Bully (video game)

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Bully frontcover.jpg
Developer(s)Rockstar Vancouver[a]
Publisher(s)Rockstar Games
  • Jeronimo Barrera
  • Steve Martin
  • Mike Skupa
  • Sergei Kuprejanov
  • Mike Slett
  • Peter Grant
Artist(s)Steven Olds
Composer(s)Shawn Lee
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer[c]

Bully, originally released in the PAL region as Canis Canem Edit,[1] is an 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 remastered version of the game, subtitled Scholarship Edition, was developed by Mad Doc Software and released on 4 March 2008 for Xbox 360 and Wii, and on 21 October 2008 for Microsoft Windows. Bully was re-released for PlayStation 4 available via PlayStation Network on 22 March 2016. An updated version of the Scholarship Edition, titled Anniversary Edition, was developed by War Drum Studios and released for Android and iOS on 8 December 2016.

Set within the fictional town of Bullworth, the story follows juvenile delinquent student James "Jimmy" Hopkins, who is involuntarily enrolled at Bullworth Academy for a year, and his efforts to rise through the ranks of the school system in order to put a stop to bullying. Players control Jimmy as he attempts to become more popular within the school's various "cliques", in addition to attending classes and completing side missions. The game is played from a third-person perspective and its world is navigated on foot, skateboard, scooter, bicycle, or go-kart. In the Scholarship Edition, a two-player competitive multiplayer mode lets two players compete for the highest score in different classes.

Despite initial controversy for its expected violence and homosexual content, Bully received positive reviews, with praise directed at the game's missions, narrative as well as the characters and their development. Criticism was reserved for its presentation and glitches. The original version of Bully sold over 1.5 million copies, and received multiple year-end accolades.


Bully is an action-adventure game set in an open world environment and played from a third-person perspective. The game's single-player mode lets the player control a high school student—teenage rebel James "Jimmy" Hopkins. Throughout the story, Jimmy rises through the ranks of the school groups, archetypes which include Bullies, Nerds, Preppies, Greasers, and Jocks. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. Outside of missions, the player can freely roam the game's open world, consisting of the fictional town of Bullworth, and has the ability to complete optional side missions.

The player can use melee attacks and weapons to fight enemies. The weapons available include slingshots, bags of marbles, stink bombs, baseball bats, planks of wood, and spud cannons. Jimmy can run, jump, swim or use vehicles to navigate the game's world. The vehicles available in the game includes a skateboard, scooters, bicycles and go-karts. Bus stops are located in various locations around the world, allowing the player to quickly travel back to Bullworth Academy. Should the player take damage, their health meter can be fully regenerated using multiple techniques, such as drinking sodas, which can be obtained from vending machines. If the player breaks 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 the player become very aggressive, with players being instantly subdued should they be grappled). Authority figures will search for the player who escape their line of sight; the trouble meter enters a cool-down mode and eventually recedes when the player has evaded the authority figures.

When not performing missions, the player has the ability to attend classes - however, 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 the player with the ability to create firecrackers, stink bombs, and itching powder. Once the player passes a class five times, the class is completed and becomes optional. The player will also no longer will be truant when a completed class is happening. The player can initiate romantic relationships with non-player characters, acquiring the ability to give them gifts and kiss them, as kissing also replenishes health.



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

Bully takes place at Bullworth Academy, a private boarding school in the New England region of the United States. After being expelled from seven previous schools, the game's protagonist, 15-year-old James "Jimmy" Hopkins, is sent there for a year while his mother and her new husband go on their honeymoon. The school campus is designed in a neo-gothic style, similar to public schools and colleges in the United Kingdom and New England, such as Fettes College in Edinburgh.

