Bully (video game)

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Bully frontcover.jpg
Developer(s) Rockstar Vancouver[a]
Publisher(s) Rockstar Games
Distributor(s) Take-Two Interactive
Producer(s) Jeronimo Barrera
Steve Martin
Designer(s) Mike Skupa
Sergei Kuprejanov
Programmer(s) Mike Slett
Peter Grant
Artist(s) Steven Olds
Writer(s) Dan Houser
Jacob Krarup
Composer(s) Shawn Lee
Engine RenderWare
Gamebryo (Remake)
Platform(s) PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer (Wii, X360)

Bully, released in PAL regions as Canis Canem Edit,[3] is an open world, 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 remaster of the game, subtitled Scholarship Edition, was developed by Rockstar New England and released on 4 March 2008 for the Xbox 360 and Wii, and on 21 October 2008 for Microsoft Windows. Bully was re-released on PlayStation 4 available via digital download from PlayStation Network on March 22, 2016. Set within the fictional town of Bullworth, the story follows a student and his efforts to rise through the ranks of the school system. The open world design lets players freely roam Bullworth, which includes a number of towns.

The game is played from a third-person perspective and its world is navigated on-foot, skateboard or by bicycle. Players control James "Jimmy" Hopkins, a student who is involuntarily enrolled at Bullworth Academy. He discovers that the school is filled with bullies, and becomes determined to bring peace, ultimately becoming more respected among town groups. Jimmy is also expected to attend class, which is a main gameplay aspect. In Scholarship Edition, a two-player competitive multiplayer mode lets two players compete for the highest score in different classes.

Upon release, Bully received generally positive reviews, with praise directed at the game's narrative and characters. Prior to release, the game received controversy for its expected violence, and bisexual content. The original version of Bully sold over 1.5 million copies, and received multiple year-end accolades.


Bully is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. The game's single-player mode lets players control a high school student—teenage rebel James "Jimmy" Hopkins. Throughout the story, Jimmy rises through the ranks of the school groups, which include the Bullies, Nerds, Preppies, Greasers, and Jock archetypes. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. Outside of missions, players can freely roam the game's open world, and have the ability to complete optional side missions. The world of Bully, named Bullworth, is separated between five areas: Bullworth Academy, Old Bullworth Vale, Bullworth Town, New Coventry, and the Blue Skies Industrial Area. At the beginning of the game, players can only explore Bullworth Academy, with all other areas unlocking as the story progresses.

Players use melee attacks and weapons to fight enemies,[b] and may run, jump, swim or use vehicles to navigate the game's world.[c] Bus stops are located in various locations around the world, allowing players to quickly travel back to Bullworth Academy. Should players take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated using multiple techniques, such as drinking sodas. If players break rules while playing, the game's authority figures may respond as indicated by a "trouble" meter in the head-up display (HUD). On the meter, the displayed levels indicate the current level of severity (for example, at the maximum sixth level, efforts by all authority figures to incapacitate players become very aggressive). Authority figures will search for players who escape their line of sight; the trouble meter enters a cooldown mode and eventually recedes when the player has evaded the authority figures.

When not performing missions, players have the ability to attend classes; truanting a required class is a rule violation. Each class grants the player with a special ability upon passing; for example, English allows players to apologise to authority figures after violating rules, and Chemistry grants players with the ability to create firecrackers, Stink Bombs, and Itching Powder. Players are also able to initiate romantic relationships with non-player characters, acquiring the ability to give them gifts and kiss them.



Artwork of the main protagonist Jimmy Hopkins (left) and the main antagonist Gary Smith (right).

The game takes place at Bullworth Academy, an independent boarding school in the New England region of the United States. Jimmy is enrolled in the school when his newly married mother and stepfather go on a year-long honeymoon cruise. The school is located in the fictional town of Bullworth, which appears to exist in the same fictional universe as the Grand Theft Auto series.[4] The school itself is a neo-gothic design, and is similar to many other public schools and colleges in the United Kingdom and New England, particularly Fettes College in Edinburgh.


On his first day at Bullworth Academy, James "Jimmy" Hopkins (Gerry Rosenthal) meets principal Dr. Crabblesnitch and his secretary, Ms. Danvers. He befriends Gary Smith (Peter Vack) and Pete "Petey" Kowalski (Matt Bush), while also simultaneously drawing the attention of Russell Northrop (Cody Melton), the psychotically-minded lead bully whose size keeps him untouched by the other pupils at Bullworth. Gary takes Jimmy under his wing as a protégé, causing mischief and fighting bullies. However, Gary later sets up a fight between Jimmy and Russell, and admits that he has spread rumors about the former. After beating and befriending Russell, Jimmy notes Gary's disappearance from the school, establishing that he has betrayed him. Jimmy's friendship with Russell later makes him increasingly popular.

