How Anti-Game Propaganda Spreads: Legislators Discuss Bully as “the Columbine Game”

When anti-game activist Jack Thompson accused Rockstar’s Bully of being a “Columbine simulator,” the game community tended to dismiss the criticism based on its source.

But in political circles, the Columbine simulator label has apparently gained some traction. Consider an exchange from Friday’s hearing before a Utah House committee considering video game legislation drafted by Thompson.

First, let’s set the scene. Jim Olsen, president of the Utah Retail Merchants Association, wraps up several minutes of testimony on the Utah bill. Then, the following exchange takes place:

Legislator: I have one question.

Olsen: Okay.

Legislator: The game, Bully. What would that be rated? Are you familiar with that game?

Olsen: I am not familiar with that game.

(off-mic voice believed to be that of bill sponsor Rep. Wyatt):  “T”

Legislator: That’s the Columbine game?

Olsen: It’s rated “T” for teen.

Legislator: Okay.

(off-mic voice believed to be that of Rep. Wyatt): The Columbine game’s rated Teen…

Legislator: The Columbine game’s rated T?

(off-mic voice believed to be that of Wyatt): It’s not? What’s it rated?

(off-mic voice believed to be that of Steve Sabey, attorney for the ESA): It’s a web game. It’s not rated…

Legislator: Okay, that’s great…

Later in the hearing, Sabey, testifying on behalf of the ESA, returns to the topic in an attempt to clear up any lingering confusion between Bully and the controversial amateur game Super Columbine Massacre RPG, which has been much in the news lately.

…After Columbine the FBI did a study… of Columbine and related shootings… they determined a list of 40 factors that related to why these kids did it. Video games was not listed on that list. Anywhere.

When we met last time there was a suggestion that the ESRB was a sham and the example that was put forward was the Columbine game.  And I mentioned a minute ago, though not on the record, the Columbine game is a game that someone has recently created and put on the web. No legislation – this bill certainly would not address it – no legislation would address it.

There’s no control over it because it’s a game somebody creates. Very poor game, poor graphics that anyone can load from the web, and it’s not a rated game. Rated games – ESRB games – are games that are mass-produced for sale in the stores and they are rated, much like movies are…

If you’d like to listen for yourself, download the audio of this portion of Friday’s testimony in mp3 format (less than 3 megs).

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