LONDON - A television ad for a violent computer game called 'Bully: Scholarship Edition' has escaped a ban despite 31 complaints from offended viewers, some of whom said it glorified, trivialised and encouraged bullying and violence.
The multi-platform Xbox and PS3 game, released by Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games, centres around a mischievous student Jimmy Hopkins, who violently kicks a wooden box apart, fires a catapult, and bullies his fellow classmates.
The ad shows Jimmy in the headmaster's office being told he is: "the nastiest little boy I have ever encountered." He replies: "I'm just trying to fit in."
Although the complaints were not upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority, several viewers who had been victims of bullying said the ad was offensive and distasteful.
They complained that it glorified, trivialised and encouraged bullying and violence, which gave the wrong message in the current climate of bullying, suicides and violent crime among young people.
Rockstar responded to the complaints by saying that the ad was no longer running and there are currently no plans to air it in the future.
It insisted that it was aware of the advertising codes and considered themselves to be responsible advertisers.
Responding to the viewers' complaints about sending out the wrong message to youngsters, the company said that far from glorifying bullying, the aim of the game was to beat the bullies.
Among other reasons, the ASA decided not to uphold the complaints because they considered the ad to be "cartoon-like in nature" and "representative of the contents of the game rather than a realistic portrayal of intimidation or bullying".
No further action was taken.