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Abram Chernov
Abram Chernov

Bully Game: The Most Controversial and Critically Acclaimed Game of 2006



Bully (released in the PAL region as Canis Canem Edit; Latin for "dog eat dog")[1] is an action-adventure video game developed by Rockstar Vancouver and published by Rockstar Games. It was released on 17 October 2006 for the PlayStation 2. A remastered version of the game, subtitled Scholarship Edition, was developed by Mad Doc Software and released on 4 March 2008 for Xbox 360 and Wii, and on 21 October 2008 for Windows. Bully was re-released for PlayStation 4 available via PlayStation Network on 22 March 2016. An updated version of the Scholarship Edition, titled Anniversary Edition, was developed by War Drum Studios and released for Android and iOS on 8 December 2016.




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The game is played from a third-person perspective and its open world can be navigated on foot, skateboard, motor scooter, bicycle, or go-kart. Set in the fictional town of Bullworth, the single-player story follows juvenile delinquent student James "Jimmy" Hopkins, who is involuntarily enrolled at Bullworth Academy boarding school for a year, and puts his efforts to rise through the ranks of the school system in order to put a stop to bullying. Players control Jimmy as he attempts to become more popular among the school's various "cliques", in addition to attending classes and completing various side missions. The Scholarship Edition includes a two-player competitive multiplayer mode that lets two players compete for the highest score in different classes.


Its expected violence and sexual content were initially controversial. Bully received positive reviews, with praise directed at the game's missions, narrative, and character development, though its presentation and glitches received criticism. The original version of Bully sold over 1.5 million copies and received multiple year-end accolades.


When not performing missions, the player can attend classes, presented as minigames. Each course has five classes, which increase in difficulty, and passing all five will result in the player passing the course. Classes reward the player with new clothing items or abilities; for example, English allows the player to apologise to authority figures after violating rules, Chemistry allows players to create their own throwable weapons, Geography highlights special collectibles on the game's map, and Gym unlocks new fighting moves. Not attending classes when they are available is considered a violation of rules, unless they have been completed, in which case they become optional.


The player can use melee attacks and weapons to fight enemies. The weapons available include slingshots, bags of marbles and itching powder, stink bombs, firecrackers (including bottle rockets), baseball bats, planks of wood, and spud guns. Jimmy can run, jump, swim, climb or use vehicles to navigate the game's world. The vehicles featured in the game include a skateboard, scooters, bicycles, and go-karts. The player can also grab onto the back of a moving car while on a skateboard, but can't drive cars themselves. Bus stops located in various locations around the world allow the player to quickly travel back to Bullworth Academy. Should the player take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated using multiple techniques, such as drinking sodas, which can be obtained from vending machines or dropped by enemies, and kissing certain NPCs after interacting with them. When the player's health is entirely depleted, gameplay stops and the player respawns at the nearest medical center.


If the player breaks rules while playing, the game's authority figures (prefects, policemen and orderlies) may respond as indicated by a "trouble" meter in the head-up display (HUD). The levels displayed on the meter indicate the current level of severity. Authority figures will attempt to grab and subdue the player, who may fight back. The higher the severity level is, the harder will authority figures try to catch the player; at the maximum level, the player can no longer fight back, as they will be instantly "busted" should they be grabbed. If the player is busted, they respawn at the nearest police station or the school principal's office and all their weapons (sans the slingshot, skateboard, and camera) are confiscated. If a class is in progress, the player will instead be taken to it and forced to attend (even if they have already completed it). Authority figures can subdue other students as well, should they cause trouble.


The game's multiplayer mode, exclusive to Scholarship Edition on Wii and Xbox 360 and Anniversary Edition, has two players compete to gain the highest score in the same minigames used for classes. One player controls Jimmy, and the other Gary Smith.


