Articles on Bully - from Rockstar Vancouver
Teachers put off by re-vamped "Bully" video game
March 4, 2008
The latest version of a high-school based video game went on sale Tuesday as
a coalition of groups called for retailers not to sell it.
"Bully: Scholarship Edition" is the latest version of a game released in
2006. This new version is for Xbox 360 and Wii.
In the game, a player is in control of 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins, a
rebellious kid dumped at Bullworth Academy by his mother and new stepfather
after being expelled from seven other schools.
Through Jimmy, the player tries to navigate the treacherous shoals of high
"All the mayhem, pranks, nerds, jocks, crushes, clueless professors and
despotic administration that made the original release great -- now with
added education!" says the video's website.
Rockstar Vancouver created "Bully." A separate subsidiary of New York-based
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. has produced notorious titles such as
"Grand Theft Auto" and "Manhunt."
"We're concerned. It's the re-release of 'Bully' ... that glorifies, from
our perspective, violence and bullying. And that the way to deal with when
you're angry and upset is to bully other people," Emily Noble, president of
the Canadian Teachers' Federation, told CTV.ca on Tuesday.
"Enough is enough. It's time teachers spoke out and up."
The CTF has joined with counterparts in the U.S., Britain, South Korea and
The excerpts Rockstar released on the game's website don't look much more
violent than a classic "Bugs Bunny" or "Simpsons" episode.
There are knees to the groin, exploding firecrackers, itching powder, stink
bombs and people slipping on marbles.
At the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, "Bully" is rated for teens 13
and over: "Animated Blood, Crude Humor, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of
Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence."
University of British Columbia education professor Don Krug is surprised the
game rating allows kids as young as 13 to buy it, but said he doesn't think
a ban is the solution.
"If we end up banning it, it's probably not going to go away," he told CTV
British Columbia. "It's probably going to become something kids are going to
want even more and we put it into a format where we can't address it
Krug believes students are smart enough to differentiate between fantasy and
"Does this video heighten the sense more bullying will take place? I don't
necessarily think that's the case," he said. "I think actually what could
happen is... it could be used as a mechanism or ... a teaching strategy to
deal with various forms of media literacy around how bullying happens."
One observer suspects the teachers' call for a boycott may actually play
into the marketing of Rockstar.
"I think what is happening specifically with 'Bully' is that parents and the
teachers who are upset about this game are reacting more to the marketing
strategy of the game itself ... than the actual content of the game," CTV
technology columnist Kris Abel told CTV.ca.
In the game, the player goes to school and takes classes -- and has to make
choices between being a good student or a mischievous student, he said.
If one were to market "Bully" that way, "I don't think it would sell very
well," Abel said.
"But if you're marketing to kids, and you specifically create a campaign
that's going to incite a reaction from parents and teachers -- any time you
upset authority figures, you're going to get good sales from kids."
Abel thought "Bully" was an inaccurate title. "A more appropriate title
might be 'School Life' or 'Surviving High School'," he said.
The game seems to already be attracting plenty of attention among video
gamers. One Ottawa video game retailer says he can't keep enough copies of
"Bully" in stock.
"We are stuck with three copies on the shelf right now and they are probably
going to be sold out by the end of the day," said Game Shack's Luigi
Vaccaro. "Tomorrow we will get more and they will sell out tomorrow."
In many teen-rated games, the weapons can involve chainsaws and guns.
Bully's worst weapon is a slingshot, Abel said.
But Noble said "Bully" gives the impression that the bullying of disabled
students, overweight girls and teachers is okay. "Our members have said,
'look, enough is enough,'" she said.
Noble said parents must educate themselves as to what's on their children's
"Whether it's satire or not, we need to help kids distinguish those fine
lines," she said.
A spokesperson for Take-Two Interactive wasn't available for comment.
With files from CTV's Scott Laurie and Dag Sharman
Teachers demand ban on bullying video game
Expert derides effort as 'flailing at windmills'
Globe and Mail
March 4, 2008
A coalition of groups representing four million teachers in several
countries, including Canada, is urging retailers to refuse to sell a
controversial video game about school bullying.
Bully: Scholarship Edition features a shaven-headed teenager who adjusts to
life at a new boarding school by harassing others, which the organizations
say glorifies bullying. The abuse includes dunking pupils' heads in toilets,
photographing them naked and physically assaulting them. Teachers are also
"We're asking retailers to be responsible," Emily Noble, president of the
Canadian Teachers' Federation, said Monday. "Yes, they can sell it and make
a buck out of this, but is this the kind of marketing that they want to be
[doing], selling games that glorify violence?"
The video game, which goes on sale Tuesday, is an updated version of the
original game, Bully. Both titles were developed by Vancouver-based Rockstar
Games, which is also responsible for the controversial Grand Theft Auto and
Monday, a spokesman noted that Bully won several awards and said critics are
"As a matter of principle, we hope everyone starts off by saying, 'Okay, we
know this is an entertainment experience,'" Rodney Walker said. "Video games
are not just for children. This game happens to be about high school and
it's a tough kid in a tough environment, but it's also one of the funniest
games you will play. And if you don't have our sense of humour, we respect
that, but we think that fans'. voice has to be at least as important as the
The game puts players in control of Jimmy Hopkins, a rebellious 15-year-old
who is abandoned at a corrupt boarding school by his mother and new
stepfather. Players learn to navigate the campus's cliques, girls and other
bullies, employing methods using violence. The CTF, which is spearheading
the call for a ban on sales, says there is a link between violent video
games and aggressive behaviour in children. (Some studies support this
conclusion, while others do not.)
