There is a commercial game being developed now with bullying as its theme. (See this WikiPedia entry for more about it.) Screenshots from the RockStarGames preview website make it look like an online training course for the NeoNazis or something:
[sigh] More reason to teach digital citizenship and ethics in our schools. Should we, as consumers, purchase this game for ourselves or our children? Should we allow our own children to buy it? Absolutely not. But of course, those opinions are not likely to change the development and eventual sale of this game. And in all likelihood, students in classes you teach are likely to either own the game or play the game at a friend’s house in the not too distant future.
The actions of major retailers could make a difference, however. For instance, I doubt seriously a retailer like GameStop would refuse to carry any game, regardless of how offensive it is, but there is a chance Wal-Mart might. When the hidden scenes in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas caused Wal-Mart and other retailers to stop selling it, sales on eBay certainly jumped, but minors and everyone else were no longer able to get it at the US’ most popular retailer.
Something like 23 states in the US now have laws relating to bullying at school, which generally aspire to curb bullying in schools. Of course there have always been bullys and there always will be. It is sad to see a videogame in development, however, which celebrates this type of socially unacceptable behavior. There are MANY games which should be rated NAFAA: Not Appropriate For Any Age. Sadly, I don’t think that is a rating category the ESRB is likely to adopt anytime soon, or ever. That’s why the HUMAN FILTERS (our ethical compasses and choices) are one of the most important “technologies” to help develop each day, in our homes and our classrooms.
And of course, a game like Bully seems tame compared to the racist games (sadly available online for free) and the “M” rated games which celebrate violence and gore at levels that remind us of the Roman Colosseum.
These problems have really been with us since the dawn of time, they just have a technological face today. This equates to not just quantifiable differences, however, but also qualitative ones, in the way that people (esp young people) can and do have access to content and people they would not otherwise have. This is the dark side of “level 2” transformative technology use.
On the positive side, the UK group Bullying Online has created a good website of resources for parents and children for dealing with bullying. I wonder why we don’t have a similar effort underway here in the US? Certainly bullying has always been and will continue to be a problem. The fact that it has a digital face further complicates issues for administrators, teachers, parents, other caregivers and students.
We have to remember that we can’t just ban these games and sites, and effectively deal with the issues raised by them. We need to be engaged in conversations with young people and with each over about these topics. Yes, we have to TALK ABOUT THEM. Authentic education is conversation. We need more parents, teachers, and educational leaders to recognize this and actively support CONVERSATIONS in our classrooms rather than the ridiculously irrational and counter-productive high-stakes testing which now predominates in most schools. To do otherwise is to fail in our ethical obligations as educators and caring adults in our communities.
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