The video game
maker that sparked an uproar over a hidden sex scene in
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is courting new
controversy with its latest schoolyard title,
Bully--which features boys kissing. That
sexual twist came to light only after Take-Two Interactive
Software Inc. released the "teen"-rated game on
October 17, having weathered protests from
antiviolence advocates who tried unsuccessfully to block
its sale to minors.
Bully stars 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, who must
navigate cliques, fights, and young love at his new
boarding school, along the way winning brawls,
completing missions, and plying girls with candy and flowers
in exchange for kisses. But Jimmy can also use the
same approach with boys. When Jimmy approaches a tall
blond boy with some flowers, the boy replies: "I'm
hot. You're hot. Let's make out."
Gay video game
enthusiasts have embraced Bully, which was the
U.S.'s third-top-selling game in the week ending October 27,
according to figures from UBS. "Progress!" wrote one
reader of Gaygamer.net, who applauded the move by
Take-Two's Rockstar Games studio. "Hot Gay Coffee,"
quipped another on the same site, referring to the
controversial Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sex scene
that was dubbed "Hot Coffee."
were not so enthusiastic. "I can't have my kids
playing this game. This is morally reprehensible. GTA
[Grand Theft Auto] is a real man's game,
Bully is a disgrace," wrote a poster using the
handle spideRRR on GameSpot.com.
The inclusion of
the explicit sex scene in Grand Theft Auto: San
Andreas also had some parents, along with regulators and
lawmakers, fuming. Take-Two was forced to pull that
game from store shelves at a cost of millions of
dollars to the company because it had not disclosed
the existence of the scene.
The "Grand Theft
Auto" series has reaped revenue in excess of $1.5
billion, around 30% of Take-Two's sales in the period since
the first game's debut in 2001, said Michael Pachter,
a video game analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities. In
Bully the controversial scene was not
hidden--but it also was not advertised to consumers.
The video game
industry rating board considered the boy-kissing-boy
scenes in Bully before assigning it a "teen" rating,
spokesman Eliot Mizrachi said. A spokesman for Rockstar
Brathwaite, a professor at Savannah College of Art and
Design and author of Sex in Video Games, said
gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters are
"more and more the norm" on television and that
Rockstar is in the vanguard of game makers to include
this type of content.
Most video games
target a young male audience and focus on shooting,
racing, or sports. Same-sex displays of affection are
largely unexplored, although they are possible in
Electronic Arts Inc.'s popular "Sims" titles and in
online games like Second Life. "It's symbolic
that the diversity that's appearing in broader media
is making its way to games in a way that's not insulting or
necessarily sensationalistic," said Brathwaite.
But Pachter, the
analyst, said considering the baggage Take-Two brings to
the table after San Andreas, introducing a gay aspect
to Bully was an unnecessary risk for the
company to take. "It doesn't glorify anything.... Do I
think that many parents would have a problem with
their kids seeing it? Yes." (Reuters)
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