LOS ANGELES – Rockstar Games, the maker of the best-selling "Grand Theft Auto" video-game series, said on Wednesday it would launch in October "Bully," a game with themes of school fighting that has anti-violence critics up in arms.
The game's main character is 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, who must defend himself against school bullies at a fictional U.S. boarding school called Bullworth Academy, while dealing with characters ranging from nerds and jocks to authoritarian prefects.
Weapons included baseball bats that break after several blows, stink bombs and bags of marbles that when strategically thrown will lay flat most pursuers.
"Finally 'Bully' can speak for itself. People can look at the game and see what it is and what it's not," company spokesman Rodney Walker said.
In March, Florida's Miami-Dade County School Board called on retailers not to sell the game to minors and required the school district to warn parents about potentially harmful effects of playing violent video games.
In a recent demonstration of "Bully," which Rockstar said has not yet been rated, the fighting scenes did not include blood or result in the death of characters.
"We think the school environment is a universal experience that so many people relate to," said Walker, who added that criticism of "Bully" is unique in that it had preceded the release of the game, which has been kept under tight wraps.
Controversial games are nothing new at Rockstar, a unit of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO), which is the developer of the best-selling urban action game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."
That game — in which the main character robs and kills his way across a mythical U.S. state called San Andreas to save his family and take control of the streets — got caught in a scandal over an explicit sex scene known as "Hot Coffee," which could be unlocked with a downloaded file.