Rockstar Games is no stranger to controversy, after all the Grand Theft Auto series of hugely successful video games revolve around the concept of robbing and killing your way to victory. But with the confirmation that it will release the long delayed ‘Bully’ in October, originally slated for a PS2 exclusive release in July 2005, many critics are saying it has gone too far this time.

Why so? Well the game is based around the life of 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins, a boarding school kid who uses baseball bats and bags of marbles to defend himself from bullies. The usual round of criticism that Rockstar is glorifying violence, in this case actually going so far as promoting violence in schools, has followed. Yet none of the groups condemning the game have seen it, because it hasn’t been released yet and Rockstar has deliberately been keeping a low profile for once.

Perhaps the official Rockstar game description reveals a different perspective upon the game play in as far as it states that "as a troublesome schoolboy, you'll stand up to bullies, get picked on by teachers, play pranks on malicious kids, win or lose the girl, and ultimately learn to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school, Bullworth Academy."

Perhaps those people who have seen the game demonstrated remark that there is no blood splatter in the fight scenes, and none go as far as ending in death, might mean that it will stand a chance of a fair trial.

Perhaps consumers, and indeed parents, will be given the chance to make up their own minds.

As a parent I do, of course, have my own views on whether extreme violence is appropriate in games aimed at children. But as a responsible adult I also take the time to reflect that these games are not aimed at kids, but at adults. Yes, shock horror, we adults do like to play video games and, shock horror squared, we sometimes like to play ones that have an adult theme.

So my final 'perhaps' is this: perhaps the critics should take the time to direct some of their anger towards the irresponsible parents who let their kids buy and play violent games, who don’t even know they are playing them, who probably wouldn’t give a damn if they did. It is this same misdirection of concern that leads to otherwise sensible people calling for a ban on Internet access because some pedophiles use it to distribute their evil wares. Get real people, understand that the Marshall McLuhan mantra of ‘the medium is the message’ does not apply in the Internet age…

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By jove, Davey. You've hit the nail on the head. There has been so much noise created by parents that the kids are playing violent games and that the games should be banned. Ofcourse, such people don't think twice when they give their kids the money to buy a game without proper supervision. So who do we blame here? The game companies or the parents? I've noticed that most parents tend to object to games because they portray violence, sex and the like. But these are the same parents who allow their kids to watch violent movies and sexy music videos. Would such parents shout to ban TV itself? I for one believe that this is an extremely unfair accusation. What really matters is the child's upbringing. If you've imbibed good morals and values in the child, he or she will take the game to be what it is -- a game, and not some sort of altered reality. Like they say, it's not what the world offers you, but what you take from the world which makes a difference.

As a parent of two small children, a six year old girl who prefers games of the 'Barbie Horse Trials' ilk, and an eight year old boy who is never happier than when playing 'Medal of Honour' or 'SWAT' on the PlayStation 2, I am of mixed feelings about the roles of responsibility.

Yes, it is my responsibility as a parent to bring up my kids to know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, reality and fantasy. I hope that I am doing that. For sure, my boy does not go around pointing toy guns at real people, nor does he get excited about seeing terrorist or war stories on the news (and yes, I do expose him to those as I think he needs to know about thew world we live in). Just becuase he enjoys playing violent games does not mean he will become a violent person.

But, also, the developers of video games have a responsibility to ensure that their games are rooted in fantasy and not meant to become so 'real' that the boundaries blur beyond recognition. My husband, father and brother all played war games when they were kids, long before video gaming was invented. It did not make them into violent or disturbed people, but the fact that they were using wooden guns and 'killing' little Johnny from across the street might have something to do with this. If they had been playing 'kill everyone' games, using realistic replica weapons and 'killing' little old ladies, women, children, then I think things could have turned out differently.

That is my real concern, that to use the excuse of 'it's just a game' when the game advocates and glamourises the randomn killing of innocents is fundamentally wrong, and dangerous. I am NOT suggesting this is the case with Bully, but you know what I mean, I hope.

The people who are usually up in arms about stuff like this aren't usually gamers, they don't understand that if games blur reality and fantasy for some people it is the person's fault not the fault of the publisher/developer.

I commend rockstar for having a go at making an original game. Not many other companies have the balls to do that it seems.

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