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Retailer pulls 'murder' video game


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Reviews list "Manhunt" as one of the goriest of video games ever.
start quoteWe are naturally very surprised and disappointed that any retailer would choose to pull any game. end quote
-- Video games company Rockstar
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LONDON, England -- Britain's biggest electronics chain, Dixons, has pulled the violent video game "Manhunt" from its shops after claims it sparked the murder of a 14-year-old boy by a friend.

Another specialist retailer, Game, said it would not stock the game "as a mark of respect" to the dead teenager.

The game, in which the player takes on the role of a convicted murderer ordered by a demented film director to kill people in as gruesome a fashion as possible, has stirred controversy even among fans of violent videos.

It awards extra points to players for carrying out murders in a particularly extreme and bloody way, while victims plead to be spared on behalf of their wives and children.

Rockstar Games was coming under increasing pressure Friday to stop production of the bloodthirsty game in which players score points for brutal killings.

The parents of Stefan Pakeerah, 14, called this week for Manhunt to be banned after a 17-year-old admitted in court inviting their son into a park and murdering him.

Warren Le Blanc, a fan of the game, admitted he beat the younger teen to death with a claw hammer and stabbed him repeatedly with a knife. He could face life in prison.

"I didn't intend to kill him at first, but when I saw the blood I just let go and hit more times," he told police.

Leblanc faces a life sentence for killing Stefan Pakeerah 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.

Outside the court, Stefan's parents said Leblanc had mimicked Manhunt, made by Rockstar for platforms including Playstation 2.

Stefan's mother Giselle claimed Leblanc was an "inherently evil" murderer who 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.

'Not isolated'

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."

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.

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."

Classified 18

Rockstar said Manhunt should not be linked to Stefan's murder.

In a statement, the company said: "We would like to extend our sympathies to the Pakeerah family.

"We reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events and the sale of Manhunt. There is a clear certification structure in place and Manhunt was clearly classified as 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and should not be in the possession of a juvenile."

The company said it was "a leading publisher of interactive entertainment geared towards mature audiences" and that it marketed its games responsibly, targeting advertising and marketing only at adult consumers aged 18 and older.

It added: "Rockstar Games submits every game for certification to the British Board of Film Certification and clearly marks the game with the BBFC-approved rating.

"We have always appreciated Dixons as a retail partner and we fully respect their actions. We are naturally very surprised and disappointed that any retailer would choose to pull any game as this is a legitimate game which has been classified by the authorities."

In a statement, the Dixons Group said: "In light of the tragic events reported in today's media we have taken the decision to withdraw the Manhunt game from sale at Dixons, Currys and PC World.

"We believe that immediate withdrawal of the game is the appropriate step in the circumstances. We are doing so in consultation with the manufacturer."


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