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…