Bully on bully over Bully.
October 11, 2006 6:01 PM   Subscribe

"Never in the history of gaming has a judge ever asked to review a game before its release — and that is going to happen here tomorrow.” Judge Friedman asks Take-Two to produce a final copy of Bully, while Wal-Mart is poised to release the game on Tuesday. Everyone's favorite game censor Jack Thompson (discussed here, and here) couldn't be happier, meanwhile those who've played it say it's without blood or gore and generally innocent.
To add more twists to this plot, the employee picked by Take-Two that will play almost 100 hours of the game for the judge might be unable to make the flight to Miami because of the earlier-mentioned crash of a helicopter plane into a manhattan high-rise
posted by revmitcz (31 comments total)
Prior restraint anyone?
posted by delmoi at 6:12 PM on October 11, 2006

I actually read an almost complete rundown on the game a few weeks ago. And I can tell you from that, this is a complete over-reaction. You don't run around columbine style shooting kids or beating hookers to death. It actually seemed kind of fun and light-hearted. I can't wait to play it.
posted by bob sarabia at 6:14 PM on October 11, 2006

Yeah, I thought the whole point of "industry" rating systems was because getting the courts involved had free speech problems.
posted by smackfu at 6:14 PM on October 11, 2006

Pretty detailed Ars Technica preview here.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:16 PM on October 11, 2006

I'd like to play it. And it looks like Bill Clinton is making a cameo.
posted by bardic at 6:19 PM on October 11, 2006

Sigh ... I really should learn to look at all the links before commenting. Sorry.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:35 PM on October 11, 2006

Well, if they volunteered without pressure, then no big deal. But if not, then delmoi is right that this is dangerously close to prior restraint. Have there been any cases on whether video games count as noncommercial speech? For the record, I think they should in the same symbolic way that paintings do.
posted by Falconetti at 6:59 PM on October 11, 2006

Bully actually sounds like a really cool game. I'll probably be buying it on the strength of that review. It's possible that this may be good for the company in the long run--free publicity, and all that.
posted by EarBucket at 7:03 PM on October 11, 2006

Wired also has an interesting write-up on the game:

So the Bully storm began the very instant that Rockstar first announced the game. In May 2005, Rockstar released a single sentence describing it -- noting that you'd play as "a troublesome schoolboy" who would "learn to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school, Bullworth Academy".

It wasn't much, but opponents nonetheless leapt into overdrive. School boards proactively banned the game. Peace groups protested outside Rockstar's offices. Lou Dobbs called it "another disturbing example of our culture in decline." The game, critics somberly predicted, would inspire vicious acts of copycat bullying nationwide.

Except -- whoops -- here's the thing: It turns out the game doesn't glorify bullying at all.

Pretty clever of them. All they had to do was release a name with some details to the public and let the usual group of knee-jerk mouth-foamers take care of the rest. Bonus publicity for Rockstar and they get to watch their critics wind up with egg on their faces.
posted by kosher_jenny at 7:05 PM on October 11, 2006

Yeah. Nothing sells like controversy.
posted by crunchland at 7:15 PM on October 11, 2006

Here's a copy of the petition (pdf). It's actually not a complaint in the usual sense; it's an application to take a deposition and obtain evidence before a complaint is filed. This is an unusual but recognized procedural tool.

The only theory of liability the petition asserts is under Florida's nuisance laws. The theory seems to be that videogames cause violence, and therefore releasing violent videogames is an actionable nuisance. "The proof as to the causal nexus between . . . violence simulation games and real-world violence is legion . . ."

Needless to say, this is a bunch of garbage, and it would almost certainly be dismissed if Take-Two decided to fight it. It sounds like Take-Two may have decided that it is preferable from a PR and legal standpoint to just show the game to the judge and hopefully dispose of this matter without a fight.
posted by brain_drain at 8:11 PM on October 11, 2006

Rockstar are *almost* as shameless as Jack Thomson in their grandstanding, but not quite: Rockstar never claims to be serving the public interest.
posted by Artw at 8:13 PM on October 11, 2006

What's funny is, this is one of Rockstar's lightest games ever. Jack Thompson is going to look really, really dumb when they show it off to the judge.

I hate censorship as much as the next guy, but this may actually be the best thing in the world. Everyone's spent over a year screaming about how bad Bully is, now it's going to be shown how completely mislead (by Jack and the media frenzy) they all were. Not a bad derail for the "Games Are The Devil" meme.
posted by ®@ at 8:24 PM on October 11, 2006

This pisses me off, though.