"What it does is it encourages kids to target other kids, to be a bully with
other kids. This doesn't help us as teachers in the work that we're doing at
school. It also targets teachers at the school as well," Ms. Noble said.
The coalition is made up of eight teachers' unions in Canada, the United
States, Britain, South Korea, Australia and the Caribbean.
But calling for a ban on the game is like "flailing at windmills" when it
comes to actually confronting bullying, said Michael Hoechsmann, an
assistant professor at McGill University and an expert on the role of
violence in video games.
"As tempting as it may seem, I'm not so certain that banning this will
somehow result in a more peaceful and more loving school population," he
said, adding that he hasn't found any compelling evidence to suggest that
playing a violent video game results in violent actions.
Furthermore, Prof. Hoechsmann said, the menacing and authoritarian school
environment in Bully is so exaggerated that the protagonist is forced to act
as a sort of vigilante.
"This young person being confronted with all that seeks the one remedy that
he appears to have access to. If there was a peaceful schools committee at
the Bullworth Academy, maybe Jimmy would have joined the committee."
The teachers' group is focusing on Bully: Scholarship Edition, which has the
same storyline as Bully with some new content, although it also objects to
the first version, which was launched in 2006. In response to that release,
two British retail chains said they would not stock the game. A Florida
lawyer unsuccessfully tried to have it banned, and a school superintendent
in the same state warned parents against buying it. The latest effort is
part of a larger awareness campaign by teachers' organizations about
bullying and cyber-bullying, which can destroy lives. In 2006, Megan Meier,
a 13-year-old Missouri girl, hanged herself after being bullied online by,
it was later revealed, an adult female neighbour who created a fake MySpace
profile to torment the teen.
A recent review of Bully: Scholarship Edition on the video game website
IGN.com calls it "a light-hearted simulation of the horrors of high school."
Most of the combat is hand-to-hand fighting, the review says, though there
are also other weapons: "Firecrackers explode in an opponent's face, itching
powder distracts an enemy, stink bombs damage their pride and marbles make
pursuers tumble to the ground."
The game, which is rated Teen for players 13 and over, is being released for
XBox 360 and Wii, which is a console that allows players to physically act
out their characters' movements.
With a report from Unnati Gandhi
Bully video game sparks Supt. concern; not students
October 29, 2006
Boca Raton News
By Nicol Jenkins
Palm Beach County Superintendent Art Johnson's message was loud and clear to parents- don't buy Bully, a newly released video game critics peg as promoting more school violence.
"I want to alert all of our parents of a disturbing new video product. The game is called "Bully" by Rockstar Games Inc. This game shows students committing acts of verbal and physical violence against other students at school. "Bully" fosters and rewards the use of violence and revenge against students who engage in bullying behavior," Johnson said in a mass message sent to county parents. "Our staff and prevention programs are proactive in addressing incidents of bullying, harassment and violence by utilizing safe and effective strategies."
The message continued, "We know that much of school violence and fatal school shootings have their roots in the effects of social cruelty and bullying behavior of victims. We strongly suggest you be aware of the video "Bully," as its negative influence could be detrimental to the educational, emotional, social development and well being of your child. We recognize and support your efforts in being a positive role model in your child's life. We invite you to consult with your school's administration and staff to become more involved in learning about how to keep your child, our schools, and communities safe from dangerous and negative influences."
Bully, a newly released video game by Rockstar Games, Inc. that can be played on PlayStation 2 and X-Box, surrounds 15-year-old Jimmy Hopkins who attends Bullworth Academy. Hopkins can fight off bullies at the school with a baseball bat or slingshot. The game is rated "T" for teenagers 13 and older.
Critics including Johnson think the game promotes violence at a time when school shootings are becoming more prevalent.
However, the majority of Boca teens interviewed by the Boca Raton News said video games didn't promote school violence.
"I've been playing video games for a long time and I never felt the urge to beat someone up or use violence. It's never affected me," said 17-year-old Andres Branstetter, a senior at Boca Raton Community High School.
Instead of blaming video games for school violence, Branstetter thinks a teen's "environment" and "guardian" plays a role in violent behavior.
"If a teen is in a bad environment where everyone is a jerk, it will prompt them to be a bad person," he said.
Boca teen Daniel Greenstein agrees. He plays Grand Theft Auto and other sports video games.
"I think kids play video games for fun," he said. "I don't think it causes violence."
Teen Amanda Sholl, on the other hand, has mixed feelings on the topic of video game violence.
"It depends on the game," the 17-year-old said. "I don't think most video games will affect people's judgment in real life. But if a parent feels like a teen is not responsible enough and already has been violent, they shouldn't be able to play the game."
Boca High School diffuses bullying behaviors through staff intervention, according to principal Geoff McKee.
