Ever since video games became more than just two dots on a screen that you paddle back and forth, people have cried out that they're too violent, send the wrong message, or make kids lazy. The last two points are debatable, but game-makers will have to plead no contest to the violence factor, which is rampant in many of the most popular games today. But at what point does a game go too far?
Reports flooding the 'net claim that a group of teachers acround the world are requesting that a new video game, called Bully: Scholarship Edition, be banned from stores. According to the Globe & Mail, the game includes all of the teen angst and self-confidence issues that are often found in the high school scene, complete with fights (including shoved heads in toilets!), naked photos for laughs, and the like.
Let me start by saying that I've seen (or heard of ) some pretty violent video games involving everything from chain-sawed killings, to ripping someone's insides out, biting off heads, and even picking up prostitutes and stealing cars. When it comes to teens and pre-teens, I've always felt that, as long as they understand the difference between fiction and reality, these games are simply for the purpose of having "fun", enjoying comraderie, and perfecting hand/eye co-ordination. But when a game involves realistic situations tailored to a young crowd (the game is rated Teen for those 13 and up), a red flag goes up in even my typically open-minded head.
What's more, the game is apparently a sequel to the already-available Bully, which also caused a stir when it was released a few years ago, although it still managed to make its way to store shelves.
It's very unlikely that a kid will find himself in a lone dungeon with some weird creatures dressed in metal, so separating that fiction from reality should be a fairly easy task for any sane-minded kid. And being a gangster that pulls people out of cars and has random shooting sprees on the streets is pretty far-fetched as well (again, for any sane kid). I don't believe that participating in games like this will affect a child's mindset in the slightest. But when you're looking at a real world environment that's just like his, especially if the kid playing the game is typically on the receiving end of such bullying in real life, it's a bit disturbing. The issue, I think, isn't so much the violence as it is the probable ability to relate to these sensitive situations.
I won't make a judgement call on the issue without having actually seen the game (which the publisher, Vancouver-based Rockstar Games, claims is "one of the funniest games you will play.") Perhaps it isn't as bad as people think. But all I can think when I read things like this is thank God for good ol' Super Mario and clean, fun (and G-rated!) games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.