" Defendant Take-Two is sending a player capable of finishing the game and guiding Judge Friedman through the most violent portions of the game (otherwise known as “the good stuff” — which was repeated various times in the case) along with a Playstation 2 and video equipment. When the defense asked that formal paperwork and bonding were to be provided for this request the judge snapped back and said “Do you know how long that would take? The game would have shipped by then” and in the middle of a mumble he cut them off and silenced the room with “NOT A CHANCE IN THIS WORLD”. "

The judge wants the guy there, they should do the paperwork. Paperwork is part of the civil process. Jerk.
posted by ®@ at 8:29 PM on October 11, 2006

Anything that shows Thompson as the useless, self-promoting douchebag he is can only be good.

Otherwise, why bother doing anything in life? Just hitch your legal wagon to the wallets of people who do real work for a living and sue your way to prosperity... rather like a tapeworm, or any other creepy parasite.
posted by clevershark at 8:53 PM on October 11, 2006

Have there been any cases on whether video games count as noncommercial speech?

Possibly this one from five years ago. Although it's just a appeals court case, not a Supreme Court case. (The Supreme Court declined to hear it, IIRC.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:37 PM on October 11, 2006

Sorry for the mis-formatting. I meant to point to this article.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:42 PM on October 11, 2006

Isn't Thompson an attorney simulator?
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:19 PM on October 11, 2006

and a bad one at that.
posted by PenDevil at 11:52 PM on October 11, 2006

He's no Phoenix Wright, that's for sure.

I think my favourite bit of Bully-related hysteria is this typically well-researched Daily Mail article, where the screenshot they've chosen as an example of how violent the game is actually shows the protagonist getting bullied.

I'm looking forward to Bully (or Canis Canem Edit, or whatever) now - I'm not generally a huge fan of Rockstar's stuff, but I'm totally behind anything that even tries to update Skool Daze.
posted by terpsichoria at 12:29 AM on October 12, 2006

Bully kind of sounds like Skooldaze updated.
posted by Auz at 2:56 AM on October 12, 2006

I'm really looking forward to Bully. I want to build an army of all the nerds, geeks and fat kids, leading them to glory as they rise up and subvert the social order forever. If Rockstar is cool, they'll let me do that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:46 AM on October 12, 2006

"We wanted this to feel like a John Hughes movie," Devin tells me as we watch the intro, "something like Heathers or even School Ties."

Oh Devin, why do you sadden me so? Our glorious master had nothing to do with those two movies.
posted by bpm140 at 5:41 AM on October 12, 2006

Defendant Take-Two is sending a player capable of finishing the game and guiding Judge Friedman through the most violent portions of the game

posted by pokermonk at 7:10 AM on October 12, 2006

I just went around googling trying to figure out on what possible basis would a judge have jurisdiction over a video game, the rating applied to a video game, and whether a video game could be sold. Apparently the suit has been brought under Florida's "public nuisance" laws, but that doesn't really clear things up.

The way this is supposed to work is that when a wacko brings such a lawsuit and requests a hearing, the defendants respond by saying there cannot be such a lawsuit (barring any evidence of child pornography in the game) because of the First Amendment (and for other reasons such as the legislature never intended the laws to apply to this situation). The defendants might also explain that even if there were such a claim that the judge could never bar or ban the game, but only award damages, again because of the First Amendment rules, so the request for an early hearing is particularly daft. And then the judge dismisses. That is what is supposed to happen.

Here -- I don't understand why the judge is allowing the case to "live," why the judge is looking at the game, and why he is making some kind of decision. Most state court judges are former prosecutors, and know nothing about basic legal principles outside of that criminal realm. I can't find Friedman's bio on the internet so can't say what his background is yet.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:26 AM on October 12, 2006

Here's a not-very-helpful information page on Friedman ... Similar here (warning pdf).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:40 AM on October 12, 2006

Ah - Skool Daze remade.

I also have distinct memories of one of the original authors wanting to remake it in 3d and showing some screenshots, but a quick google tells me nothing. Stupid google. Ever since they bought youtube it's turned into a pile of kangaroo droppings.
posted by Sparx at 1:36 PM on October 12, 2006

I'm surprised noone has mentioned Skool Daze yet.
posted by Bugbread at 8:20 PM on October 12, 2006

The worst part is, the Florida nuisance statute doesn't apply to just anything ...

Take a look at the parts that Jack Thompson doesn't quote:

"Whoever shall erect, establish, continue, or maintain, own or lease any building, booth, tent or place which tends to annoy the community or injure the health of the community, or become manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people ... or shall be frequented by the class of persons mentioned in 1s. 856.02, or any house or place of prostitution, assignation, lewdness or place or building where games of chance are engaged in violation of law or any place where any law of the state is violated, shall be deemed guilty of maintaining a nuisance ..."

Now, IANAL, but that doesn't exactly sound like a prohibition on violent video games. I'm still curious why this judge feels he has the jurisdiction to rule on a videogame for sale ... but at least if he decides to ban the game, it can be overturned by the appellate courts.
posted by jbowers at 9:03 PM on October 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wonder if this might be similar to School Daze.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:40 AM on October 13, 2006

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