Blair 'Bullied' in the UK

Prime Minister Tony Blair agrees to look into new Rockstar title; agrees to meeting called by Member of Parliment and game critic Keith Vaz.

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Keith Vaz, Member of Parliament for Leicester East, called for a discussion of Rockstar Games' Bully (Canis Canem Edit in the UK) in today's Prime Minister's Question Time.

Vaz addressed Tony Blair in London's House of Commons, stating: "Last Thursday the British Board of Film Classification gave a 15 certificate [able to be purchased by persons 15 years and over] to a video game formerly called Bully. This game contains scenes of violence including players terrorising teachers and students, teachers being head butted, and the aggressive use of baseball bats. [UK retailer] Currys has banned this game. Given the link between video games and their propensity to encourage violence, that has been demonstrated in some research, will the Prime Minister convene a meeting of the stakeholders including the industry and parents' groups to discuss this issue? And will he accept this is not about adult censorship, this is about protecting our children?"

Blair admitted that he "hadn't seen the game himself," with one of his famous smiles, which caused laughter in the Commons. He answered Vaz by agreeing on a meeting to discuss the issues raised.

"I know that the Minister for Creative Industries and also the Minister responsible for the industry are very happy to meet with him and stakeholders to discuss it. It's obviously an important issue. I know there's a lot of concern about it. It is, I think, right to say that the video games industry, or certainly a very substantial section of it, have made significant strides and advances over the last few years, but he's quite right, it's important that's maintained," Blair said.

Some have dubbed Keith Vaz "the Jack Thompson of the UK" for his antigames stance and outspoken views on the topic of game content. He had previously called for a ban on another Rockstar title, Manhunt, on the grounds that the parents of murdered schoolboy Stefan Pakeerah believed that their son's killers had been influenced by the game.

As early as October 26 last year, Vaz voiced his concerns over Rockstar's latest game in Prime Minister's Question Time to Geoff Hoon, standing in for Tony Blair. He asked Hoon: "Does the leader of the house share my concern at the decision of Rockstar Games to publish a new game called Bully in which players use their on-screen persona to kick and punch other schoolchildren?" Hoon replied by rightly pointing out that since the game had not been submitted to the British Board of Film Classification for a rating, little was known about it. He said then that "the precise nature of its content--disturbing though it sounds--and the degree to which it might be considered harmful to children is not yet fully known."

Other items on the agenda of today's Prime Minister's Question Time included the withdrawal schedule for British troops in Iraq, waiting times for cancer patients in the National Health Service (NHS), and support and funding for victims of terrorist attacks.

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