Later on, Jimmy befriends the "Preppies", a group of arrogant rich kids who reject other students. However, Jimmy later finds himself at war with the Preppies after Gary tells them that Jimmy has spread rumors about them. To settle things, Jimmy challenges a member of the Preppies, beating him fairly in a boxing match. However, the group refuses to acknowledge this, forcing Jimmy to defeat every member, and ultimately become leader of the Preppies. He later finds himself involved with the "Greasers", a group of delinquents who are the enemies of the Preppies. When the leader of the Greasers, Johnny Vincent (Rocco Rosanio), discovers that his girlfriend, Lola Lombardi (Phoebe Strole), is having an affair with one of the Preppies, Jimmy helps them beat him up. This leads the Preppies to believe that Jimmy is untrustworthy; he regains their trust, unsettling the Greasers in the process. Johnny accuses Jimmy of being attracted to his girlfriend, which leads to Jimmy taking over the Greasers turf, beating the group and reclaiming Johnny's friendship.

Jimmy becomes determined to bring peace to Bullworth when he discovers the "Jocks", stereotypical sport fans who frequently participate in school curricular activities other than any other lesson, continuing their bullying spree. But in order to beat the Jocks, Jimmy must gain the trust of another clique who have turned against him, the "Nerds", stereotypical social outcast kids who frequently attend class and earn high marks. After beating their leader Earnest Jones, Jimmy partners with the Nerds to ruin the reputation of the Jocks. In the line of work, Jimmy embarrasses the girls, humiliates the school mascot, and sabotages their home football game. He is forced to fight all the Jocks on the field, eventually beating their leader, Ted Thompson.

Peace is restored in the school, and Jimmy is respected by every group. While enjoying his popularity, however, Gary secretly makes the cliques convince him to pull a large prank on the town hall; vandalize the place with graffiti. Jimmy does the act successfully and the cliques slowly turn against him. Jimmy's popularity begins to decline, and he is framed for various pranks throughout the school (the library is filled with rats, the Gym is set on fire, the Preppies' boxing trophies get stolen, and Johnny Vincent goes missing). He tries to convince all the cliques that the "Townies", a group of teenagers who do not attend Bullworth for multiple various reasons (expelled or dropped), are the culprits of the acts but this fails. Despite his efforts to fix the problems, and going far to obtain proof that he is not the culprit, he is despised by the cliques. Gary soon snitches to the authorities, leading to Jimmy's expulsion from the school. Gary thus replaces Jimmy as the most respected in the school, furthered by becoming the school's head boy.

During his expulsion, Jimmy is targeted by the "Townies". However, he befriends one of them: Zoe Taylor (Molly Fox), who was expelled from Bullworth when she informed authorities about being sexually harassed by a teacher named Mr. Burton. Eventually, the two develop feelings for each other. Determined to clear his name, Jimmy breaks into the industrial complex. When the police arrive, Russell distracts them while Zoe helps Jimmy confront the leader of the Townies. After beating him and earning his respect, Jimmy soon learns that Gary forced the Townies into antagonizing him. He soon discovers that Gary is running Bullworth with anarchy and chaos, taking the staff hostage. Deciding to end it, Jimmy storms Bullworth Academy with the Townies and Russell by his side and is forced to beat all the group leaders once again.

Jimmy chases Gary to the top of the school's bell tower and confronts him. Gary tells him that he overran the school "because he can", and arrogantly proclaims that he will win, regardless of anything. The two fight, ultimately falling through a skylight into the main office, with Gary knocked unconscious from the fall. Dr. Crabblesnitch reveals that he overheard all of Gary's gloating. Impressed at Jimmy's actions, he decides to re-enroll him and Zoe, expels Gary from the school, fires Mr. Burton, and promotes Petey to head boy. The game ends with Jimmy and Zoe kissing at the front steps of the school, as people whom Jimmy helped cheer for them.


Rockstar announced Bully on May 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox with an original expected release date of October 2005. [5] 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, in effect, 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. Rockstar Vancouver also decided to make every student in the school have a unique appearance and personality.

