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Friday, August 05, 2005

Rockstar Kicked My Dog

Bullying Online, a UK based charity to help kids who are victimized by school bullies, has this to say about Rockstar's upcoming Bully:

ROCKSTAR'S BULLY GAME: We hear that Rockstar want to talk to Bullying Online about their controversial new game called Bully. Better late than never. We contacted Rockstar's public relations department on June 29 asking for a copy of this game so that we could evaluate it. We also asked what support they were putting in place to deal with young people who might be upset as a result of the game's content. No response to our email. Bullying is not a suitable topic for a computer game. In term time this charity is contacted by up to four suicidal pupils a day. Between 16-20 children a year kill themselves in the UK due to school bullying. Amusing subject for a game isn't it?

How the hell is Bully controversial yet? There's so little known about this game that all the knee-jerk ferver by these idealogues just illustrates how little they care about reality. This is just attention whoring, plain and simple. Look, look at me ... over here! I've got a reason to hate Rockstar too! They ... um kicked my dog! Honest! Gimme!

Support to deal with kids upset with the content? Look, if the content is too visceral for kids - go complain to the ESRB for giving it a Teen rating. But before you look like a complete idiot, if it isn't too late, you might wait for the ESRB to rate it. Jesus, I didn't like the ending to God of War, but I sure don't expect Jaffe to stay by the phone so that I call and cry about it.

As for what's a suitable topic to make a computer game ... well, it seems like lots of people are getting opinions on this these days. You can't kill police officers, or steal cars, or engage in school violence, or I guess do anything immoral. If people get hurt by these activities in the real world, we should do our best to pretend they don't exist and certainly not emulate them.

Problem is - if we set the bar like that, then you better start pulling games and movies left and right. Because the list of activities that people get injured or killed during certainly include war, detective work, stopping alien invasions, sneaking around enemy bases, clearing mine fields, football, skateboarding, skiing, brandishing swords, chasing ghosts, race car driving, eating, sleeping, jumping on crocodile's heads, smashing boulders, running and quite possibly breathing.

Just because someone out there finds something offensive or odious doesn't mean it's not entertainment for somebody else. You want to warn your contingency about the kind of content in a game, movie or book - be my guest. Leave the rest of us out of it. Game makers are responsible for creating something entertaining that will sell. They aren't responsible for your kids, your playgrounds, your streets or your backyard. The makers of Black Hawk Down certainly don't owe money to the VA and I don't think the Tony Hawk series is exactly going to pay for street signs to tell kids not to skateboard on rails.

And before anyone gets on my case for ripping on kids and now charities - I should say that I worked a crisis line for 5 years. A damn sight longer than most folk. I've talked to suicidal students during terms before. And the thought that a video game would even manage to make the equation on such a life crisis is insulting to the nature of the situation and precarious in it's assertion.

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