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Overall, Bully is a pretty mild game. There are bullies in Bullworth Academy, but the main characters’ missions typically involve protecting the weaker students and putting the real school bullies in their place. In the meantime you have to go to class on time to solve puzzles or you wind up in detention. You have to eat good food and get enough sleep or your energy bar drops to nothing and forces you to start your mission over again. You can’t beat up on other students at random or the school prefects will hunt you down and put you in detention. You need to do odd jobs like mowing lawns to earn money.
There are actually some pretty good messages in the game, which never get covered by the media when discussing Bully.
As for the stereotypes, Bully is an entertainment like any movie out there about high school and there are always stereotypes — it’s really no different than The Breakfast Club in that respect: some female characters are Molly Ringwald, others are Ally Sheedy. Stereotypes apply to the male characters as well, so there’s no real sexism in the way characters are portrayed.
The irony of the controversy is that Bully is an average game at best, but the endless amount of negative press from groups like the teachers’ federation have made it a best seller. It’s free publicity that makes kids want to try the game for themselves.
It’s also time to address this idea that games are somehow dangerous, all because the Columbine killers were reportedly game fanatics. Whenever there is a mass killing among students these days, critics are quick to suggest that the killer was probably an avid video game player even if turns out not to be the case — the killer at Virginia Tech never played games, and the killer at the University of Northern Illinois was a casual player at best.
It’s not exactly fair. Violence is a staple of television and movies, and other forms of entertainment, as well as in real life as governments go to war and news broadcasts lead with stories of murder and mayhem. No word from the teachers’ union on those subjects.
The fact of the matter is that the gaming industry is now bigger than Hollywood, but for the tens of millions of gamers out there, there are still only a handful of violent incidents by gamers — I know, because every incident where games are somehow involved instantly grabs headlines, whether it’s true or not or the criminal is just blaming games to excuse his actions.
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