"What we found that works the best is having someone that knows the kids mediating," McKee said. "If any of our staff see a situation that's inappropriate, they immediately get involved and try to work out the situation so it doesn't happen again."
Rockstar Games under fire for 'Bully' video game
October 23, 2006
CTV News Staff
A controversial video game called "Bully" has hit stores in Canada, much to the dismay of groups that have been protesting the premise as soon as it was announced last year.
Critics of the game, which features a 15-year-old wannabe tough guy, say it trains the next generation of violent bullies.
Florida lawyer Jack Thompson, one of the most vocal opponent of violent games, has not yet played "Bully" but contends it could lead to student violence.
Thompson asked a Florida judge to declare the game a public nuisance and ban its sale.
"The premise of Bully is that it is sometimes acceptable to deal with bullying by becoming the ultimate bully," Thompson wrote in his complaint. "This was the dynamic at Columbine. It has been the dynamic in other tragic instances of school violence."
But the judge rejected his attempts to ban the videogame.
After he watched someone play it, Florida Judge Ronald Friedman concluded: "There's a lot of violence. A whole lot. (But) less than we see on television every night."
The PlayStation 2 game, which is expected to be one of the holiday season's biggest sells, is rated T for teenagers aged 13 and older.
It follows a year in the life of Jimmy Hopkins, who gets dropped off at New England prep school Bullworth Academy as his mother leaves for her fifth honeymoon.
Predictably, he is soon forced to defend himself against school bullies as he navigates a complex social hierarchy dominated by cliques of greasers, jocks, nerds and preps.
Game creator Rockstar, which developed "Bully" at its Vancouver studio, has defended its creation.
"Some people like our games; some don't," company spokesman Rodney Walker told The Associated Press.
"We can't try to beat these arguments. Our whole process we believe with 'Bully' is we have to let the game speak for itself. We just want them to know that this is just entertainment."
Rockstar Games, the bad boy of the gaming industry, is also behind the oft-criticized "Grand Theft Auto" series, which feature murder, drug dealing and prostitution.
In "Bully," Hopkins uses classic moves such as giving wedgies, and the most powerful weapons such as slingshots and baseball bats.
Point-scoring activities include beating up and embarrassing other students, setting off fire alarms and assaulting teachers.
But bad behaviour also has its consequences.
If Hopkins stays out past curfew, the screen blurs as he becomes drowsy and eventually falls asleep. If he plays truant, he is surrounded by a swarm of adults voicing their disapproval.
There is even some incentive for attending the twice-daily classes - he gets the improved ability to flirt with girls.
Rockstar became embroiled in another controversy last year after a hacker uncovered a hidden sex scene in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."
Meanwhile, several pending lawsuits blame Rockstar and parent company Take Two Interactive Software Inc. for real acts of violence.
Last month, relatives of three people slain by a 14-year-old on newsman Sam Donaldson's New Mexico ranch sued Rockstar, claiming the crimes would not have taken place had the teenager never played the video game.
Another case in Alabama against Rockstar, Take-Two and Sony holds "Grand Theft Auto" responsible for the 2003 murders of two police officers and a dispatcher at a rural police department.
Thompson is the attorney for the plaintiffs in both cases.
Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship in New York, told AP that newer forms of media have historically been blamed for society's problems just because they are new targets.
Comic books were held responsible for juvenile delinquency in the 1950s, and similar arguments have been raised over the years against rock and rap music, she said.
"It presents the perfect irony about censorship," she told AP.
"People who want to censor things don't really think about them. They just want the subject off limits. They're into creating taboos."
Game producer Jeronimo Barrera vowed that the developers at Rockstar will continue to make games on their own terms.
"We usually pick things that are really difficult to do," Barrera told AP.
"In this case, it was the experience of your school days in this living breathing world. We're not the types that do market research. It's more from the heart. We have a passion for what we do."
With files from The Associated Press
Picking a fight
Bully rekindles the debate over video games and school violence
October 21, 2006
The Boston Globe
By Barbara Meltz
A new video game that deals with a class bully is reigniting the controversy over school violence and drawing heated criticism from bullying prevention experts who say the game could embolden teen players to use aggression.
The National Institute on Media and the Family is telling parents to beware and urging retailers not to sell the game Bully to teens. An international bullying prevention program at Clemson University in South Carolina is encouraging boycotts. In Britain, three major electronic retailers say they won't stock it.
``We don't think this game is appropriate for kids of any age," said psychologist Dave Walsh , president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, where a staffer played for nine of the 40 hours it takes to play Bully. ``It glamorizes and rewards the kind of anti social behaviors that teachers struggle with every day."
The game does not include guns, blood , or gore. Critics say it is violent nonetheless.
``In one scene, the so-called hero sits in a tree like a sniper," said Walsh. ``Instead of a firearm, he has a slingshot. His target is the football team."
Jack Thompson , a Miami attorney who represented the parents of three girls who were killed by a classmate in a 1997 school shooting in Paducah, Ky., tried unsuccessfully to block sales of Bully in Florida. ``If anything, the sanitation of violence makes it more dangerous," he said in an interview. ``You see no consequences for your actions other than your victory. . . . It is predictable that this will produce copy catting in schools around the country."
