Second look at Bully, the video game

by Dmitri Barvinok
Staff writer

Bully, a video game produced by Rockstar Games, was first greeted by panic and protest by many organizations. Jack Thompson, an infamous anti-video game activist, went as far as to compare the game to Columbine. Bully made both the Yahoo! list of Top 10 controversial games, and PlayStation Magazine’s Top 10 Games of 2006. Lawsuits were filed in order to prevent the sale of the game.

Two years after the original game went on sale, an extended version titled Bully: Scholarship Edition was released, and this time around, it was greeted with praise, not subpoenas.

The game follows the story of Jimmy Hopkins, a boy from a family with a re-marrying mother and an absent father, who ends up at Bullworth Academy, a no-nonsense private school teeming with bullies in every corner.

Daniel Moon picked the game up after it went on sale. He doesn’t believe it warranted the controversial press that accompanied its release. You are not required to be a bully in the game, he said, it’s a choice for the player to make.

“[However], the content in the game does require violence,” he added, “because, well, it’s a Rockstar game.”

Rockstar is best known for the Grand Theft Auto games.

As Jimmy, you can make friends, though you’ll most likely make enemies, go to class – or if you don’t, try to avoid the consequences – and rise through the social ranks of the school, occasionally bullying, and occasionally helping others.

Bully contains school violence and suggestive themes, but it is a far cry from Columbine, or any extraordinary school violence. Jimmy does have a slingshot, but the only gun in the game shoots potatoes. Everything is non-lethal, though it could get gross, provided stink bombs and itching powder are involved.

Set before the time of cell phones and cyberbullying, Bully brings the player back to the time when the gym locker rooms were the most dangerous place to be, and the library was a haven. Though the methods are primitive, it paints bullying as a social tool, something bullies use to gain power in their social circles.

In the game, Jimmy is always at odds with Gary, a boy that pretends to be his friend, but begins to sabotage him, trying to get him expelled.

“There can be a true friendship and then in order to ‘keep’ that friendship, you have one person begin to control the other,” said Kevin Epling, an anti-bullying activist, “This then becomes a normal thing as one person exerts their authority over the other person.”

Relying on school stereotypes and cliques, Bully nonetheless treats bullying as a multi-dimensional issue, focusing the story on both the victims and bullies.

According to Moon, the game doesn’t go far enough if it is intended to show a realistic picture of bullying.

“It lacks the emotional aspect of feeling like everything is going wrong,” he said, “The character, despite getting into bullied positions, has that angst and arrogance to drive him. Most bullied victims don’t.”

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1 Comment

  1. Rockstar Games has great reputation because of Grand Theft Auto. Bully has not a great start because of objections on it having violence. However they should try to make game people friendly.

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