Case Study: Black Ops III

Black Ops III takes place in 2065, in a world facing upheaval from climate change and new technologies. Similar to its predecessors, the story follows a group of black ops soldiers. As the player character is cybernetically enhanced, players have access to various special activities. The game also features a standalone Zombies mode, and a “Nightmares” mode which will be unlocked after the player completes all campaign missions.

Activision reskinned and rebranded their Twitter account to appear like a genuine, if unknown, news organization named ‘Current Events Aggregate.’ They then proceeded to post fictional tweets that appeared to cover a major terrorist attack in Singapore.


Case Study: The Woman in Black

There are a number of scenes of supernatural horror and threat in which the ghost of the ‘woman in black’, as well as the ghosts of her victims, appear to and threaten the central character and others. The BBFC’s Guidelines at ’12A’/’12’ state ‘Moderate physical and psychological threat may be permitted, providing disturbing sequences are not frequent or sustained’. In this uncut version of the film, the scenes of threat and horror are stronger and more sustained than in the ’12A’/’12’ version and therefore more appropriately classified at ’15’. The film includes a scene in which the ghost of the ‘woman in black’ hangs herself from a noose, including sight and sound of her neck breaking. It also includes a scene in which a young girl smashes an oil lamp, causing herself to burst into flames. She is subsequently seen walking forwards, engulfed in fire. Both these scenes were originally reduced in order to achieve a ’12A’ classification at the cinema and a ’12’ on video. However, the uncut versions of these scenes are more appropriately classified at ’15’ where the Guidelines state ‘Strong threat and horror are permitted unless sadistic or sexualised’.

The BBFC received 134 letters complaining that the 12A category was too dark for the content of the film.


Case Study: Grand Theft Auto


The mission “By the Book” generated controversy from reviewers and commentators for its depiction of torture. In the mission, protagonist Trevor Philips interrogates a man, Mr K, to extract information about an Azerbaijani fugitive who poses a threat to the FIB. Trevor uses torture equipment (such as electricity and pliers) on the restrained man, which players select from a table. Once Mr K provides the FIB with the information, Trevor is asked to kill him, but instead drives him to the airport, providing him an opportunity to escape. While driving Mr K, Trevor monologues about the ineffectiveness of torture, pointing out Mr K’s readiness to supply the FIB with the information without being tortured, and expressing that torture is used as a power play “to assert ourselves”


Some reviewers claim that the game’s portrayal of women is misogynistic. Chris Plante of Polygon felt that the supporting female characters were constructed on stereotypes, and wrote that the game’s “treatment of women is a relic from the current generation”. Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times considered the satirical portrayals of women uncreative, and added that violent and sexist themes hurt the game experience. Edge noted that while “every female in the game exists solely to be sneered, leered or laughed at”, it treated its all-male lead characters in a similar vein through their stereotyped tendencies towards violence. Dave Cook of VG247 reinforced the sentiment that the female characters were constructed on stereotypes in an editorial: “They’re either there to be rescued, shouted at, fucked, to be seen fucking, put up with, killed, heard prattling away like dullards on their mobile phones or shopping“. Sam Houser, Rockstar Games co-founder, felt that the development team sometimes overlooked their portrayal of women in Grand Theft Auto games, but that the weight towards male characters “fit with the story we wanted to tell”.

Games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, including a teenager confessing to robbing and murdering a taxi driver while trying to recreate a scene from GTA IV). Dr. Craig Anderson at Iowa State University and his colleagues conclude that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and a decreased empathy and prosocial behaviour. Researchers argue that the inherent structure of violent video games limit young people’s abilities to develop perspectives of victims and does not encourage affective sympathy in children, as any negative effects of being harmed or killed in the games are minimised ignored, or even rewarded.


Case Study: Sniper Elite 3 & 4

From hilltops to towns, every level offers myriad ways of approaching any given target, and the game’s open-ended verticality allows you to traverse rooftops, mountain paths and other high vantage points for the upper hand against a group of soldiers. – Makes the game more difficult to regulate.

The Guardian

“the sniping is so darn moreish you don’t really want to be thinking too much beyond your next long distance takedown”

Mr Jackson 

Players are being rewarded for violence by graphic images – “it is corrupting and should be banned”