The recent release of the video game “Bully ™” has created quite a storm of media attention. Rockstar Games released the new role-playing disc at a time when America’s school systems seem to be experiencing a spike in on campus violence. So it is no surprise that this new video game would turn a few heads, cause a few letters to the editor, and end up a hot topic on radio and television talk shows.
I am here to tell the world, “Bully ™” is not going to turn America’s youth into violence loving maniacs determined to usurp authority at every opportunity. It just doesn’t have the overwhelming message of revenge and mayhem as a remedy for young people’s angst. Having just completed six hours of game time, I can safely say that “Bullworth Academy”, the fictional campus where 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins spends his days, is not the kind of place any teen is going have trouble separating from the real world.
Jimmy Hopkins has been kicked out of a few schools before being dropped off at Bullworth Academy by his mother and stepfather. He has a chip on his shoulder and fist that are always ready to deposit knuckle-prints on other students’ cheekbones. But the good news is, the more Jimmy fights, shows up late to class, and fails to complete his class work, the less access Jimmy has to certain parts of the campus, not to mention less ability to flirt with the ladies he befriends. The more Jimmy plays by the rules, the more doors become accessible and the more he is allowed to learn about his environment.
I have never played a video game that had so many negative and positive attributes going on at the same time. When Jimmy fights with other male students, if he can run away fast enough, he virtually goes unpunished. If he lays a finger on a female student or strikes an authority figure, he is swarmed by security staff almost instantly. Jimmy ends up spending a lot of time in Principal Crabblesnitch’s office and doing on campus chores as punishment for his misdeeds. Of course, I say Jimmy, but this is a role-playing game, so I mean I ended up spending a lot of time being punished while playing this game.
On a huge downside to the wholesomeness, or lack thereof, of this game is that fact that there are no barriers keeping Jimmy’s character from entering the girls’ dormitory, bathrooms, or shower facilities. I found this much more disturbing than any of the bullying and fighting presented in the game. Large wardrobes are found in the girls’ dorms for Jimmy to hide in, and the women’s washrooms have large garbage cans with an arrow telling Jimmy to hide inside them. Since the game rewards the player with more options and freedom as one improves their class grades and gathers important items, I really don’t know how disturbingly graphic the remainder of play might become.
There is just enough profanity and negative treatment of women in “Bully ™” to warrant my declaration that this really isn’t a video game inline with Christian values. Some of the comments Jimmy makes to the girls on campus are downright obnoxious and demeaning. But the funny thing is, every time I was just about to turn the game off and get started on this column, a surprising twist would come about, and I would gain hope that “Bully ™” might have turned a corner and set sail on the straight and narrow, only to discover that wasn’t the case.
The classes at Bullworth Academy are really quite interesting and fun. English, Gym, Art, Chemistry, Shop Class, and Photography are all offered, and believe it or not, I enjoyed them more playing this game than I did when I studied them in high school. Less pressure, I guess.
One of the brightest and well-thought out parts of this PlayStation ® game is that Jimmy begins to see the ugliness of bullying by watching his partner in crime, Gary, begin to hurt their mutual friend, Pete, for no reason, other than he can
Is “Bully ™” a game I would buy for my kids? I don’t believe I would. Is it a game that warrants all this media attention? Absolutely not! If children can’t tell the difference between the violence in this game and the violence in the real world, then it is also time to demand the television networks stop playing reruns of Tom & Jerry.