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Row over bully video game

A video game about bullying, which involves its main character hitting fellow pupils with a baseball bat, went on sale this week despite calls for it to be banned.

Canis Canem Edit, which is Latin for Dog Eat Dog, is the latest title from Rockstar Games, which also makes the Grand Theft Auto series for PlayStation. Players take on the role of Jimmy Hopkins, a new student at Bullworth Academy who tries to protect weaker students from the school's resident bullies, punching them or attacking them with weapons.

DSG group, which owns PC World and Dixons in the UK, said it will not stock the game. Campaigners against video game violence say it should be taken off the shelves.

The game has received a similar response in the United States where it is known as Bully. Rockstar changed the name for its UK release in response to pressure from Sony, which owns PlayStation.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, who has campaigned against violent video games, said:

"It has some very dodgy scenes which if watched by young people may have an effect on their perception of violence. The game is rated 15 but it will find its way into the hands of those under 15."

A spokesman for Rockstar admitted there was violence in the game, but said it was tongue-in-cheek.

He said: "It's important to understand that Canis Canem Edit is in the tradition of other entertainment that takes a comedic look at school life."

He said Jimmy uses violence only to protect other students.

Niall Cowey, of the charity Beat Bullying, said: "If there is an incident of a young person who attacks their bully and it ends up in a violent circumstance and it is proved that young person had access to the Rockstar game, I think Rockstar would have a lot of thinking to do and a lot on their conscience."

While Canis Canem Edit has attracted complaints that it might worsen school violence, another computer programme is being credited with reducing bullying. Schools in Gateshead have been trying Sentinel, a web-based risk managment and incident recording system, which allows children to report anonymously when they have been victimised.

Kerry Leightley, a learning support co-ordinator at Joseph Swan secondary, said the system, developed by Vantage Technologies, had been a help to the school. "The pupils so far have not been shy or embarrassed to use the system, like they might sometimes be when they talk to teachers about bullying," she said. "They've really taken to it."

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