Rockstar’s Bully was the video game pariah of 2006. The title was criticized by those who - wrongly - assumed that it cast the player in the aggressor’s role.
With new versions of Bully scheduled to appear next month, the controversy seems to be starting up again. Bully: Scholarship Edition has a March 3rd ship date for the Xbox 360 and Wii.
An article in today’s Telegraph sounds the alarm: A violent new video game which is set in a school and encourages players to act out assaults on pupils and teachers has been condemned by anti-bullying campaigners and teaching unions. The game,
called Bully , features a shaven-headed pupil who torments fellow students and teachers at his school.
Niall Cowley of BeatBullying told the newspaper: We’re disappointed this game was created in the first place. Some mindless people thought this was a fun, interesting piece of software to create, but it undermines all the hard work that
organisations like ours are seeking to do.
Although Bully was released in the UK under the title Canis Canem Edit (Dog Eat Dog), the new versions will revert to the Bully name. Retailers PC World and Currys have already announced that they will not carry the game.
Nutter Labour MP Keith Vaz chimed in: The idea that people should be glorifying bullying is just tasteless. It is hardly encouraging good social values for our children. Just the name Bully is going to attract young people to buy it.
A Rockstar spokesman defended the game: It is not a game about playing a bully. It is about the trials and tribulations of a boy in his first year at school. He protects children against other characters. People have to be able to make their
own decisions and to judge for themselves, with an open mind.
A Bully computer game sends out the wrong signals and should be withdrawn from sale, say UK teachers.
They are part of a global coalition concerned about the impact of the game, which has been released in new formats.
Bully: Scholarship Edition trivialises and glorifies bullying in school , say opponents from eight international teacher groups.
UK retailers say they will not act as censors and will continue to sell the game to children over the age of 15.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SCTA) are part of an international group which thinks the game could encourage bullying.
Although it carries a BBFC 15 rating, campaigners fear Bully could get into the hands of much younger children. The idea of a game that rewards bullies and those who engage in brutal and savage attacks is irresponsible in the extreme
Steve Sinnott, general secretary, NUT
The game, designed by US-based Rockstar Games was originally launched in 2006 but has been updated for the new generation of games' consoles - Xbox and Wii.
NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: At a time when there is a growing concern about bullying in schools and the increasing violence shown towards teachers, the idea of a game that rewards bullies and those who engage in brutal and savage
attacks is irresponsible in the extreme. I call upon Amazon, Game, Play and HMV to withdraw this product from sale immediately.
The Australian Education Union's federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said: We were disappointed when the game was first released in 2006 and we are appalled this new version is said to be more realistic, featuring new methods to torment and
bully. The coalition of countries calling for the game to be withdrawn from shelves includes Canada, South Korea and the Caribbean.
HMV told the BBC News website they would not actively promote the game by placing adverts in national newspapers and that their approach would be more discreet, but they would not remove it from sale.
The BBFC explain their uncut 15 rating as follows:
BULLY: SCHOLARSHIP EDITION is a third person 'beat em up' game for the Xbox 360 console. The player character is Jimmy, a new pupil at a tough boarding school. He has to complete various missions, attend lessons and fight his
way to the top of the pecking order in order to progress through the game.
This game received a '15' classification because it contains strong violence. Jimmy has a range of weapons available to him, including a catapult, fire crackers, aerosol sprays and a firework gun. Fighting does not result in blood or visible
injuries, but it is a frequent part of the game play. While the frequency of the violence places it at the '15' category, the lack of detail and the way the game makes it very difficult for Jimmy to attack vulnerable characters (girls, younger
pupils, etc) by sending prefects to apprehend and punish him with boring tasks helped to keep it out of the '18' category. The '15' classification was also felt to be the most appropriate category for the imitable behaviour in the game, such as
using the items listed above as weapons. While the dangers may be expected to be obvious to players aged 15 and above, it was felt that this may not be so clear to younger gamers.
BULLY also contains some moderate bad language including 'bitch' and 'slut', and some mild sexual innuendo
A judge has suspended the sale of the video game Bully in Brazil on the grounds that its content is too violent for young children and teenagers.
Judge Flavio Rabello prohibited the game from being imported, distributed, sold or promoted on Web sites and stores in Latin America's largest nation. Rio Grande do Sul state prosecutor Alcindo Bastos added that they would have 30 days to comply
with the order.
