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KnifeCrime is a 2007 computer game for the XBox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Entertainment System, developed by Deliberately Inflammatory Productions. Played in the style of a first-person shooter, the protagonist of the game is a feral youth engaged in a particularly brutal gang war in the United Kingdom. The object of the game is to obtain complete dominion over your selected territory for your gang, by stabbing, slashing and occasionally poking rival gang members. An expanded, deluxe edition entitled KnifeCrime: Enhanced Pitchfork Edition was released in March 2008.
The game has been criticised for supposedly encouraging violence in young people, with calls for it to be banned from sale in various countries. Only a few backward, excitable nations have so far heeded public calls to outlaw the distribution of the game. However, it also received encouraging reviews in the specialist press, with TV's Robert Mugabe awarding it "Three Starving Farmers out of Five, and my own personal Hooray!"
The player has the choice of the game taking place in a variety of UK locations, each with their own backstory and specific aims for completion:
- East London: Take control of a series of pointless, strategically unimportant abandoned dockyards in order to advance your gang's stake in the import and sale of heroin throughout the capital. Bonus points can be gained for cleverly disposing of bodies into the Thames without being spotted by police.
- Glasgow: Sectarian violence in Scotland's largest city is by turns both tragic and hilarious, which makes it the perfect location for a scenario in KnifeCrime. As a member of either a Catholic or Protestant gang, your job is to conveniently ignore the mostly peaceful teachings of your chosen religion to entirely eradicate your rivals. Choosing the Catholic side in this scenario permits a wide variety of advanced killing techniques, with crucifixion and stoning supplementing the more usual knife-based methods of murder in this city.
- Liverpool: Essentially consisting of two mutually indistinguishable groups arguing over something nobody can remember and few can even understand, the aim of this scenario is to eliminate the opposing gang without mistaking any of your allies for the enemy. Since all characters on the level appear exactly the same, and even speak the same incomprehensible language, this part of the game has been listed as "impossible" by Cosmopolitan magazine. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has described this part of the game as "cruel and unusual" in its level of abuse directed against Scousers.
- Leeds: The only aim of this scenario is to direct senseless and meaningless violence against everyone in sight, and then claim persecution when you are arrested for the trail of destruction you have left.
- Milton Keynes: A somewhat unorthodox scenario, in that the aim is to flee your gang's territory as quickly as possible in order to leave your rivals in charge of this hopeless, fetid village, while you go and colonise somewhere much nicer.
- Truro: Having run out of places to stage a realistic portrayal of real-life gang violence, the developers decided to unconvincingly include this Cornish settlement as another level in the game. The industrial and commercial prowess of the city has been greatly exaggerated, with the final battle of the scenario taking place in an abandoned lighthouse, which is all the more surprising as Truro actually lies several miles inland.
Successful completion of all the levels unlocks the so-called Bonus Rounds, which are the same scenarios as the original cities, but set in the year 1822. Much of the gameplay is exactly the same as in the original levels, but with a few crucial differences: in East London, for example, the hookers wear more face powder and opium replaces heroin as the drug around which the scenario is based. Manchester is portrayed as a thriving industrial capital, and in Truro the player must defend the city from marauding Viking invaders. The historical accuracy of this segment of the game is disputed.
As the title suggests, the main object of KnifeCrime is to achieve success by murdering other characters by the use of sharp, pointed weapons. In the tradition of many similar games, the player starts out with only a fairly basic jagged piece of glass and can upgrade to more advanced weaponry later in the game.
The enemy characters can fight back with varying degrees of success. Many will just lay down and die as soon as they are struck with a weapon, and in rare cases even before. However, others will reciprocate your aggression by other means, including producing their own knife, shooting you or running you over in a stolen taxi. Fighting off more powerful characters, such as angry caber-wielding Scotsmen in the Glasgow scenario or drunks with self-inflated senses of personal strength in Leeds, is one of the main challenges of the game.
Just as important as the weapon that is used is the manner in which it is used. The game gives the player numerous options of how to wield their chosen weapon, including driving it forcefully into the kidneys or anus, or simply swinging it round and round their head in the hope of getting a hit. Characters respond differently to different methods of attack.
The public response to KnifeCrime was mixed. Young People in Britain generally responded well to the game, declaring that it satisfied most of the major interests of the modern British youth. However, adults were horrified, claiming that such violent behaviour in video games could encourage similar behaviour in the impressionable young minds of their offspring. Such critics pointed to the famous "KnifeCrime incident of Gloucester," where an illiterate and mentally retarded thirteen-year-old Catholic boy, having played the game and believed himself to be in Glasgow, set fire to a nearby monastery. His mother attempted to blame her son's actions on the game, but this argument was dismissed by judges on the basis that the boy was just extremely stupid.
The game sold over 1 million copies in its first year of release, the controversy involving the Gloucester boy and similar incidents increasing the profile of the game. The American state of North Dakota even considered using the game as part of its rehabilitation program for convicted murderers, by encouraging prisoners to take out their anger on computerised characters instead of on innocent people. This approach failed, however, when it was revealed that stabbing-related crime in North Dakota had risen by 159% in the period immediately after the program was introduced.
Defenders of the game continue to dispute the supposed correlation between KnifeCrime, the game, and knife crime, the rapidly growing and otherwise inexplicable social problem, pointing to the fact that such figures are just mathematical bollocks. Other explanations have been proposed, including the phases of the moon and God's divine will, which have been accepted by some scientists.
KnifeCrime: Enhanced Pitchfork Edition
Responding to the incredible success of the first edition of the game, developers quickly worked on a sequel, which degenerated into a half-assed "expansion pack" after they realised that they couldn't be bothered to create a whole new game. The Enhanced Pitchfork Edition of the game, as the name suggests, provided a host of new pointy weapons to the player's repertoire, including pitchforks, scissors, a spear and an Olympic-standard javelin, which allowed characters to die in ever-more graphic and brutal ways. Gardener's World declared it "a victory for bloodthirsty enthusiasts everywhere," while the prestigious journal Nature suggested it was "the single greatest discovery of the millennium" in a controversial piece by Richard Dawkins.
Work on a proper sequel, to be entitled KnifeCrime 2: Guns N'Shit, is expected to be released later in the year.