Surrounding the Academy is the town of Bullworth, consisting of four main districts: Bullworth Town, the town's commercial borough, housing plenty of shops and the city hall; Old Bullworth Vale, whose residential area consists mostly of mansions (making it the richest borough in town), and also features several shops, a beach and a funfair; New Conventry, a run-down, urban-poor borough, consisting mainly of tenement housing; and Blue Skies Industrial Park, the town's industrial borough, which mainly consists of factories and industrial buildings, in addition to the docks and a trailer park housing the town's poorest residents. There is also the Happy Volts Asylum, a psychiatric institute located between the Blue Skies Industrial Park and the Bullworth Academy. At the beginning of the game, players are able to explore only the Academy, but as the story progresses, the other districts are unlocked. The town's appearance also changes with the story's progression, most notably during Chapter 3, which is set during winter and, as such, the town is covered in snow.


After being dropped off at Bullworth Academy, Jimmy Hopkins (Gerry Rosenthal) meets with principal Dr. Crabblesnitch (Ralph Gunderman), who urges him to "keep his nose clean". He is soon befriended by senior Gary Smith (Peter Vack) and freshman Peter "Petey" Kowalski (Matt Bush), and the former introduces him to Bullworth's various "cliques": the Bullies, Nerds, Preppies, Greasers, and Jocks. Initially, the two boys work together to try and assert their dominance over the cliques by playing pranks, while occasionally fending off the Bullies and gaining favour with the Nerds. However, an increasingly paranoid Gary eventually betrays Jimmy by pitting him against Russell Northrop (Cody Melton), the leader of the Bullies, in an underground fight. Jimmy beats Russell and forces him to stop picking on his fellow students, earning the Bullies' respect.

Over the following months, Jimmy, aided by Petey, works to take over the other cliques in an attempt to restore peace to Bullworth. He begins with the Preppies, but just as he begins to win them over, Gary tricks them into turning against him. In response, Jimmy wins a boxing tournament hosted by the Preppies' leader, Derby Harrington (John Lavelle), and, when the Preppies still refuse to recognize his superiority, he resorts to beating them and declaring himself the new leader. In the winter, Jimmy is approached by the Greasers' leader, Johnny Vincent (Rocco Rosanio), to help expose an affair between his girlfriend Lola Lombardi (Phoebe Strole) and Gord Vendome (Drew Gehling), a member of the Preppies. However, the Greasers turn on Jimmy after he is forced to make amends with the Preppies by vandalizing the Greasers' territory, and Gary tips Johnny off on Jimmy's growing closeness with Lola. Johnny sets an ambush for Jimmy, but is ultimately defeated and the Greasers recognize Jimmy as their superior.

Jimmy next moves to beat the Jocks, regarded as the most powerful clique, so he resorts to seeking assistance from their main rivals, the Nerds. When they refuse to help, Jimmy beats them and their leader, Earnest Jones (Jesse Tendler), before convincing him that they can be friends, earning Earnest's respect. After a failed first attempt to humiliate the Jocks by spreading inappropriate pictures of the school's head cheerleader, Mandy Wiles (Elena Franklin), Jimmy is forced to defend the Nerds' hideout from a Jock attack and remove the pictures, earning Mandy's affection. The Nerds later have Jimmy pose as the school's mascot and play a series of pranks to the Jocks before their big football game. Humiliated in front of the entire school, their leader, Ted Thompson (Alexander Cendese), challenges Jimmy to a fight in the school's football field, which the Jocks lose.

Having united all the cliques under his rule and restored peace to Bullworth, Jimmy boasts in his newfound glory and respect. Meanwhile, Gary convinces the cliques to pressure Jimmy into vandalizing Bullworth's town hall, and recruits the "Townies", a group of former Bullworth students who seek revenge against the school, to play a series of dangerous pranks on the cliques, so that they would turn on Jimmy, believing his lack of leadership skill led to this. Upon informing Crabblesnitch of Jimmy vandalazing the town hall, he is appointed head boy, while Jimmy is expelled. Seeking revenge, Jimmy meets Townie member Zoe Taylor (Molly Fox) and helps her get revenge on predatory Bullworth gym teacher Mr. Burton (Michael Boyle), who got her expelled when she accused him of sexually harassing her. With Zoe and Russell's help, Jimmy attacks the Townies' hangout, where he defeats their leader, Edgar Munsen (Jan Milewicz). Upon revealing Gary's deception, Jimmy earns Edgar's respect, who offers him Townie support.

