Want to know something cool?

One point of view, taking note of sundry "cool" things that affect-- or could affect-- the education business.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Virtual Badness Goes To School

Thanks to Good Morning Silicon Valley, a publication of the San Jose Mercury News, who noted a story in the Miami Herald. This one gets filed under "You Can't Even Joke About This ...".

RockStar Games, the publisher behind the much-ballyhooed Grand Theft Auto franchise, is overdue but still apparently planning to release a new game, titled Bully. The game, according to previews released last Spring and a paltry few screenshots, will allow RPGers to take on the role of school bully ... punching, kicking, and giving swirlies to sundry bystanders, nerds, or other victims.

Miami School Board member Frank Bolanos has proposed and had passed a resolution asking the developer not to release the game, and also asking retailers and parents to boycott the product if it is released.

(Click the link to read the full post ... )

A video game in FPS style-- that's "First-Person Shooter" to the uninitiated-- is probably no less horrific than Grand Theft Auto's cop-killing, automatic-wielding, hooker-smacking loveliness. In fact, according to one person who saw the preview of the game in 2005, there are no automatic weapons involved.

That's hollow comfort for schools, however, who fear that the virtual schoolyard may become a training ground for the real thing. Ironically, the game's lack of assault rifles might make the game qualify for a lower "T" (for Teen) rating rather than the adult-only stamp earned by GTA. That means it could actually be marketable to teens, the very people school officials worry will take the gameplay to the next level by acting out in the real-life schoolyard.

No doubt, Bully will become a smash hit when it does get released, and it's unlikely to be held back now that RockStar has invested time and money in writing and designing the game. What's next, a mobile version teens can play on their phones? Maybe online play a la XBox Live, where teens can create virtual gangs and prowl the basketball courts and parking lots of virtual high schools? Free speech is just that, but yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is not protected. What about virtual training to be the biggest bad-@$$ on the playground? We may find out soon enough.

A footnote worth mention here: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the release which drew so much scorn and concern, was excoriated not for its' graphic violence or its' lawbreaking point bonuses. It was because the developers left an Easter egg with a graphic (and poorly animated) sex scene. The access code leaked to the internets, and that triggered congressional hearings and moral outrage. The fact that you could kill cops on the street in the "unlocked" part of the game only earned a rating of "M" (for "Mature", as if ...). It was the obscured sex scene that set off all the hubub. So apparently, it's OK to shoot women, but not bed them. Bad message ... and not cool.


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