This morning, I was listening to the radio on the way to work and on came the news report - who was in the headlines again? Our good friends 'Rockstar', creators of the Grand Theft Auto series, Manhunt, and more recently Table Tennis (Ping-Pong to me and you!). As many of you will know, whenever Rockstar seem to release a new game, Ping Pong aside, it is surrounded in controversy, and their latest is no different; Canis Canem Edit, formerly named 'Bully', follows the antics of Jimmy Hopkins, a student at the Bullworth Academy, and in Rockstar's own words, "Canis Canem Edit is in a rich tradition of other forms of entertainment that have taken a comedic and funny look at school life".
The radio news bulletin obviously disagreed! The bulletin pretty much summed up the feelings of many of the parents out there, who are familiar with Rockstar's work - the game is violent, encourages violence, and should be banned. Now, a little harsh I think. The game is violent - so are many movies, hence why games are given an age rating in the same way movies are. The game encourages violence? I'm not so sure. Many would argue. I accept that many children see things and copy them - hence why I think it is the parents responsibility to lay down the law when it comes to children playing games / viewing movies when they are under the recommended age - I mean, I wouldn't want my 5 year old (I'm talking hypothetically here!) playing GTA, yet if he copied things so much, would he not be just as influenced by a blue hedgehog, who when he fell on massive spikes, simply lost a few rings?
So, the game is violent - I'm not trying to say violence is great in games, sometimes, in some genre's, I feel it is appropriate, but it can be overused. In this case, the parents' were firmly behind their views, the game is wrong, it should be banned (Dixon's group has refused to sell it) and it may have an affect of what young people's perception of violence is. What was Rockstar's response on the radio? Something along the lines of "It's not all about violence - you have to make sure you get to lessons on time, and protect the nerds from other bullies". Made me laugh anyway.
You know what I think - and feel free to agree / disagree? You can't ban games with violence. It's in the real world, and we all want real games just as much as unreal games. The content has to stay. It's the control of access to the content that has to be enforced. The game shops, the parents, the media - in my eyes, it's a combined effort. I've played Rockstar games for years, and I am no more likely now to go out and steal a car and do a drive by, as I am to become a champion ping-ponger.
If the parents / certain MP's did get their way, and these games were banned, what would happen to the games industry? Not everyone wants to shoot flowers and stars from a some kind of frilly firing-device, or stick to the usual driving / sports games. Would you want a realistic war game which used blanks instead or real bullets? It just wouldn't work with what we expect nowadays, and the games industry would take a massive hit in the process, and seeing as this is as big, if not bigger than the movie industry, the impact could go a lot further than just the games industry itself.
Refreshingly, according to USA today, "overall, Bully is a fun, fresh and lengthy single-player adventure for teenagers and adults. While the game isn't as controversial as many feared it would be, it will still push a few buttons for its rebellious attitude. But, after all, this is what Rockstar Games does — and well at that".
Canis Canem Edit is available now, and is rated 15.