A friend of mine posted this infographic on bullying a few days ago, and I thought it pertinent to today’s topic of Bully: Scholarship Edition, by Rockstar Games. I don’t know about everyone else, but I was bullied quite a lot in my younger days and I’m sure I did my fair share of bullying as well. One of the reasons why this game is so fascinating to me is because it is tackling this serious real-world issue, if lightheartedly and with exaggeration.
I sat down and played through about the first half-hour of the game and did a stream of consciousness reaction. The video was broken into two 15 minute chunks, posted below. It’s a little less genuine that I would like, since I played through this content for my first impressions. However, since there were technical errors with my first attempt and I wanted to share my thoughts on this game.
You play as James Hopkins, a boy who has been “kicked out of every school that is halfway decent,” and has now wound up at Bullworth Academy, a.k.a. the toughest school in the country. Being the new kid at Bullworth is brutal. I expected Hopkins to be verbally and physically abused and I wasn’t be wrong: there was a lot of fighting, cursing, and just generally being unpleasant throughout. You’ll need to make friends, go to class, and work your way up the social ladder by completing missions for various characters.
Hopkins can target individuals in the game and “lock-on” to initiate social or anti-social interactions. You can try to make peace with bullies by complimenting them and then offering them money, or you can throw insults and escalate the conflict to fists. In addition to fist-fighting, there are also some weapons that you can get your hands on, the ones that I found were the firecrackers and a slingshot.
What I’m really interested to see here is whether or not the player gets much choice in how to complete the objectives. I did do one mission where I had to go get a girl’s box of chocolates back from a bully. I could either pay the bully or beat him up (I chose the latter this time). I hope that the rest of the game has in-mission decisions like these. In addition, I hope that the player must choose which faction to become a part of, be it geeks, greasers, preps, or jocks.
The movement is clunky and non-responsive, which makes the combat less enjoyable than it should be, but that is what you get when you play a console port. The graphics are quite good, the music set a great mood, and the voice acting was over-the-top, which added to the fun. It reminds me of Rockstar’s infamous Grand Theft Auto series, with an ample dose of dark humor and a completely different setting.
This game highlights the dangers of the school yard: bullies will punch or humiliate you, and the geeks throw insults at you. If you want a game that presents a dark, cynical view of schools and children, Bully: Scholarship Edition may be the game for you.
Overall, I think I will continue playing the game in small doses and then one day probably finish the second half of it.
Till next time,