ROCKSTAR, the maker of best-selling video game series Grand Theft Auto is to launch a game later this year with themes of school fighting that has anti-violence critics up in arms.
Bully's main character is Jimmy Hopkins, 15, who must defend himself against school bullies at a fictional US boarding school called Bullworth Academy, while dealing with characters like nerds and jocks and authoritarian prefects.
Weapons include baseball bats that break after several blows, stink bombs and bags of marbles that when strategically thrown will lay flat pursuers.
"Finally Bully can speak for itself. People can look at the game and see what it is and what it's not," company spokesman Rodney Walker said.
In March, Florida's Miami-Dade County School Board called on retailers not to sell the game to minors and required the school district to warn parents about potentially harmful effects of playing violent video games.
In a recent demonstration of Bully, the fighting scenes did not include blood or result in the death of characters.
"We think the school environment is a universal experience so many people relate to," Walker said. He said criticism of Bully was strange in that it had preceded the release of the game, which had been kept under tight wraps.
Controversial games are nothing new at Rockstar, a unit of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, the developer of the best-selling urban action game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
That game, in which the main character robs and kills his way across a mythical US state called San Andreas to save his family and take control of the streets, got caught in a scandal over an explicit sex scene known as "hot coffee," which could be unlocked with a downloaded file.