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Bully takes place in the fictitious town of Bullworth situated in the New England region of the United States. After being expelled from seven previous schools, the game's protagonist, 15-year-old James "Jimmy" Hopkins, is sent to the town's prominent private boarding school, Bullworth Academy, for a year while his mother and her new husband go on their honeymoon. The school campus is designed in a neo-gothic style, similar to public schools and colleges in the United Kingdom and New England, such as Fettes College in Edinburgh. The school itself is the game's primary setting, while the rest of the town is gradually unlocked as the story progresses.


Because the game's story spans an entire school year, Bullworth's appearance and colour changes as the seasons change between chapters, most notably during the third chapter, which takes place around the Christmas season.


To take over the Jocks, regarded as the most powerful clique, Jimmy seeks the assistance of their main rivals, the Nerds. When they refuse to help, Jimmy defeats their leader, Earnest Jones (Jesse Tendler), and earns his and the Nerds' respect by guaranteeing they will never be picked on again. To ruin the Jocks' reputation, Earnest has Jimmy take inappropriate pictures of the school's head cheerleader, Mandy Wiles (Elena Franklin), which are then spread across town. However, Jimmy later removes the pictures out of pity for Mandy, earning her affection. Eventually, the Jocks are humiliated after Jimmy sabotages their big football game, and subsequently defeats their leader Ted Thompson (Alexander Cendese) in a fight in front of the entire school.


Rockstar announced Bully in May 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox with an original expected release date of October 2005.[2] Early information released by Take-Two Interactive seemed to indicate that the player would be taking the role of a bully, and screenshots printed in Electronic Gaming Monthly showed the player-controlled antagonist administering a "swirlie" and throwing a punch at another student. However, the tone of the final game was different, with the player in the role of a problem student who stood up to and fought back against bullies, often bullying on behalf of the victims, or in self-defense.


The PlayStation 2 version of the game uses an advanced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas engine through RenderWare.[3] Rockstar Vancouver decided to make every student in the school have a unique appearance and personality.


On 19 July 2007, Rockstar announced that a remaster would be released for the Wii and Xbox 360, subtitled Scholarship Edition.[10] Rockstar New England, then called Mad Doc Software, led development with the Xbox 360 version while Rockstar Toronto ported it to the Wii. The Wii and Xbox 360 versions were released on 4 March 2008.[11] A Windows port was later developed by Rockstar New England and released on 21 October 2008.[12] The game features additional content which is not in the original version, including missions, characters, school classes, and unlockable items and clothing. Some small script changes have been made, and the highly compressed voice files of the original have been replaced with higher-quality versions. The random non-player characters also have more lines. In addition, single system two-player competitive multiplayer minigames have also been added, along with Achievements for the Xbox 360 version and Wii Remote and Nunchuk motion and pointer controls for the Wii version. All ports of the Scholarship Edition use the game engine Gamebryo, rather than RenderWare, which was used for the original version.[13]


Hyper's Daniel Wilks commends the game for its "clever script, some novel missions, and well constructed characters". However, he criticised it for "time dilation, dodgy camera, and generic mini-games".[20] Joystiq's Bonnie Ruberg appreciated the casual nature in which the game allows Jimmy to kiss other boys;[21] in 2013, Larry Hester of Complex ranked Jimmy among the "coolest" LGBT video game characters.[22]


Bully's title and gameplay was the subject of controversy among parents and educators who noted the adult content in previous Rockstar games, including the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Hot Coffee minigame controversy. Groups such as Bullying Online and Peaceaholics criticized the game for glorifying or trivializing school bullying, although they raised their objections before the game was released to the public. The player may also choose to kiss select girls and boys in the game, which the ESRB was aware of when rating the product.[55] Classification boards generally restricted Bully to a teenage audience: the United States-based Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gave the game a T rating,[56] the British Board of Film Classification gave it a 15 rating, the Australian Classification Board rated it M,[57] and the New Zealand OFLC restricted it to people 13 years of age and over.


Bully was banned in Brazil.[59] In April 2008, a Brazilian judge prohibited the commerce and import of the game.[60] The decision was based on findings by the state psychology society which stated that the game would be potentially harmful to teenagers and adults.[61] On June 23, 2016, however, the game was officially rereleased in Brazil.[62]


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