Days before the controversial video game Bully is set to release Florida judge Ronald Friedman has ordered the creator of the game, Take 2 Interactive, to provide him with a copy of the game to see it first-hand, and then decide whether to put in place a temporary injunction to prevent sales of the game.
Jack Thompson, an already somewhat famous anti-video game lawyer who has brought forth several cases against the makers of games like Grand Theft Auto, is driving the suit against Bully. Take 2 is also the company behind the Grand Theft Auto series. Thompson calls Bully a “murder simulator” and claims that it glorifies violence, should be deemed a “public nuisance”, and that it deserves to be banned. Of course, since it has not yet been released, Thompson has not even played the game. That’s where part of the public outcry against his crusade comes from.
The other part is the argument that Thompson is asking for undue restrictions against the first amendment. Of course, the term “freedom of speech” is not the all-powerful tool that some believe it is. There are restrictions, such as defamation and libel, and content that’s unacceptable to air on radio or TV per FCC guidelines.
However, when it comes to video games, the restrictions have been almost parallel to other entertainment mediums. Just like offensive content on CDs must be marked with a warning label, and movies have MPAA guidelines, a video game is not limited by the kind of content it can have, but it must be rated accordingly. Unrated games, or games that receive an Adult Only (AO) rating are typically not carried by major retailers.
So the ESRB essentially already acts as a platform that decides whether or not a game is acceptable for the masses. Yet, Bully has received mass criticism unlike any other game in recent memory. Notably, a protest outside of Take 2’s New York office took place several weeks ago. The game has also been lambasted in the media several times by fiery critics like Nancy Grace and Tucker Carlson.
Upon review of the game, Friedman will determine whether or not the game poses some material threat that would supercede the first amendment and forbid the release of the game in Miami-Dade County. No other such circumstance is known to be underway in the rest of the country.
Bully is set to release next week for the PS2 in both a standard edition and a special collector’s edition. It had previously been scheduled for a simultaneous release on the Xbox, but was cancelled. The cancellation is presumed to have nothing to do with the controversy of the game, but rather because the Xbox was an becoming obsolete platform, with the release of the Xbox 360 about a year ago.