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Monday, January 12, 2009

Nintendo game is adult-only

Not for kids ... Grand Theft Auto

Not for kids ... Grand Theft Auto

A COMPUTER game featuring drugs and gangland killing has become the first title to be handed an adults-only rating so it can be sold for the family-friendly Nintendo DS console.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was awarded the 18+ certificate by the British Board of Film Classification on Friday.

It is made by a Leeds-based studio owned by US firm Rockstar, and will now go on sale on March 20.

On its website, the regulator advises it contains “very strong language and drug references” while packaging for the adventure - the latest in the controversial Grand Theft Auto series - shows images of guns, knives and swords.

Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games, said: "We are incredibly excited to share this enormous and uncompromising Grand Theft Auto experience with DS fans."

But its arrival on the Nintendo DS marks a major change for the handheld device.

It had previously been lauded for its universal appeal with everyone from young children to pensioners.

The vast majority of its games are suitable for under-12s and in 2008, sales of its titles in Britain rose by 28 per cent to 19.1 million.

The increase was thanks partly to the huge popularity of games which use puzzles and problem solving to enhance life skills, for example Professor Layton or the Brain Training series.

According to the BBFC's report, makers Rockstar did not need to make any cuts to the game after the finished product was submitted for classification, unlike the firm's previous release Manhunt 2.

It was twice refused a certificate by the BBFC before a compromise was found and it finally went into shops late last year.

But speaking about Chinatown Wars in September, Rockstar's co-founder Dan Houser told Edge magazine: "It can't be softened to make it family-friendly – that's not the game we're making. We've never not done well by sticking to our guns."

He added: "Nintendo wanted us to make GTA, and we wanted to make a game on their platform. They didn't want us to make a GTA for kids, and we weren't interested in making a game we wouldn't normally make."


Tim Ingham, Associate Editor of games industry magazine MCV, said: "The DS is a console that doesn't exclusively cater for children and families even though it provides a wealth of suitable entertainment for them.

"Nobody in the industry would like to see retail confused enough to put this into the hands of under-18s and therefore it being promimently labelled is a good thing.

"This is not a game for children and parents have over the past few years started to pay more attention to the age ratings on packaging.

"It is vital they continue to heed this advice."

The Grand Theft Auto games have long courted controversy. Versions for consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 have in the past been slammed for their themes of gang violence, drug dealing, stealing cars and sleeping with prostitutes.

In 2006, Sega Casino for the Nintendo DS did go on sale with an 18+ rating but this was through the gaming industry's voluntary code of self-regulation rather than a legal requirement from the BBFC.

Nintendo and Rockstar Games both declined to comment.