The company behind Bully, Rockstar Games, has seen controversy before. It produced Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which Wal-Mart refused to sell because of its violence and which Rockstar recalled last year after it was discovered to contain a hidden scene of graphic sex. Rockstar spokesman Rodney Walker was not forthcoming in an interview when asked to discuss Bully. ``I don't understand your question," he said several times when asked about the game's content.
In a subsequent e-mail, he wrote: ``We'll never convince everyone, but we hope people will enjoy the story in Bully as much as they enjoy similar stories in books, plays, and movies."
Bully centers on Jimmy Hopkins , the new kid at a reform school. When he sees nerds being bullied, he decides to help them.
``We encourage bystanders to do that," said Barbara Coloroso , author of ``The Bully, the Bullied , and the Bystander." Unfortunately, she added, ``that's where the redeeming qualities end." What ensues is a series of escalating acts of aggression that Coloroso said ``legitimize violence as a solution to a problem."
When the game was released Tuesday, her 29-year-old son, Joe, and a friend began to play. While they both said it was ``cool in a Grand Theft Auto kind of way," Joe said some content is questionable. ``You run into a gym teacher at a porn shop," he said. ``You take over cliques by whomping them. You beat up a homeless man." Even when Jimmy gets a good grade on a chemistry test, his reward enables aggression: He gets firecrackers and stink bombs to use against the bullies.
``This is an example of the inadequacy of the rating system," said Walsh, referring to the voluntary ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Bully is rated T, for teens 13 and older. Walsh would prefer an M (mature) rating, for 17 and older.
Thompson is trying to get the rating board to do just that. In a forceful letter Thursday to the board, he argues that an M rating is warranted because of what he learned from a college student who this week managed to play most of the game and discovered that, in its later stages, the player can beat up girls and school faculty, and even throw explosive devices, with little consequence. The game teaches children to engage in ``bully-back vendettas," he writes: ``Every bullying expert in the world knows that this is a recipe for disaster, a recipe for Columbine."
What troubles educator Marlene Snyder , national training coordinator for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program at Clemson, is that Bully is set in a high school rather than in a fantastical setting and that it deals with relationships rather than with inanimate objects such as cars.
``Because it's torn from a teen's real life, it becomes a how-to manual," she says. ``In a world of escalating violence, this is not the message we need to be giving kids."
The current practice in bully prevention is to empower bystanders, but the idea is to marginalize a bully rather than resort to his tactics.
``The first thing to do is change the climate in a classroom or school, so everyone knows what specific aggressive behaviors are not OK -- for instance, `In this class, we don't call people names,' " says sociologist David Finkelhor , director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Classmates need to learn how to show disapproval and when to get adult help, and adults need to know how to intervene. ``A lot of bullying happens because adults allow it to with their silence," says Nancy Mullin of the Wellesley Centers for Women, co author of the ``Quit It!" anti-bullying curriculum.
What's particularly sad, says Coloroso, is that most teen players will have had some kind of real-life experience with bullying.
``For a young kid who's been relentlessly tormented, afraid to go to school, socially isolated, the game provides a kind of comfort: `Yes! This guy gets back at them!' " she says. Even if it doesn't incite that teen to aggression -- which video games may have done in the case of the high school shootings at Columbine and elsewhere -- she says, ``The more they play, the more the neural pathways in the brain connect violence to pleasure."
At least one school psychologist has no problem with Bully, which he played for about an hour. The self-published author of ``Bullies to Buddies" and an acknolwedged fan of violent games, Izzy Kalman of Staten Island says he was invited to preview Bully. ``I am comfortable recommending the game," he said. ``If it incites aggression, I'm pretty sure it would be play fighting."
Doug Gentile , a developmental psychologist at Iowa State University doesn't buy it.
``Study after study since the 1960s shows that there's nothing wrong with seeing violence if what you learn is that violence is bad," he says. ``But if it's just that the good guy is better at violence than the bad guy, that's a problem."
That gets to the other problem with Bully," says Joe Coloroso: ``You sometimes have the chance to choose nonviolence. But then you lose."
Contact Barbara Meltz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Controversial new 'Bully' in town
"Bully" video game is rated "T" (for ages 13 and older)
It's expected to be a hot selling game for the holidays
Playstation 2 game costs $39.99
October 17, 2006
CBS 4 News
By Marybel Rodriguez
(CBS4 News) MIAMI There's a new bully in town starting Tuesday as the controversial “Bully” video game goes on sale.
The game takes place at the fictional Bullworth Academy and follows a year in the life of a young new student named “Jimmie”.
The game, rated “T” for ages 13 and older, is about climbing and navigating the social ladder at school. When “Jimmy” gets hassled, he decides to fight back against the bullies, and relies on such classic moves as giving wedgies, firing a slingshot and dunking someone’s head in the toilet. He can also slug someone with a baseball bat, but it breaks after a few swings.
The game has faced a number of critics, who believe the game is inappropriate for easily influenced kids and they say the game encourages players to respond to bullying with violence.
In addition, parental advisory groups are critical of the decision to sell the game under the “T” (for teen) rating, instead of the restrictive “M” (for mature) rating.
