Day 4: Your Guilty Pleasure Game

I’ve had a couple of days off to go off the radar away from my computer screen. I’ve missed having any sort of electricity bar a few batteries for some tent fairy lights, but, on the plus side, I now know how to build a teepee fire and cook jacket potatoes on it. All that time playing The Forest was worth it.

This post is all about My Guilty Pleasure!

While Grand Theft Auto IV and V would certainly be right answers to this question, in light of Take-Two’s cease-and-desist order to OpenIV, declaring all unofficial mods illegal, I’ve decided not to mention them because NO PUBLICITY FOR YOU.

If you’re also in the position where you love GTA but you’re so angry at the prospect of not having single-player mods for seemingly no other reason than a straw-clutching claim that it allows people to bypass security features, I’ve got the best game for you. Do you want to:

  1. go around punching people for the sheer hell of it?
  2. spend most of your time avoiding the police?
  3. kiss any girl you can get your hands on?
  4. steal cars willy-nilly?
  5. shoot a punk in the face and then run away?
  6. start out the underdog and come out on top as a really big fish in a really big pond?

Well, don’t play GTA. Just substitute ‘police’ for ‘prefects’ and ‘cars’ for ‘bicycles’ and you’ve got yourself Bully.

bully 01.jpg

Developed and published in 2006 by Rockstar Games (and distributed by Take-Two Interactive but WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT IT), Bully follows the story of 15 year old Jimmy Hopkins, who is sent to the New England boarding school, Bullworth Academy. Once there, Jimmy asserts himself as a troublemaker; collaborating with the sociopathic Gary Smith, he works to gain control over the various cliques of the school. It’s a story of power, betrayal, and doing the same detention over and over again. Did I mention it’s got a stellar soundtrack too?

Bully‘s part of that crowd of games where the facial graphics are actually pretty good (for the main characters at least) but the hands are like big stubby carrots with a piece of wire stuck through the middle. Modelling and animation have come a long way since then, but actually it adds to the charm and gives a bit of nostalgia. I’m all about nostalgia, and one of the reasons I like Bully is because it immerses you completely in the school environment. I wasn’t a huge fan of my own school for various reasons, but now I’m an adult I sometimes miss the safety net of authority figures, as well as the security of walls and fences. There are loads of things I wish I could change about my school experience, and with Bully, it’s almost like I can go back and relive my teenage years without any of the consequences.

I’d like to point out that although Bully is pretty violent (it was banned in Brazil and former British MP Keith Vaz argued for the game to be given a rating of 18 in the same manner as violent films), the way in which that violence is presented is very cartoon-like. Beating someone with a bat produces no blood, no broken bones, no ambulance sirens. Even the yielding pleas of your victim are over the top and comical. While this could be construed as a way to desensitise the player to horrendous acts of violence, I would argue that it is a contributing factor in taking the game over the lines of reality and firmly into fiction. There are many other attributes of Bully which affirm the game’s existence purely in the realms of fantasy; the over-exaggerated clique stereotypes and characterisation of the teachers, to name a couple. There is a scene where the player is taken into the cafeteria to be shown all these cliques one by one. Only in fiction is there such rigid dichotomy between several different friendship groups.

I really love Bully. I’m not a violent person by any stretch of the imagination but my God it’s fun to shoot a kid in the face with a deluxe slingshot. Oh, because of that I have to spend the rest of the afternoon mowing the school lawn?

Worth it.

Author: Phoebe Wright

I am a musician and musicologist currently studying my MA Music at Bangor University, specialising in music for video games. For my undergraduate degree I wrote a 12,000 word dissertation focusing on the music of various horror games, although my favourite games are those with a limited horror factor. I've been playing video games since I was small and I'm fascinated by the in-depth stories and personal relationships that can be made with characters in video games.

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