When developing the characters, the team aimed at recreating the state of being a child, and making it enjoyable.[6] Parallels were made between Jimmy and Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield.[7] Jimmy and Holden share a background of a difficult homelife and being thrown out of multiple private schools.[8] Though the pompous school principal Dr. Crabblesnitch is originally introduced as the main nemesis,[9] this role is later replaced by Gary Smith, who initially befriends Jimmy. Gary is described as a sociopath.[10] He admits that he suffers from attention-deficit disorder and is also a narcissist, as he considers himself smarter and better than everyone,[11] and wants to run the school.

The originally announced Xbox version was silently cancelled during development.

Scholarship Edition[edit]

On 19 July 2007, Rockstar announced that a remaster would be released for the Wii and Xbox 360, subtitled Scholarship Edition.[12] 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.[2] A Microsoft Windows port was later developed by New England and released on 21 October 2008.[13] The game features exclusive content which is unavailable in the original version, including new 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 NPCs 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.[14]


Critical response[edit]

Bully reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 87%[15]
Metacritic 87/100[16]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com A+[17]
GameSpot 8.7/10[19]
GamesRadar 4.5/5 stars[18]
IGN 8.9/10[20]
X-Play 5/5 stars[21]

Bully received highly positive reviews from critics.[16] The game received ratings of 8.9/10 from IGN, 4.5/5 from GamesRadar, an A+ from 1UP.com, 8.7/10 from GameSpot,and a 5/5 from X-Play.

As of 12 March 2008, the PlayStation 2 version of Bully had sold 1.5 million copies according to Take-Two Interactive.[22][23] Hyper's Daniel Wilks commends the game for its "clever script, some novel missions, and well constructed characters". However, he criticises it for "time dilation, dodgy camera, and generic mini-games".[24]


Bully: Scholarship Edition reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (Wii) 83%[25]
(X360) 81%[26]
(PC) 71% [27]
Metacritic (Wii) 83/100[28]
(X360) 80/100[29]
(PC) 72/100 [30]
Review scores
Publication Score
1UP.com (Wii) A-[31]
(X360) B-[32]
(PC) C-[33]
GameSpot (Wii) 8/10[38]
(X360) 7/10[39]
(PC) 6/10[40]
GamesRadar 4.5/5 stars[37]
IGN (X360) 8.7/10[34]
(Wii) 8.0/10[35]
(PC) 7.8/10[36]
X-Play 4/5[41]

Bully: Scholarship Edition was released on 4 March 2008. Both the Wii and Xbox 360 versions of the game generally received positive reviews with IGN giving the Wii version an 8/10,[42] while the Xbox 360 version received 8.7/10.[43] 1UP.com gave the Wii version an A- grade[31] and the Xbox 360 version a B- grade.[32] Gameplasma gave the Wii version a 9/10.[44] The PC version, however, received mixed reviews ranging from a "Good" rating of 7.8 from IGN[45] to a C- from 1UP.com[46] who called it "[a] shoddy, untimely port that, inexplicably -- considering its ridiculously long port time -- feels like a rush job." GameSpot later rated it with a "fair" rating of 6.0,[47] calling it "[a] lazy porting job [which] hinders Bully's classic classroom hijinks".

The Xbox 360 version of Bully: Scholarship Edition was found to be unstable on some players' consoles, resulting in glitches, crashes and performance issues. On 20 March, a patch was released via Xbox Live,[48] but there were reports claiming that the problems continued or worsened.[49]


  • Won IGN's award for Best PlayStation 2 Action Game.
  • Won GameSpot's award for Best Original Music.
  • Finalist for GameSpot's Game of the Year 2006
  • Gaming Target – 52 Games We'll Still Be Playing From 2006 selection[50]

In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.[51] Bully: Scholarship Edition was nominated for the Best Voice Acting award for an Xbox 360 game at IGN's Best of 2008 awards.


Bully's title and gameplay features inspired 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 a boy in the game, which the ESRB was aware of when rating the product.[52] Classification boards generally restricted Bully to a teenage audience: the United-States based Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) classified the game with a T rating,[53] the British Board of Film Classification gave it a 15 rating, the Australian Classification Board rated it M,[54] and the New Zealand OFLC restricted it to persons 13 years of age and over.

