greater the points scored by the player.
One of the skills involves sneaking up behind a victim before attacking them.
The court heard Wednesday that Leblanc had struck Stefan over the head with a claw hammer from behind, sparking the prolonged assault.
Thompson, speaking from Miami, Florida, said: "I wrote warning them that somebody was going to copycat the Manhunt game and kill somebody.
"We have had dozens of killings in the U.S. by children who had played these types of games. This is not an isolated incident.
"These types of games are basically murder simulators. There are people being killed over here almost on a daily basis."
The court heard how Leblanc armed himself with two weapons and killed his victim "in cold blood" having persuaded him to go to nearby Stoke Woods Park, known locally as "The Dumps" -- to meet two girls.
He confessed to the killing when found covered in blood by two police officers shortly afterwards.
Peter Joyce QC prosecuting told the court that the defendant had planned to rob his younger friend to help repay a drugs debt.
Mitigating, Rod Price, said Leblanc was "a happy boy and popular pupil", had received good reports from teachers and had never before been in trouble with police.
He had been an IT student at a college in Leicester and wanted to go on to higher education, said Price, adding: "It begs the question what was going on in this young man's mind at the time of committing this terrible offence."
Judge Michael Stokes QC adjourned the court case to September 3 for pre-sentence reports but said Leblanc could expect a life sentence.
A review on the Web site Videocity says this of the game: "The sheer gore of this almost insane game keeps you killing for thrills, and not so much trying to survive.
"Manhunt is by far the epitome of what all governors and statesmen complain about when they discuss the violence in video games and other entertainment methods. Never has there been a game with as much gore, and violence then this."
CNN.com reviewed the game in June and said: "Warning: 'Manhunt' raises the bar for video game violence and gore. It's not just part of the game, it is the game."
A spokesman for the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers' Association told PA: "We sympathize enormously with the family and parents of Stefan Pakeerah.
"However, we reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events in the Midlands and the sale of the video game Manhunt.
"The game in question is classified 18 by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and therefore should not be in the possession of a juvenile.
"Games are played by all ages of people, from eight to 80, and all are subjected to strict regulation. There is no evidence to suggest a link with events carried out in everyday life, as many eminent experts have continually concluded.
"Whilst we cannot comment on behalf of the publisher of the game in question, the procedures that it adopted were entirely responsible and in line with legal and industry codes of practice.
"In conclusion we would add that for the most recent records available, less than 1% of games sold in the UK are rated 18 plus by the BBFC."
Reviews list "Manhunt" as one of the goriest of video games ever.
aEUC/ CNN.com Review: 'Manhunt' raises video violence bar
aEUC/ Lawmakers take aim at virtual violence
These types of games are basically murder simulators. There are people being killed over here almost on a daily basis.
-- U.S. Lawyer Jack Thompson