South Florida attorney Jack Thompson filed a legal complaint against the company, Take2 Interactive, as well as Wal-Mart and GameStop, in an effort to stop the sale of the game to minors.
He claimed that the game violated the State’s nuisance law, which prohibits activities that can injure the health of the community.
The suit was part of a long-term personal crusade for Thompson, who has sued game developers in several states and pushed for legislation banning violent games. Thompson termed Bully a "Columbine simulator," but others have defended the game saying there are no guns, blood or deaths in this game.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ronald Friedman agreed and dismissed the suit last Friday because he said the game is not violent enough for him to prevent it from being sold to minors.
The Miami-Dade School District has asked parents to not allow their children to play the game and a U.K. website, Bullying Online, that addresses bullying issues is calling for a ban in the United Kingdom.
Despite the criticism and legal battles, the $39.99 PlayStation 2 game is expected to be one of the holiday season's top blockbusters.
In many South Florida stores, pre-sales for the game have been sky high so chances are the game is sold out, until new shipments arrive.
Bully is banned by Currys
October 17, 2006
The Sun (U.K.)
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
CURRYS is refusing to stock a controversial new computer game originally called Bully. PlayStation2’s Canis Canem Edit, which launches in Britain on October 27, has caused a massive storm in the US.
It has been accused by MPs and charities of glamorising bullying in schools with violent and intimidating scenes.
Canis Canem Edit, Latin for ‘Dog Eat Dog’, invites players to adopt the persona of Jimmy Hopkins.
He is a teenage hoodlum who has been expelled from every school in his area.
Jimmy is made to attend the ultra-strict Bullworth Academy, a reform school, where he falls foul of school gangs, prefects and corrupt teachers.
Points are awarded for beating up other pupils, catapulting eggs, throwing stink bombs, setting off fire alarms and head-butting teachers.
There are points for humiliating other students — such as making them punch themselves or wiping spit on their faces.
Online retailers AMAZON and HMV are advertising the game on their websites.
But Currys, owned by DSG INTERNATIONAL, will not be selling the game.
A spokesman said: “We’re a family-friendly retailer. We don’t think this game is appropriate for our stores and have decided not to stock it.”
Brawling begins over Bully game
October 15, 2005
By Susie O'Brien
A NEW video game featuring violent schoolyard bullies fighting each other has been slammed by anti-violence experts.
Bully, which is to be released in Australia for the new school year, is believed to feature students from rival gangs fighting for supremacy of their school. Graphics show tough-looking boys brawling on school grounds, including a vicious kicking match.
Overseas commentators predict the content of Bully could enable it to attract a G rating and be available for schoolchildren.
State Youth Affairs Minister Jacinta Allan will monitor the game's release and alert Victorian schools if problems arise.
The PlayStation2 and Xbox game is being developed by Take2 Interactive's US arm Rockstar.
Early Bully advertising from Rockstar says: "As a troublesome schoolboy you'll laugh and cringe as you stand up to bullies, get picked on by teachers, play pranks on malicious kids, win or lose the girl and ultimately learn how to navigate the obstacles of the fictional reform school Bullworth Academy."
The company also produced the highly controversial Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt games.
News of Bully's development comes as research from the Alannah and Madeline Foundation suggests one in six Australian children is bullied at school.
Overseas studies have established a direct link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour in children.
Foundation chairman John Bertrand said the thought that "companies are making money from this national and international tragedy is particularly repugnant to me".
Mr Bertrand said any game that promoted bullying ignored the hurt it caused.
Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci called on the Federal Government to restrict the game.
"If we do let it in it should have an R rating so it doesn't fall into the hands of children," he said.
Ms Allan said electronic games that promoted bullying should not be on shop shelves.
Simon Ramsey, public relations manager of Take2 Interactive, denied the game condoned bullying.
"We are confident that the game doesn't promote bullying in any shape or form and people will see that when they view the final product," he said.
Outraged teens fight against violent game
September 29, 2005
Detroit Free Press
By Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki, Free Press Education Writer
The hero is a troubled kid who is bullied while negotiating the social trials of middle school. He gives swirlies and beats classmates and even teachers.
According to various magazines and Internet sites devoted to video games, the action is part of "Bully," a new video game. It isn't due out until next spring, but it is already raising questions about its effect on kids.
The premise of the game, developed by the company Rockstar, has some worried about whether teens will understand that the game's cyber strategies won't work in their real-world schools.
"We're still trying to understand, as a society, that there's nothing funny about bullying," Glenn Stutsky, a clinical instructor in social work at Michigan State University and an expert on bullying, said last week. "Bullying is abuse. It's not boys being boys; it's not a rite of passage.
"What we don't want kids to think is that strategies in the virtual school yard will be successful, or even an option, in the real school yard."
Rockstar's spokesman wouldn't discuss the game, which is to be released in April. "There is no buzz. It doesn't exist because it's not finished," Rodney Walker said last week. "We hope people will respect the creative process and ignore unfounded rumors and not spread unfounded rumors."
Rockstar has produced some very controversial games, including the "Grand Theft Auto" trilogy, in which players steal cars by almost any means, including murder.
Alarms about "Bully" have gone up, ranging from online petitions to student protests.
