As it turns out, "Bully" isn't really a bully after all. And with last week's release of the video game, Rockstar Games, the reigning bad...

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As it turns out, “Bully” isn’t really a bully after all.

And with last week’s release of the video game, Rockstar Games, the reigning bad boy of the industry, seems to have paid a visit to the guidance counselor.

When Rockstar announced that it was developing a game starring “a troublesome schoolboy” last year, controversy arrived on cue. This is Rockstar, the guys who dreamed up “Grand Theft Auto,” a top-selling series featuring plenty of gore and guns.

Before “Bully” got anywhere near the shelves, CNN’s Lou Dobbs said it was “another disturbing example of our culture in decline.” The British House of Commons weighed in, condemning the company. Florida lawyer Jack Thompson, the most vocal — and vitriolic — opponent of violent games, declared the upcoming title a “Columbine simulator” and last week persuaded a Florida circuit court judge to review the game’s action.

The $39.99 PlayStation 2 game is expected to be one of the holiday season’s blockbusters. Rated T for ages 13 and older, it follows a year in the life of a young toughie named Jimmy Hopkins, who gets dropped off at a boarding school as Mom leaves for her fifth honeymoon.

Jimmy soon meets bullies predictably picking on nerds. He relies on such classic moves as giving wedgies, firing a slingshot and dunking someone’s head in the toilet. He can slug someone with a baseball bat, but it breaks after a few swings.

“You’re not a wizard in a dungeon. You’re not a gangster in the ghetto. You’re somebody we’ve all been — a kid in school. How universal is that?” asked Jeronimo Barrera, the lead producer of “Bully” and a Rockstar veteran.

Barrera used his own personal history as inspiration. When he was in the seventh grade at A.P. Giannini Middle School in the Sunset District of San Francisco, he used to fight off “the punk kid” who would steal his friend Robert’s “Dungeons & Dragons” book. Robert was in a wheelchair. “Jimmy is a cool kid,” said Barrera. “He’s kind of endearing.”

Endearing? From Rockstar? It’s like hearing Marilyn Manson tell you to eat your peas.

“The game’s title is ‘Bully.’ The setting is a school. The medium is games. Of course it was going to get a lot of heat,” said Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

“But the fact that it’s been so heavily assailed before anyone has ever seen it is the most significant thing about it. No one who’s assailing it could have considered the game in its entirety — what it’s trying to do; what it’s trying to say; is it any good? The fact is, bullying is a subject explored in fiction, in films. It’s not much of a surprise that someone would take the topic up in games.”

Florida Judge Ronald Friedman dismissed Thompson’s complaint Oct. 13. After he watched someone play it, Friedman concluded: “There’s a lot of violence. A whole lot. [But] less than we see on television every night.”