Enterprising the Bully

It’s intriguing to see what hairbrained ideas businesses come up with from time to time. This case of a Bullying video game is a great example:

As a matter of principle, we hope everyone starts off by saying, ‘Okay, we know this is an entertainment experience,'” Rodney Walker said. “Video games are not just for children. This game happens to be about high school and it’s a tough kid in a tough environment, but it’s also one of the funniest games you will play. And if you don’t have our sense of humour, we respect that, but we think that fans’… voice has to be at least as important as the detractors.”

The game puts players in control of Jimmy Hopkins, a rebellious 15-year-old who is abandoned at a corrupt boarding school by his mother and new stepfather. Players learn to navigate the campus’s cliques, girls and other bullies, employing methods using violence. The CTF, which is spearheading the call for a ban on sales, says there is a link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour in children. (Some studies support this conclusion, while others do not.)

The entire scheme just screams of controversy. And clearly that’s what the company is aiming at. Also responsible for Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt, Rockstar Games is making a not-so-subtle bid at stirring up trouble in order to garner sales.

The teachers’ reactions? Pull it!

“We’re asking retailers to be responsible,” Emily Noble, president of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, said Monday. “Yes, they can sell it and make a buck out of this, but is this the kind of marketing that they want to be [doing], selling games that glorify violence?”

[…]

“What it does is it encourages kids to target other kids, to be a bully with other kids. This doesn’t help us as teachers in the work that we’re doing at school. It also targets teachers at the school as well,” Ms. Noble said.

Most amusing about the situation is that the defenders pull some pretty obscure counter-arguments out of thin air:

But calling for a ban on the game is like “flailing at windmills” when it comes to actually confronting bullying, said Michael Hoechsmann, an assistant professor at McGill University and an expert on the role of violence in video games.

“As tempting as it may seem, I’m not so certain that banning this will somehow result in a more peaceful and more loving school population,” he said, adding that he hasn’t found any compelling evidence to suggest that playing a violent video game results in violent actions.

I don’t know who interviewed Hoechsmann, but the issue here clearly isn’t about stopping violence; It’s about not encouraging it.

I’ve never played Grand Theft Auto, and have no intention of doing so. But unlike GTA, which is clearly marketed for adults, Bully‘s setting seems to encourage kids to partake. There may be no substantial links between video gaming violence and real violence, but there certainly is a link between televised violence and the real world, so to imagine that high school kids playing this game would then become accepting of violence is hardly a stretch of the mind.

But regardless of whether it gets pulled or not, the fact that such a game invites the question: Why do some people have such sick senses of humour? I watch the video above, and I don’t laugh when I head “ha ha, yeah, I’m the one in the dirty pictures.” Why? Because that’s a real-world issue that’s being turned into a joke! But presumably Mr. Walker thinks that’s the best way to get your kicks!

I’m glad Mr. Walker respects that I don’t have a sense of humour, but I’m afraid I find it a little hard to respect that he does, in a case like this!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Stephen
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 09:40:04

    That’s quite a quote:
    “if you don’t have our sense of humour, we respect that, but we think that fans’… voice has to be at least as important as the detractors.”

    There’s a long, ignominious history to this sort of rationalization: “Hey, I don’t really think women exist only for my pleasure — I was just making a joke! The problem with you people is, you have no sense of humour.”

    I haven’t watched the video yet, but I was particularly disturbed by the reference, “I’m the one in the dirty pictures”. Some of what goes on in high schools can be quite devastating. This includes mere bullying, but posting nude pictures of your ex-girlfriend on line is particularly nasty. This doesn’t just make teacher’s jobs more difficult — it’s the sort of behaviour that could even lead to suicides.

    Ha, ha, very funny.

    Reply

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