Beginning today, a Florida judge will begin a lengthy in-chambers preview of the yet-to-be-released Bully in order to determine whether the game is a "public nuisance."
In an unprecedented ruling yesterday, Judge Ronald Friedman of Florida's Miami-Dade County Circuit Court ordered Bully publisher Take-Two and developer Rockstar Games to produce a playable copy of the unreleased title for his review. Judge Friedman is expected to begin examining the game in his chambers this afternoon, with the assistance of a representative from Rockstar capable of playing the game to completion.
Bully, which is scheduled to hit store shelves for the PlayStation 2 next Tuesday, is the subject of a recent lawsuit filed by well-known game regulation proponent and attorney Jack Thompson. The game's protagonist is a 15-year-old boy at a fictional U.S. private school who confronts bullies and other schoolyard challenges. In a petition filed last August, Thompson alleged that Bully is a "Columbine simulator" and a public nuisance under Florida statutes. Judge Freidman is now prepared to spend "several days" examining Bully's content.
Gaming blog Destructoid was present at the hearing, and reported that at one point during the proceedings Thompson surprised the judge and attendees by producing a large, homemade, "industrial strength" wood and rubber slingshot he had managed to get through courthouse security. Thompson was apparently attempting to demonstrate that slingshots, which are featured in Bully, could indeed be dangerous.
The judge's preview is closed to the public and press. Both Thompson and counsel for Take-Two will be able to observe the game, but will not be permitted to interrupt or comment during the preview. Bully has been rated "T" for Teen by the Entertainment Software Review Board, but if the judge determines that Bully is a "public nuisance," the Court will most likely issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting sales to minors.