Taylor Malzahn, a 16-year-old junior at Lake Orion High School, was so alarmed by the description she read in her younger brother's video game magazine that she rallied her classmates against "Bully."
"I was actually just shocked that my brother thought the game was cool," Taylor said. Her class in educational leadership had just discussed bullying, so she brought the article to school. The class decided to campaign against the game.
"We want to get the message across that being called 'stupid' is not fun and should not be rewarded with points," said Megan Sulewski, 17, a senior at Lake Orion. "It can also teach them violent ways, and they'll use them in real life."
Lake Orion senior Joe Nowicki, 17, said the class is worried that "Bully" could even trigger a Columbine-style tragedy, where the two perpetrators left messages saying they wanted revenge for previous bullying.
"After that incident, I don't think you can overlook a game like this," he said.
Debra Hernadez Jozefowicz-Simbeni an assistant professor in Wayne State University's School of Social Work, said she wouldn't be buying the game for her children.
"We know that in terms of school violence and school shootings in particular, one of the main factors that contributed to the school violence was bullying," Jozefowicz-Simbeni said. "We know that media has an effect on kids across the board."
Some retailers, such as Wal-Mart, say they haven't made a decision on stocking the game. Many stores won't sell ultra-violent video games. Best Buy declined to sell "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" after it was rated for adults only, spokesman Jay Musolf said.
Video games can be rated in one of seven categories, ranging from early childhood through adults only, said Patricia Vance, president of the National Software Ratings Board. "Bully" won't be rated until it's released. However, less bloody violence may give it a rating suitable for teens, despite the questionable message. Back at Lake Orion High, however, at least some students were hopeful.
"I feel like we can make a difference, even if it's just one class, " Taylor said.
Her class was busy putting the finishing touches on their campaign this week. In one classroom, students made posters and signs. In another, other students sat at computers writing letters to congressional representatives and local retailers.
"If we can get one mom or dad to not buy the game, we've been successful," teacher Dave Simpson said.
Rockstar Games' 'Bully' won't take your lunch money until '06
Company says development concerns, not protests, caused delay
Critics of violent video games won't have "Bully" to kick around this year.
September 7, 2005
Take-Two Interactive, parent company of "Grand Theft Auto" maker Rockstar Games, announced on Wednesday (September 7) it was delaying shipment of Rockstar's latest hot-button game, the reform-school brawler "Bully." The title had been expected in stores by November but now won't be available until at least February, when it will be released for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.
"We need more development time," Rockstar spokesperson Rodney Walker said. "That's the thing, basically. It's trying to honor our commitment to making innovative and groundbreaking games. All of our release dates are based on what's right for the game."
Walker said protests against the game did not factor into the delay. "[The delay is] completely related to the creative process," he said.
Rockstar's "Bully" Web site describes the game as follows: "As a troublesome schoolboy, you'll laugh and cringe as you stand up to bullies, get picked on by teachers, play pranks on malicious kids, win or lose the girl, and ultimately learn to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school Bullworth Academy."
That description, and the handful of screenshots released to the press this year, had been enough to provoke attorney Jack Thompson, a frequent video game critic who described the title to CNN last month as a "Columbine simulator." Rockstar defended the game by referring to it as a work in progress.
None of the few glimpses Rockstar allowed of the game indicated that the protagonist would be using guns or engaging in violence similar to the 1999 school massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
Critics of Rockstar's games have interpreted the company's games loosely before. The "Grand Theft Auto" series, for example, has been criticized for rewarding the player for killing police officers. But the game actually penalizes players for violence against police with a wanted-level system that causes the in-game authorities to aggressively crack down on players who attack the police force.
And while furor over violent games has generally emerged only after they hit stores, concerns over "Bully" were raised well in advance of its release. In early August, a youth group called the Peaceaholics protested the release of the game, calling on the company to scuttle work on "Bully," only sell its violent and sexually explicit games in adult video stores, and atone for the release of its "Grand Theft Auto" games, in part, by creating a fund for victims of carjackings.
Rockstar was also criticized recently for leaving hidden interactive sex scenes in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" (see " 'Grand Sex Auto'? Sex Scenes Possibly Hidden In Game Have Critics In A Lather"). While the company laid blame for the revelation of the so-called "Hot Coffee" hack on modders who figured out how to unlock the sexual content (see " 'GTA' Sex Scandal Changing How Industry Looks At Modders"), public scrutiny centered on the company that had actually made those scenes: Rockstar. After the game was re-rated to "Adults Only," most retailers returned their copies — some 800,000 of them — to Rockstar.
Some of that "Hot Coffee" heat seems to be spilling over onto "Bully."
Take-Two President and CEO Paul Eibeler also announced Wednesday during a company-earnings call that the company will release M-rated, "Hot Coffee"-free versions of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" for PC and Xbox next week and for the PS2 "in the next quarter" (October-January).
Eibeler said 2006 would see an extension of the "GTA" franchise but did not elaborate on what form that will take.
"Bully" joins EA's "Godfather" and Nintendo's "Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess" among the prominent games that have delayed beyond the upcoming holiday season.
