by Timothy Lee
Fri, Mar 7th 2008 3:37am
In 2006, we covered the ridiculous campaign to censor Bully, a video game that anti-video game Jack Thompson started denouncing before he'd even had a chance to play it. Now some teachers' organizations are up in arms about the game's sequel, "Bully: Scholarship Edition." The teachers claim it promotes violence, but some anti-bullying advocates thought just the opposite about the original. Even assuming the teachers are right that the game glorifies bullying, the teachers' campaign still seems awfully counterproductive. There's no real evidence of a link between violent video games and real-world violence. American courts have repeatedly held that video games are protected by the First Amendment, so it's not like a ban would pass constitutional muster anyway, at least here in the states. But the biggest problem with the teachers' campaign is our friend the Streisand Effect: I bet a lot of our readers had never heard of "Bully: Scholarship Edition" until they read this post. I certainly hadn't before I started writing it. Getting singled out for condemnation by humorless teachers' organizations is the kind of publicity money simply cannot buy. The teachers' efforts are going to give the game more buzz than it would have gotten otherwise, and that will cause a lot more people to hear about it, which will lead to more kids playing it. Personally, I think the vast majority of kids know the difference between playing a game and bullying people in real life, so that doesn't worry me too much. But if the teachers' theory about the link between video games and real-world behavior is correct, their own campaign is likely contributing to the problem by making the game more popular.
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