Bastos said the judge found the game was inappropriate for children: The aggravating factor is that everything in the game takes place inside a school. That is not acceptable.
The request to ban it came from a local youth support center.
Australian parenting and education experts have savaged the release of a new video game based on schoolyard bullying, which features animated blood and violence, sexual themes, crude language, and alcohol and tobacco use.
Bully: Scholarship Edition pits schoolchildren at a fictitious boarding school against one another in a violent struggle for control of the campus.
The game's rating is listed on an Australian government classification website as M, meaning it does not carry the age restriction attached to the higher MA15+ rating.
Parenting Australia chief executive Jane King described the game as "disturbing" and said it should never have been released: It's scary, it's outrageous, it's gross . I do think the classification system needs to be reviewed.
I would be very concerned if my 13-year-old son played a game like that. I think the message of solving violence with violence is extremely disturbing. Ms King encouraged parents not to buy the game.
Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos said teachers worldwide were vehemently opposed to the game and the union had joined a coalition of eight teacher organisations from countries such as South Korea, the United States and
Britain denouncing its release: What we are concerned about is the continuing production and development of such games that glorify violence and bullying. There's a point where the corporate world must take some responsibility to regulate these
games. In a world where the issues of bullying and violence are a concern, the production of these games is not acceptable.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Classification Board said the game was approved because the themes were: moderate in playing and viewing and were justified by context. During the game the player is not encouraged to attack innocent bystanders
or undertake acts of bullying and is not rewarded for doing so. The missions players undertake are generally about thwarting acts of bullying, exploitation or discrimination. If the player does bully another player out of context a
punishment type bar increases and when full it causes the character to be apprehended by authority figures.
Analyst and gamer John Greentree said critics of Bully: Scholarship Edition might change their tune if they played the game. The purpose of the game is not to be a bully but survive a school that is full of bullies. The point of the game
is to show that all groups are capable of being bullies and bullied. It's pathetic that your scare-mongering will actually scare people away from this sort of game that actually has real lessons.
A TV ad, for a computer game called Bully: Scholarship Edition , showed a schoolboy in a headmaster's office. The headmaster said Ah, so you must be Hopkins. You're quite the nastiest little boy I have ever encountered to which
Hopkins replied I'm just trying to fit in.
Hopkins was then shown kicking a wooden box apart, firing a catapult and shielding himself from a burning substance in a science classroom. The ad went on to show students running away from a mouse and Hopkins emerging from a locker, creeping
around the school and skateboarding.
Two other characters were shown lifting another student up by his underpants. Hopkins kissed a girl and watched the canteen chef laughing and sneezing into a cooking pot. A voice-over stated Bully:Scholarship Edition . Rated BBFC 15.
31 complainants took issue:
Several viewers, some of whom had experienced bullying, complained that the ad was offensive and distasteful.
Most viewers complained that the ad glorified, trivialised and encouraged bullying and violence. Some of them were concerned that the ad gave the wrong message in the current climate of bullying, suicides and violent crime amongst young people.
Some viewers complained that the ad was scheduled inappropriately because it could be seen by children.
The ASA noted scenes that depicted property being damaged, a weapon being fired, and pupils fleeing were played in quick succession. Although some viewers might see those actions as the work of a bully, we noted the only scene that showed
bullying behaviour was where two larger boys lifted a character by his underwear. We considered that that scene was cartoon-like in nature, and would be seen as representative of the contents of the game, rather than as a realistic portrayal of
intimidation or bullying. We concluded that, although many might find the name and content of the game to be in poor taste, the content of the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We noted the character of Hopkins was not intended to be a bully and would often be tasked with overcoming bullies. We considered that the ad did not contain explicit or graphic violence and that young people would see the lifting of a boy by
his underpants as comic and exaggerated, rather than as realistic or condoning intimidating behaviour. We also considered that viewers were unlikely to draw a direct analogy between the computer-generated, stereotyped school setting and
contemporary society. We concluded that the ad did not glorify or encourage bullying and violence among young people.
We noted the game carried a 15 rating and the ad had an 'ex-kids' restriction, which would help prevent younger children from seeing it. We noted the advertiser had taken care to schedule appropriately through the extra measures it had taken to
ensure that the ad was not seen by a significant number of under-15s. Although some complainants reported viewing the ads in prime-time programmes and football matches, we considered that the ad was unlikely to present a problem if seen by older
children and adolescents. We concluded that the ad had been appropriately scheduled and the 'ex-kids' restriction was sufficient.