Commentary

Bullying Rockstar

Rockstar has made a name for itself by pushing the envelope. Its studios were behind the much-frowned-over "Grand Theft Auto" series, the ultra-violent snuff-film game "Manhunt," and the civil disorder simulator "State of Emergency." Characters in Rockstar games have shot, stabbed, run over, bludgeoned, strangled, beaten, exploded, incinerated, chopped and eviscerated millions of innocent and less-than-innocent people throughout countless play sessions all over the world.

Rockstar's latest product-cum-controversy, a game called "Bully," was described as a "Columbine simulator" by frothing anti-video-game activist Jack Thompson--a Florida attorney who represented the parents of three kids who were supposedly killed by a video-game-inspired murderer. Thompson's suit against the video game maker ultimately failed. Peaceaholics, a Washington-based group, has also protested the game, along with U.K.-based anti-bulling group Bullying Online, which has called for the game to be banned.

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Strong reactions, considering only a handful of people have even played the game, as of yet. It's set for an October release, but Rockstar went quiet about "Bully" when the hue and cry were first raised by the game's preview blurb--"As a troublesome schoolboy, you'll laugh and cringe as you 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."

Of course, it's understandable to want to ban media that depicts high school kidsinflicting harmon one another, or violent conditionsin schools. And it's inconceivable that a story about violent, bullying children could have any literary or artistic value, right?

Speaking to the Rocky Mountain News--one of the few media outlets to get a peek at the game--one of the co-founders of Rockstar, Terry Donovan, put it best. "I think if the entertainment industry had always chosen the path of least resistance, I think we would have missed out on some incredible films, a load of life-altering records and a host of books that changed literature forever," he said. "I think [video games] exist at the critical intersection of art, technology and fiction--and as the medium matures, the controversy will dissipate into nostalgia, as the demographic that enjoys them today become the establishment of tomorrow."

Despite the financial woes of its parent company, Take 2, Rockstar is going to keep putting out games that push the envelope--and it ought to. If its critics don't like the violent, edgy words Rockstar creates, they can feel free to try one of its tamer titles.

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