New violent video game raises concern
August 24, 2005
Lou Dobbs Tonight, CNN
Tonight, another disturbing example of our culture in decline. A new video game to be released this fall encourages children who have been bullied to become bullies themselves. Controversy has now erupted over the game and whether it should be sold at all.
Lisa Sylvester has the story.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The game us called "Bully." The kid who was bullied becomes the bully, taunting, beating up fellow students, and intimidating teachers. "Bully" is made by Rockstar Games, the same company behind the controversial game "Grand Theft Auto."
JACK THOMPSON, VIDEO GAME ACTIVIST: And what you are in effect doing is rehearsing your physical revenge and violence against those whom you have been victimized by. And then you, like Klebold and Harris in Columbine, become the ultimate bully.
SYLVESTER: In 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High before committing suicide. Activist Jack Thompson calls "Bully" a Columbine simulator. He has filed a lawsuit to prevent retailers from distributing the game, scheduled to be released October 5.
Studies have shown that violent video games increase aggressive behavior in teens. The American Psychological Association last week called for greater oversight of the industry.
JEFF MCINTYRE, AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSN.: The children no longer just passive witnesses to violence that may happen in the media, but now they're actually becoming involved in the scenarios, being rewarded.
SYLVESTER: Rockstar, in a statement, said, "Some of our critics are only promoting stereotypes about video games and spreading rumors about something they haven't seen. "Bully" is still a work in progress. When it's released, we hope that people will form their own opinions.
Those who oppose the game hope that day will never come. "Bully" is expected to be rated M for mature audiences. But because the video game industry is self-regulated, there is little that can be done to keep a retailer from selling any violent video game to a minor.
SYLVESTER: There is one exception. Illinois's governor signed a bill this summer that fines retail stores caught selling violent games to kids, but it is the only state that has such a law, and the industry is fighting that as well -- Lou.
DOBBS: Lisa, thank you. Lisa Sylvester.
Activist bullies video game sellers
An opponent of violent video games has sued retailers to prevent distribution of the upcoming Bully game.
August 18, 2005
By Christina Hoag
Coral Gables activist Jack Thompson on Wednesday sued a host of big-box retailers to prevent them from distributing the yet-to-be-released Bully video game that he alleges could incite youngsters to violence.
Thompson, a lawyer who is known for fighting radio obscenity and violent video games, sued Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, Circuit City, GameStop and Toys 'R' Us, seeking an order to bar the game's release on Oct. 5.
''The spate of school shootings is unsettling and to have a game that glamorizes and in fact rehearses kids in violence is reprehensible and dangerous,'' he said.
Players of the game, which is expected to receive an ''M'' rating for ''mature'' audiences, take on the role of bullied school children who fight back by becoming bullies, inflicting violence as revenge on classmates and teachers who annoy them.
Thompson said his attention was drawn to the game after he received a call earlier this year from an employee of the game manufacturer Rockstar, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software, who alerted him of the violent content in the upcoming Bully.
Take-Two is the maker of the popular Grand Theft Auto games, also known for their violent content.
A spokesman for New York-based Take-Two did not return a call for comment.
Circuit City and Wal-Mart do not comment on pending litigation, spokespersons said.
Representatives of the other retailers did not return calls.
Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association on Wednesday called for the reduction of violence in video games because of the danger that it leads children to inflict violence.
Computer game lets children play the bully
August 14, 2005
The Sunday Times
By Andrew White
THE makers of Grand Theft Auto, the bestselling computer game in which players’ characters deal drugs, steal cars and kill policemen, are set to spark controversy with a new game which rewards school bullying.
Rockstar Games, which was founded by two London school friends, is already in deep trouble with American politicians and regulators after it emerged that the latest version of Grand Theft Auto contains hidden sex scenes which can be accessed by children.
In the firm’s new game, Bully, due to be released in October, players adopt the persona of Jimmy Hopkins, a 15-year-old thug who has been incarcerated in a boys’ boarding school.
Points can be scored by terrorising other pupils with a range of physical and psychological abuse. Players use their on-screen persona to kick and punch other pupils and even to spit in their food.
They can use weapons such as baseball bats and catapults. There is also an option to flush pupils’ heads down lavatories.
The game has angered children’s campaigners. Liz Carnell, director of the charity Bullying Online, said that the theme of the game made it unsuitable for release. “Bullying is a terrible problem in the UK and it really is not an appropriate theme for a game,” said Carnell.
Last year high street retailers including Dixons, Currys and PC World withdrew another Rockstar game — Manhunt — from their shelves. The ban came after Stefan Pakeerah, 14, from Leicester, was beaten with a claw hammer and stabbed repeatedly. His parents blamed the murder on the game because their son’s killer was a frequent player. In the game, players can earn points for their character committing murders.
More recently the latest version of Grand Theft Auto has been withdrawn from stores across America after it emerged that secret sex scenes contained on the disk could be accessed by children. The game had been given a 17 certificate. This has now been raised to 18 and Rockstar has been forced to issue a special piece of software to disable access to the sex scenes.
Senator Hillary Clinton has called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the scandal. She criticised Rockstar for “stealing the innocence of our children and making the difficult job of being a parent even harder”.
