Parents, educators, critics, civic leaders and others who have lamented and bemoaned possible purported links between video games and upswings in violence among today’s youth got another knuckle sandwich to chew on from Take-Two Interactive‘s subsidiary Rockstar Games today: the company has announced it plans to launch its new game Bully this October, just time for the end-of-year buying season.
Rockstar Games is the same studio which develops the Grand Theft Auto franchise, including Grand Theft Audio: San Andreas, which in the last year ignited a firestorm of controversy—and cost parent company Take-Two millions of dollars—by including hidden, explicit sexual content in the game, which was later exposed by the infamous “Hot Coffee” mod. Take-Two withdrew the game from retailers and eventually re-released it without the illicit content (and recently escaped fines and penalties from the FCC over the incident), but the debacle has led to heightened scrutiny of video game content from the ESRB and raised serious questions of whether government ought to regulate video game sales and/or content.
Now, Rockstar is trotting out Bully, centered on the character Jimmy Hopkins, a 15 year-old student at the private Bullworth Academy boarding school who must defend himself against other students and even school staff. Weapons available in the game include baseball bats, bags of marbles, and stink bombs—and, of course, good old-fashioned fisticuffs. The game offers several chapters, and players can explore the school and nearby town on their own.
Rockstar has already taken severe criticism for Bully, even though the game has largely been kept out of the public eye. Earlier this year a Florida school board appealed to retailers to boycott the game. At a recent demonstration, violence in Bully did not show on-screen blood or result in the death of any characters. According to some early reports, the game punishes some acts like attacking teachers.
Bully has not yet been rated by the ESRB; at least initially, it appears Bully will ship for the Playstation 2.