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Freedom of Choice?

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While I was feeding my nine month old daughter breakfast last week, something rather disturbing appeared on television. I was distracted from my little girl’s flat refusal to open her mouth by a debate over, of all things, a video game. Sitting on a sofa in front of the cameras was an executive from Rockstar Games and an American lobbyist, discussing Rockstar’s latest release, Bully – or Canis Canem Edit as it’s called in Europe.

If you’re a keen follower of video games, you’re probably well aware of the controversy surrounding Bully. In fact when Gordon wrote a news piece about the game, we were rewarded with a barrage of emails from US lawyer Jack Thompson, literally attacking us for not citing Bully as an evil work of Satan! Some may even say that Jack’s behaviour was akin to, well, bullying – but I of course, couldn’t possibly comment.



So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that on the eve of the actual release of the game, the controversy surrounding Bully would rear its head in the general media. After all, there’s nothing better than a bit of sensationalism to give the mainstream news agencies a shot in the arm. In the debate I watched on television, one of the main arguments against Bully was that it stereotyped children – the lobbyist cited the fact that it was the fat children, or the geeky kids or the poor kids that were the ones being bullied. Of course that could be considered stereotypical, or it could in fact be considered realistic!

I may be getting on a bit (it was my birthday last week and I’m creeping closer and closer to 40), but I can still vividly remember my school days. During my time at school, I didn’t bully anyone, but I can remember that the kids that were given a hard time weren’t the cool, rich and athletic types, by odd coincidence they tended to be the fat, geeky, or poor kids – now why does that sound familiar? Let me make one thing very clear here, I am NOT saying that any demographic of children deserves to be bullied, because no one deserves that. All I’m saying is that Rockstar’s portrayal of the high school social structure isn’t negatively stereotypical, it’s just scarily honest.

But the big objection that Bully’s opponents have is that they say it will insight violence and antisocial behaviour in our youth, and with this I’m afraid, I must take umbrage. I am sick of people not wanting to take responsibility for their own lives and actions. Why do we always have to look for a scapegoat for the latest atrocity? Why can’t we just accept that some people are good and others are bad – it’s what separates us from the animals, freedom of choice. Kids who steal cars don’t have to have played Grand Theft Auto in order to do it, in fact when teenage joyriding was at its height in the late 80s, GTA wasn’t even a twinkle in Rockstar’s eye. Likewise, violent movies are not to blame for violent behaviour, and they don’t breed serial killers. If someone is mentally unstable enough to murder after watching a film, they were just a time bomb in the first place – if it wasn’t a movie, it would have been someone stepping on their foot, or spilling their drink that pushed them over the edge.

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