In 2007, Yahoo! Games listed it as one of the top ten most controversial games of all time.[55]


Bully was banned in Brazil.[56] In April 2008, Brazilian justice prohibited the commerce and import of the game.[57] The decision was taken by judge Flávio Mendes Rabelo from the state of Rio Grande do Sul based on psychological findings by the state psychology society which claims that the game would be potentially harmful to teenagers and adults. Anyone caught selling the game would face a daily fine of R$1,000.00.[58]

Whilst British Labour MP Keith Vaz argued that Bully be banned or reclassified as rated 18 in the UK before its publication,[59] the game was released rated 15.[60] Currys and PC World, both owned by DSG International, said that they did not wish to sell the game in the UK because it is "not appropriate for Currys' family-friendly image". The official statement lists what Currys believes is "the explicit link between violence and children" as the reason behind the ban. Despite this decision, other high street retailers including Game, HMV and Virgin Megastores announced intentions to stock the game.[61] DSG stores still stock other Rockstar games including the GTA series, and other violent games like Manhunt, which both have BBFC 18 ratings, whereas Bully has a BBFC 15 rating.

Prior to both the ESRB's rating and the release of Bully, Jack Thompson filed a lawsuit attempting to have the game banned from store shelves in Florida. Thompson declared the game a "nuisance" and "Columbine simulator".[62] Thompson's petition, filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, asked for Wal-Mart and Take-Two to furnish him with an advance copy of Bully so he could have "an independent third party" play the game and determine if it would constitute a public nuisance in the state of Florida, in which case it could be banned.[63][64] Take-Two offered to bring in a copy and let both the judge and Thompson view the game in the judge's chambers on October 12, 2006.[65] On 13 October 2006, Friedman subsequently ruled in favor of shipping the game, noting that there was no content in the game that was not already on late night television. Thompson responded to the ruling with fiery speech directed at the judge.[66] When given a preview build, the mainstream American media took a generally positive view of the game. Press coverage described the game as free-form, focusing on building a social network and learning new skills from classes, with strictly enforced punishments for serious misbehaviour.[67]

Possible sequel[edit]

In November 2009, The Gaming Liberty interviewed musician Shawn Lee, who scored Bully, and was asked if he was scoring any more games in the near future; he responded, "Yes. It looks like I will be doing the soundtrack for Bully 2 in the not so distant future...".[68][69]

In November 2011, in an interview with Gamasutra, Rockstar executive Dan Houser revealed the studio may focus on a sequel for Bully once Max Payne 3 is released. "Contrary to a lot of people, we like to take a little bit of time at the end of a game before starting a sequel, so we can wait for the excitement or disappointment and everything else of the experience to shake down and really see what we should do in the next game," he said. "So we knew that we didn't want to start doing the Bully sequel instantly at that second with those guys -- even though it is a property that, like Max, we adore and might come back to in the future. There was just no impetus to do that then. So we said, 'You can do Max, and then we will see what we can do with Bully."[70][71]

In July 2012, Rockstar Vancouver was merged into Rockstar Toronto, and the staff was offered to join a different Rockstar studio.[72] In September 2013, Dan Houser said he has many different ideas for a Bully sequel.[73]


  1. ^ Scholarship Edition developed by Rockstar New England and ported to the Wii by Rockstar Toronto.
  2. ^ The weapons available include slingshots, bags of marbles, stink bombs and spud cannons.
  3. ^ The vehicles available in the game include skateboards, scooters, bicycles and go-karts.
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  3. ^ Richardson, Ben (1 September 2006). "Bully in name change shock". GamesRadar. Retrieved 1 September 2006. 
  4. ^ Rockstar North (29 April 2008). Grand Theft Auto IV. Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Windows. Rockstar Games. Scene: I'm Rich (in-game television show). 
  5. ^ "Rockstar Games Announces Bully". ir.take2games.com. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  6. ^ EGM Staff (11 December 2006). "Rockstar's Bully Afterthoughts from 1UP.com". 1UP.com. Retrieved 17 February 2009. It's kind of the same idea that our designers had with Bully -- like, what happened to you as a kid, and let's figure out how to make it fun. 
  7. ^ "Publisher: 'Bully' Video Game Has Positive Message". Associated Press (Fox News). 17 October 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2007. "Bully" influences came from Hollywood movies [...] and novels like J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" — a coming-of-age book that has been one of the most banned since it was first published more than 50 years ago. 
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  11. ^ Gary: I'm a genius! Geniuses don't NEED medication! Rockstar Vancouver (17 October 2006). Bully. PlayStation 2. Rockstar Games. 
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External links[edit]