B.C. labels 'Brutal' video game as adult film

Landmark ruling on Soldier of Fortune bans sales to children

Globe and Mail
July 12, 2000
By Kim Lunman

Retailers in B.C. will not be able to sell or rent a violent video game called Soldier of Fortune to people under 18 after the province's film commissioner issued a landmark ruling yesterday, deeming the game a restricted adult motion picture.

Attorney General Andrew Petter said the government is considering a rating system for all computer games. He said the move would make B.C. the first jurisdiction in North America to restrict access to video games.

"The concern I've been expressing and the public has been expressing about the degree of violence in video games is a serious concern," Mr. Petter told reporters yesterday.  "It's one parents should be worried about, and it's one I believe government needs to act upon. Right now, parents are flying blind. They don't know whether a video game picked up by their kids at the store contains graphic depictions of violence."

He was speaking after Mary-Louise McCausland, B.C.'s director of film classification, issued a ruling that would make it illegal under the province's Motion Picture Act for retailers to sell or rent Soldier of Fortune to anyone under 18.

She defined Soldier of Fortune as an adult motion picture "because its depictions of violence against persons and animals are brutal and portrayed realistically and explicitly," she wrote. "The object of the plot is to create an environment where the participant can maim or kill as many assailants as possible with the level of viciousness that the participant chooses to employ." Ontario's chief movie censor, Robert Warren, said last night, "We don't do video games right now in Ontario. We're looking at the situation to see whether anything can be done, but at the present time we don't do video games."

Mr. Warren is chairman of the Ontario Film Review Board, which can bar children under 18 from seeing a film by rating it Restricted. Most video games carry ratings issued by an industry group, but compliance is strictly voluntary, Mr. Warren said.

Soldier of Fortune details 10 animated covert missions through five political hot spots over 26 levels. It is distributed on CD-ROM and viewed on a computer. The participant assumes the identify of John Mullins, an antiterrorist mercenary who kills human and animal obstacles. A player who kills adversaries is rewarded with weapons and ammunition including knives, shot guns, missile launchers, flame-throwers and machine guns.

"Depending on which weapon is used, the participant can enact gory violence that results in the horror of evisceration, decapitation, dismemberment and victims burning to death," Ms McCausland wrote.

"For example, Soldier of Fortune depicts the agony and suffering of victims burning to death as the result of the protagonist's use of a flame-thrower. The expressions of this agony are manifested in cries of pain, screaming and physical responses to the injuries including recoiling, flailing, grimacing and grasping at the wound site."

"I recognize that the impact of an 'adult motion picture' designation will mean that Soldier of Fortune distributors will have to recall the product from the shelves, become licensed distributors and provide the approved decalled product to appropriately licensed retailers," Ms McCausland wrote. "If this inconveniences distributors, I believe that the inconvenience is necessary to protect the interests of the public."

The decision means the distributor of the video game has to recall it from store shelves in order for the game to be licensed as an adult film.  The maximum penalty for failing to comply under the act is six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.

The distributor of Soldier of Fortune has 30 days to appeal the decision. The distributor, Beamscope Canada in Richmond Hill, Ontario, could not be reached for comment yesterday.