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Lawyer Fighting To Ban 'Columbine Simulator'

K.C. Jones, TechWeb Technology News, August 14, 2006

A Florida lawyer said Monday that he is on a mission to stop the release of Bully, a video game scheduled to come out in October.

Developer Rockstar claims the game will teach young people how to navigate through the tricky and sometimes brutal social pitfalls of high school. Bully puts the player in the position of a new kid who has to confront bullies, deal with teachers, get the girl and avoid detention at a corrupt boarding school. Though it has not been released yet, a sneak peek reveals that the main character, Jimmy Hopkins kicks and wields a baseball bat during his journey.

Attorney Jack Thompson, who has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN and ABC World News Tonight, has crusaded against violent lyrics and video games for years. He called the yet-to-be-released game a "Columbine simulator."

Thompson represented the parents of three children killed in Paducah, Ky. in 1997, when one of their classmates went on a shooting rampage. He and investigators said that 14-year-old Michael Carneal had spent hours playing video games that simulate violence.

Thompson tried unsuccessfully to obtain damages from game creators, claiming they were negligent in distributing games that spawned violent behaviors in children. The case was dismissed, but Thompson said his interactions with the family launched a lifelong commitment.

"These people changed my life, broke my heart," he said. "I believe people are going to be harmed because of these games. This is not just some effort by some 55-year-old guy dictating entertainment taste for other people's children. I've got a dog in this hunt and I know where their skeletons are. I think this is the most ridiculous game anyone has come up with."

Thompson, who has also targeted rappers like N.W.A., is seeking a congressional subpoena for an early copy. He said he is prepared to file suit Friday in Miami if he does not gain help from U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican.

His ultimate goal is to prevent the release of the video. He said that once the video is out, "the horse will be out of the barn and it will be too late to do anything about it." He said he plans to argue that it violates Florida's public nuisance laws, which prohibit activities that can injure the health of the community.

Representatives from Rockstar did not return calls for comment. Supporters of Bully claim that it is not graphic and that it is protected speech, even an art form.

Thompson said he does not trust a game that has not yet been rated and is published by Take2 Interactive. The publisher and agreed to a settlement after investigators uncovered hidden pornographic sex scenes in the Hot Coffee module of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which also includes scenes in which players can brutalize prostitutes.

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