I'm not the first person to offer my two cents about this, and I'm pretty sure I won't be the last. Still, I've had a hard time getting my opinion on the BBFC's decision to refuse classification to Rockstar's latest, and might as well use this space to try and put it as plainly as possible.
Firstly, I don't believe that the BBFC should be allowed to refuse classification to any material submitted to them. As a (legally) responsible adult, it should be my decision - not some quasi-governmental censorship body's - what I watch or play in my own home. Once you reach an "18" cert and keep cutting, you're telling me that despite being legally responsible for everything I do, I am not capable of making decisions about my choice of entertainment.
Now, some people have tried to stump this position of mine, attempting to fluster me by asking if I believe all content should be allowed in games without a censor's intervention. A couple brought up the notion of a game including player-controlled child abuse.
Honestly, I've got to say that - no matter my own opinion on the suitability of that subject matter in entertainment of any sort - I couldn't in good faith suggest that such material would be grounds for a ban of a game. So long as no real children were harmed during the production of the game, and are not harmed by someone (above 18, or who otherwise meets the age guideline) playing the game, what possible reason would there be to ban it?
My position on censorship in general is that it's a bad thing, which was also challenged by a brain trust insisting that, since I would be against a ban on violence in fictional entertainment, I must be for the idea of broadcasting real-life brutal murders (specifically beheadings) on the evening news.
The difference there, as I've explained to no avail, is that there's real harm involved there, as well as someone actively breaking the law. Willfully viewing or spreading footage of illegal activity should be viewed as complicity (except in terms of law enforcement professionals in the course of their job, obviously) in those acts. As a result I don't think the images themselves should be banned; rather, make it an offence to watch or broadcast them.
That's maybe a little more police state-ish than the idea of censorship, but there's my two cents on the whole issue.
In short: If it's not hurting anyone, why should I be prevented from watching or playing any TV show, movie or videogame I want?
Of course, Nintendo and Sony themselves made this all a moot point by saying they wouldn't allow the AO-rated game to be released on their machines in any territory.