BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK
MP attacks school bullying game
Bully screenshot
A school called Bullworth Academy features in the video game
A video game featuring school bullying must be treated in the same way as a violent film, an MP has said.

Former Labour minister Keith Vaz urged the government to refer Bully, which has a pupil fight scene, to the British Board of Film Classification.

Failing that, it should be banned, he told the House of Commons.

Bully's publisher, Rockstar Vancouver, said the game, not yet released, would be an "engaging story" and products should not be "judged by their titles".

'Make changes'

Mr Vaz, MP for Leicester East, asked Commons leader Geoff Hoon: "Do you share my concern at the decision of Rockstar to publish a new game called Bully in which players use their on-screen persona to kick and punch other schoolchildren?

"Will you ask the prime minister to refer this video to the British Board of Film Classification? If they don't make any changes will the government use its powers to ban this video?"

Keith Vaz MP
Mr Vaz said the game could be banned

Mr Hoon said the game's distributors had yet to put it to the BBFC to consider an appropriate rating.

The precise contents, "disturbing though they sound", and the degree to which it might be considered harmful to children were "not yet known", he added.

A screenshot from Bully shows three uniformed pupils fighting.

One of them can be seen kicking a classmate in the back, while a third looks on with his fists clenched.

Liz Carnell, director of the charity Bullying Online, said: "Our view is that bullying is not a joke. It is not a suitable subject for computer games."

Giving Bully an 18-rating would not stop children playing it, she said.

'Real life'

A Rockstar Games spokesman said: "We support and admire the groups who are working hard to address the long-standing problem of bullying.

"We all have different opinions about art and entertainment, but everyone agrees that real-life school violence is a serious issue which lacks easy answers.

"Bully is still a work-in-progress, but when it's finished we believe most people will agree it offers an exciting experience and tells an engaging story.

"More and more people are beginning to recognise that the stories in video games have as many themes and plotlines as books and movies.

"Just as books aren't judged by their covers, video games shouldn't be judged by their titles or individual scenes."

The game would be "submitted to the appropriate bodies" to be rated, he added.

Roger Bennett, director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, said: "As Mr Vaz knows, any game can be automatically referred to the BBFC for a rating.

"It is disingenuous to suggest any game be banned when the content has yet to be finalised."

He added: "Every game published in the UK carries an age rating on the box, providing guidance to ensure that consumers can make informed choices when buying games, in the same way as one would buy a film or take guidance on post-watershed TV viewing."

Bully 'unsuitable theme' for game
10 Aug 05 |  Education
Game makers 'ignore pot of cash'
01 Sep 05 |  Technology

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific