Technology & Science

Bully video game hits store shelves

The company that makes the popular and controversial Grand Theft Auto series of video games is letting players of its latest release try their hand at schoolyard bullying.

The company that makes the popular and controversial Grand Theft Auto series of video gamesis letting players of its latest release try their hand at schoolyard bullying.

On its website, Bully publisher Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. describes the game released Tuesdayas "outrageously funny."

It depicts life at the fictitious Bullworth Academy, "a corrupt and crumbling prep school" in New England, where the gamer plays the character Jimmy Hopkins, "a teenager who's been expelled from every school he's ever attended."

"As a mischievous schoolboy, you'll stand up to bullies, get picked on by teachers, play pranks, win or lose the girl and ultimately learn to navigate the obstacles of the worst school around."

Point-scoring activities include beating up and humiliating other students, setting off fire alarms and striking teachers.

U.S. judge rejects ban

A U.S. judge on Friday rejected a bid by a prominent detractor of video games to have Bully banned in Florida, the Washington Post reported.

"There's a lot of violence. A whole lot," Florida circuit court Judge Ronald Friedman was quoted as saying after seeing the game played. "[But] less than we see on television every night."

Lawyer Jack Thompson, a vocal opponent of video games, had brought a lawsuit in the Miami-Dade county court to have the game barred from sale to minors, branding it a "Columbine simulator" in reference to fatal school shootings in Columbine, Colo., in 1999.

In the U.K., major electronics retailers Currys, Dixons and PC World, all owned by DSG International PLC, said they would not stock Bully over concerns it is "not appropriate" for family-oriented stores, according to video game industry website GamesIndustry.biz.

The European version of Bully goes on sale Oct. 27.

No comment

The game, available only for Sony's PlayStation 2 console, is produced by Take-Two's Rockstar Vancouver studio.

Spokespeople for Take-Two and Rockstar did not immediately return calls for comment.

A spokesman for Sony Computer Entertainment Canada declined to discuss Bully, saying the company only talks about its own games and does not give statements on those produced by third party publishers.

Canadian representatives of video game retailer EB Games declined to comment on consumer demand for Bully and how well it was selling on its first day on store shelves, instead referring the question to the U.S. parent company GameStop Corp. of Grapevine, Texas.

GameStop spokespeople did not immediately return calls for comment.

Take-Two also publishes Rockstar Games' popular Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series, which depicts life in crime-ridden, decaying urban centres.

The franchise has drawn criticism from some quarters for allegedly glamorizing criminal activity, but its defenders point out that "sandbox" style games such as GTA that leave players free to interact with the game world in any manner they choose also mean they can play peacefully if they wish.