The Asahi Shimbun YOKOHAMA-A hugely popular U.S.-made videogame, ``Grand Theft Auto III,'' has been deemed so violent and gory that the Kanagawa prefectural government plans to ban it from being sold or rented to anyone under 18, officials said Monday. It will be the first time a ``harmful'' product label has been given to any game software in this country, officials said. It is manufactured by U.S.-based Rockstar Games. The decision follows a recommendation Monday by a prefectural panel on child welfare that sales of the game be restricted. Kanagawa Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa will shortly announce the designation under the prefectural ordinance on youth protection, which will ban sales and rental of the game to anyone under 18 years of age. Retailers will be also required to display such ``harmful'' games separately from other game titles. In the game, a player's character shoots and kills others in acts of revenge. It was a big hit in the United States, but it also drew criticism for allegedly inciting teens to commit random shootings, leading to at least one lawsuit against the maker and distributors. Published and distributed in Japan by Capcom Co., the game sold 350,000 copies nationwide from September 2003 to April this year. On May 25, Matsuzawa instructed the panel to review the software, and officials said it might ``trigger crimes.'' The Video Game Commercial Association of Japan, which comprises about 1,500 software distributors, opposed an outright ban and said it had recommended self-restraint. It plans to step up its call on retailers not to sell games intended for adults to anyone under 18, officials said.(IHT/Asahi: May 31,2005)
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