Rockstar was last week playing down the content of its new Bully game. A spokesman said: “More and more people recognise that the stories in video games have as many themes and plot lines as books and movies. Just as books aren’t judged by their covers, video games shouldn’t be judged by their titles or individual scenes.”
New 'Bully' videogame under fire
August 2, 2005
WABC New York
By Eyewitness News' Lucy Yang
(New York -WABC) — The company that produced the now-banned Grand Theft Auto is preparing to launch another controversial videogame. It's called Bully and it's set in a school for juvenile offenders.
Now at least one watchdog group is trying to stop the game's release.
Here's Lucy Yang with the story.
They were making some noise today outside of the Rockstar headquarters in Lower Manhattan. A youth group from Washington D.C. protesting, what they call, the company's manufacture and marketing of violent games to children.
Ronald Moten, Peaceaholics: "It desensitizes them and makes them think that these acts are alright - it's alright to whup a woman, it's alright to steal a car, it's alright to mess with a prostitute, it's alright to curse and to use drugs."
They say Rockstar's lastest game, called Bully, goes over the top. The game is set at a virtual school and though not yet rated, critics complain it teaches students how to be the ultimate bully by exacting violent revenge on both other students and teachers. The fear is that it could trigger real life tragedies like Columbine.
Jack Thompson, Attorney: "The last thing we need in America's schools is a celebration of the concept of revenge violently against those who you feel have bullied you."
The protest comes just a week after Grand Auto Theft: San Andreas, also made by Rockstar, was ordered off the market. That game had hidden sexual content easily accessible to children.
So, does violence in virtual classrooms promotes violence in real classrooms? Child psychologist Dr. Charles Soulet believes some youngsters are more vulnerable than others.
Dr. Charles Soulet, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital: "It's not just a simple one to one relationship between whether you watch it and then you do it, but it's the kids who identify with the aggressive characters who then go on to play it out."
We were unable to reach a spokesperson from Rockstar for comment today. The game, which is set at Bullyworth Academy, is due to hit the shelves in October.
Bully to blacken Rockstar's other eye?
August 1, 2005
By Curt Feldman
In the beginning, there was Hot Coffee. And it was hot.
The Hot Coffee fuss surrounded a dormant piece of hot-to-trot game code that was able to be unlocked on all versions of the best-selling, M-rated Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. That small gift to gamers put Take-Two in hot water with the industry's voluntary ratings board, the ESRB. Last month, the board revoked the game's M rating, rerated the product AO, and forced the game's parent company to pull existing copies (or supply retailers with AO stickers) and manufacture new game discs with the mod-induced sex games deleted.
Of course, stores could still sell the newly rated game, but few did, given long-standing policies of most major retailers not carrying AO-rated games.
Cost of the Hot Coffee episode? $40-50 million for Take-Two. Ditto that amount for the industry.
There are a few recent developments in the ongoing saga of Take-Two and its portfolio of M-rated products (although it's worth mentioning, this is a company that sells more than just M-rated games...Global Star Software, a publishing label of Take-Two publishes the E-rated Leaping Lizards!, among other games rated for all ages).
A day after one Florence Cohen dropped docs on the game publisher in US District Court, a second consumer did the same. Both complaints seek to establish a class of plaintiffs that charge Take-Two with a number of malevolent acts, including Consumer Deception, False Advertising, and Common Law Fraud (all based on New York State General Business Law statutes).
And the plot thickens. The company's upcoming game, Bully, has entered the overarching Take-Two narrative, now in the following two instances.
The first is from a statement by the Britain-based Bullying Online, an organization devoted to ending all forms of "bullying" on school grounds in the UK. Reportedly, that group is seeking a ban of the title on its home turf.
"This game should be banned," the organization's Liz Carnell has said. "I'm extremely worried that kids will play it and then act out what they've seen in the classroom.... Bullying is not a game by any stretch of the imagination. We have around four suicidal children contacting us every day."
Rockstar Games describes the upcoming title as one where gamers play as a "troublesome schoolboy" who "stands up to bullies, gets picked on by teachers, plays pranks on malicious kids, wins or loses the girl, and ultimately learns to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school."
Closer to home, Florida attorney Jack Thompson, an active campaigner who has in the past targeted aggressive e-mail campaigns at politicians and company officers he hopes to influence, is himself mounting an effort against the game--specifically, against certain game retailers as well as the game's publisher.
"A check of Internet web sites today reveals that Wal-Mart, GameStop, ToysRUs, and Amazon.com are all presently pre-selling the game with no questions asked as to age of the buyers," Thompson said in a statement.
Bully is currently unrated, but based on previews, most industry sources expect it to ship with an M rating, meaning it should be sold only to those 17 and older.
In another statement, Thompson asks Take-Two president Paul Eibeler to reconsider the game's upcoming release. "I and others are today calling upon you to stop the release of Bully," the statement, in part, read.
Also contained in the statement from Thompson is a reference to a demonstration slated to take place tomorrow in lower Manhattan, outside the corporate headquarters of Take-Two Interactive. According to Thompson, two busloads of Washington, DC schoolchildren will protest the game's release, though it was not clear what organization was promoting or funding the demonstration.
Just as Hot Coffee cools down, another bully, it seems, lurks in the corners.