Reuters reported on Bully's boy-on-boy kissing, brilliantly dubbed "Warm Tea," by Sex in Video Games author Brenda Brathwaite. It's only a matter of time now before the Associated Press picks up the story and news outlets across the country jump into the fray. Depending on where you live on the planet Earth, you're sure to get various versions of spin on the story. So, it's a good time to go over some developments, and clear up some issues, since our initial piece:
- Joystiq has been in contact with Eliot Mizrachi, spokesperson for the ESRB, and he reaffirms that they were aware of the kissing when they gave a "T" (Teen) rating to Bully. The rating description clearly states "sexual themes" on the box.
- Bully is not the first title to have playable same-sex interaction. The Sims, which also has a "T" rating stating "sexual themes" on the box, allows for a lot more than just kissing. There is even same-sex adoption.
- Brathwaite said to Reuters, "It's symbolic that the diversity that's appearing in broader media is making its way to games in a way that's not insulting or necessarily sensationalistic."
- Everyone's favorite anti-games lawyer Jack Thompson, sent a letter to ESRB President, Patricia Vance, "We just found gay sexual content in Bully, as Jimmy Hopkins makes out with another male student. Good luck with your 'Teen' rating now, Patty." Let's get something straight right off the bat -- Thompson found nothing. His letter wasn't sent until after Joystiq wrote about GayGamer's video, and we know Thompson reads this site. Thompson was already in possession of Bully, which he requested as part of his political Miami lawsuit to block Bully. Thompson had his chance to make the kissing part of his lawsuit.
- The blond student consistently showed is not the only boy Jimmy Hopkins can kiss. Apparently one boy from each clique is kissable. There is an African-American geek who can be kissed. So, not only is there gay kissing, but interracial gay kissing as well. (Please sense the sarcasm in that bullet point)
The ESRB would be insane if they were bullied into giving an "M" (Mature 17+) rating to Bully, as this story continues to gain traction in the mainstream press. Not only is it politically damaging, they'd be instantly contacted by gay rights advocacy groups, propelling this controversy into a civil-rights issue asking, "Why is kissing a boy different than kissing a girl?" It would also force the ginormous Electronic Arts into the mix to defend the "T " rated Sims. We're willing to wager that Electronic Arts, which has a Human Rights Campaign corporate equality index score of 88 and had transsexual game designer Danielle Bunten Berry on staff, will put up a good fight if challenged. Rockstar played this brilliantly, they slid in a topic that is controversial, but perfectly defensible, and those that would attack "Warm Tea," won't have an easy time of it compared to "Hot Coffee."