By Carly Udy
A Western Bay psychotherapist and a school leader say a controversial new video game that encourages a bullied teenager to fight back with violence will escalate the problem in schools.
Rockstar, the maker of best-selling but controversial video game series Grand Theft Auto today revealed that in October it would launch Bully, a game with themes of school fighting that has anti-violence critics up in arms.
Tauranga-based child psychotherapist Augustina Driessens called for parents to boycott the game, which she described as "terrible".
"They [children] will go and get this video game and they'll all go and watch it and what will we get? More violence.
"They're already beating old people up and it's not even safe to walk in the street anymore, so it has to go back to the parents. It's not good, it's terrible.
"Let the parents take responsibility and teach them bullying is not acceptable. What's the matter with these people?"
The game's main character is 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, who must defend himself against bullies at a fictional US boarding school called Bullworth Academy, while dealing with characters ranging from nerds and sports stars to authoritarian prefects.
Weapons included baseball bats that break after several blows, stink bombs and bags of marbles that when strategically thrown will lay flat most pursuers.
Tauranga Boys' College deputy-principal and educational researcher, Rob Naumann, said he couldn't comment accurately without seeing the game but said it sounded to him like history was repeating itself with another controversial game that hit stores 10 years ago.
"Ten years ago there was that Dungeons and Dragons and there was a lot of fuss around that and there was probably some well documented cases of people who didn't sit well with the game, who associated with the characters and couldn't let them go and couldn't divorce between the reality and the game but it didn't have the same impact as they thought, and until I saw this game I'd prefer not to make comment.
"Certainly the term 'bully' is very emotive. While there's bullying in school it's a society problem, as a nation we have to deal with it and certainly stuff like this [game] doesn't help," he said.
Company spokesman Rodney Walker said: "Finally Bully can speak for itself. People can look at the game and see what it is and what it's not."
In March, Florida's Miami-Dade County School Board called on retailers not to sell the game to minors and required the school district to warn parents about potentially harmful effects of playing violent video games.
In a recent demonstration of Bully the fighting scenes did not include blood or result in the death of characters.
"We think the school environment is a universal experience that so many people relate to," said Walker
Controversial games are nothing new at Rockstar which is the developer of the action game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
That game - in which the main character robs and kills his way across a mythical US state called San Andreas to save his family and take control of the streets - got caught in a scandal over an explicit sex scene known as "hot coffee," that could be unlocked with a downloaded file.
- additional reporting Reuters