It’s always good to judge a book by its cover, just ask anti-bullying charity Bullying Online.
Following “the release of a screenshot in which one youth kicks another” the presumptive group has publicly called for an unreleased, untested computer game to be banned. Its title – aptly enough – is 'Bully' and Bullying Online says its fears were raised the moment it was discovered the project had been dreamt up by Grand Theft Auto creators Rock Star Games.
Of course the problem for Bullying Online and the rest of the accusatory naysayers is this rant coincides with the launch of Bully’s official website and – far from being the hell spawn the charity denounces – it promises to be a rather uplifting experience.
In it gamers will take on the role of 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins, a newly enrolled student at the deeply troubled Bullworth Academy. Left to defend for himself Jimmy has a whole year ahead of him to work his way up the social ladder – and I quote the website, “by standing up for what he thinks is right and taking on the liars, cheats and snobs who are the most popular members of the student body and faculty. If Jimmy can survive the school year and outsmart his rivals, he could rule the school.”
Furthermore, Rockstar has also confirmed that while players will have the choice to make Jimmy bully other children such behaviour will be quickly punished and negatively impact their progress in the game.
"We'd hoped that Rockstar had ditched this game following our complaints about it a year ago,” caterwauled Bullying Online director Liz Carnell, digging her organisation an even deeper hole before concluding with four of the most wildly generalising statements I’ve read in a long time.
"We don't think this game is likely to leave players with a warm and fuzzy feeling."
"Bullying is not fun, and it’s not a suitable topic for a game."
"We're very concerned that even if this game were to get an adult rating in the UK, there would be nothing to stop younger members of the family playing it."
"Youngsters copy what they see on TV and in games. When wrestling was popular on TV we had numerous complaints about young children hurting others by copying the behaviour they had seen on the screen."
Well, 1. ‘think’ and ‘likely’ are a great basis for criticism and when has overcoming bullying been a negative experience? 2. No matter how it is addressed? 3. Then your concern is with the parents not the game. 4. How terrible to think children will copy the message of standing up to bullies, liars and snobs.
I’m no dictionary but, for me, bullying can be defined as the emotional, physical or verbal abuse of another based on a set of prejudgements of their character. Liz Carnell, I think this fits you.
“Finally ‘Bully’ can speak for itself”, said Rockstar spokesman Rodney Walker in the first sensible statement of the day. “People can look at the game and see what it is and what it’s not.” Bully will be released in October and I sense all this publicity won't have done it any harm at all...
Ladies and gentlemen may I have your attention. We have a very important emailer to the site: Mr Jack Thompson. Having thoroughly read my article and grasped its central point the infamous libel lawyer sent me an email you can read on the next page.