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Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Jack Thompson won himself a small victory yesterday, but I really don't understand it. He's been on a campaign for the last year or so to prevent the release of a game called Bully. He claims that the game "shows you how to — by bullying — take over your school. You punch people; you hit them with sling shots; you dunk their heads in dirty toilets. There's white-on-black crime in the game. You bludgeon teachers and classmates with bats. It's absolutely nuts." Now Jack hasn't actually played Bully. He has only seen the trailers and the previews just like the rest of us, so whether he is right or not is hard to say. Though to be perfectly clear, the trailers do not show hitting people with sling shots, dunking heads, white-on-black crime, or any use of bats let alone hitting teachers.

When Jack started this campaign it was seen as extremely ridiculous. The game wasn't done, and no one outside of Rockstar Games had played it. Jack decided to sue for a chance to play the game early to personally determine if the game was suitable for kids. The gaming community as a whole laughed in his face since the game was not going to be for kids. The game would get an M rating indicating it was for gamers over 17, and once again make a fool of Jack Thompson.

Except the game didn't get an M rating. After the ESRB reviewed the game content they gave the game a T rating. They decided the game was suitable for kids 13 and up. Now we have a game made by Rockstar who is notorious for making violent games. The ESRB is under fire and close scrutiny to see if it is an effective watchdog group. And we have a game called Bully produced in the GTA style that has just been deemed acceptable for kids. Suddenly this looks like trouble.

Yesterday, the judge over seeing Jack's lawsuit to prevent the release of bully ordered Rockstar to produce a copy of Bully for him to review today. So there are two possible outcomes from the judge's session with the game. He can either agree or disagree with the ESRB. If he agrees with the T rating then nothing will come of it. If he disagrees with the T rating what can he do? The game is still protected by the First Amendment. Just like movies and music there aren't laws against a minor purchasing a game with adult themes. The only thing on the line here is the ESRB's reputation. What legal ground could the judge stand on that would allow him to bar the release of the title? It really feels like our judge is about to grossly exceed and abuse his power.

Who is ultimately responsible for what minors watch and play?

(Answer: Parents)


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1 - I will buy it
2 - I'll buy it at discount
3 - Other people think it's good, but I wasn't interested when I first heard about it
M - Mainly Multiplayer. See if friends get interested.
? - Find out more about this game
PC? - Will it be released on the PC?