Soon after, Gary and his followers take Crabblesnitch hostage, sparking a full-blown war between the cliques. The Townies and Russell help Jimmy neutralize the clique leaders, allowing him to chase Gary to main building's roof. After a climactic fight, Jimmy tackles him over the side and the two fall through the roof of Crabblesnitch's office. Once freed, he expels Gary, fires Mr. Burton for his actions against Zoe, appoints Petey as head boy, and allows Jimmy and Zoe to return to Bullworth. As his friends and allies cheer on, Jimmy shares a kiss with Zoe.


Rockstar announced Bully in May 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox with an original expected release date of October 2005.[2] 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.[3] Rockstar Vancouver 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.[4] Parallels were made between Jimmy and Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield.[5] Jimmy and Holden share a background of a difficult homelife and being thrown out of multiple private schools.[6] Though the pompous school principal Dr. Crabblesnitch is originally introduced as the main antagonist,[7] this role is later replaced by Gary Smith, who initially befriends Jimmy. Gary is described as a sociopath.[8] He admits that he suffers from attention-deficit disorder and is a narcissist, as he considers himself smarter and better than everyone,[9] and wants to run the school.

Scholarship Edition[edit]

On 19 July 2007, Rockstar announced that a remaster would be released for the Wii and Xbox 360, subtitled Scholarship Edition.[10] 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.[11] A Microsoft Windows port was later developed by Rockstar New England and released on 21 October 2008.[12] The game features additional content which is not in the original version, including 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 non-player characters 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.[13]


Critical response[edit]

Bully reception
Aggregate score
Review scores
GamesRadar+4.5/5 stars[16]
X-Play5/5 stars[19]

Bully received "generally favorable" reviews from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[14]

Hyper's Daniel Wilks commends the game for its "clever script, some novel missions, and well constructed characters". However, he criticised it for "time dilation, dodgy camera, and generic mini-games".[20]

As of 12 March 2008, the PlayStation 2 version of Bully had sold 1.5 million copies according to Take-Two Interactive.[21][22]


Bully: Scholarship Edition reception
Aggregate score
Metacritic(Wii) 83/100[23]
(X360) 80/100[24]
(PC) 72/100[25]
Review scores
1Up.com(Wii) A-[26]
(X360) B-[27]
(PC) C-[28]
GameSpot(Wii) 8/10[33]
(X360) 7/10[34]
(PC) 6/10[35]
GamesRadar+4.5/5 stars[32]
IGN(X360) 8.7/10[29]
(Wii) 8.0/10[30]
(PC) 7.8/10[31]

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,[37] while the Xbox 360 version received 8.7/10.[38] 1UP.com gave the Wii version an A- grade[26] and the Xbox 360 version a B- grade.[27] Gameplasma gave the Wii version a 9/10.[39] The PC version, however, received mixed reviews ranging from a "Good" rating of 7.8 from IGN[40] to a C- from 1UP.com[41] 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,[42] 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,[43] but there were reports claiming that the problems continued or worsened.[44]



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 boys 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, a Brazilian judge prohibited the commerce and import of the game.[57] The decision was based on findings by the state psychology society which stated that the game would be potentially harmful to teenagers and adults.[58] In July 2016, however, the game was officially rereleased in Brazil.[59]

Whilst British Labour MP Keith Vaz argued that Bully be banned or reclassified as rated 18 in the UK before its publication,[60] the game was released rated 15.[61] 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 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.[62]

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".[63] Thompson's petition, filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, asked for Wal-Mart and Take-Two Interactive 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.[64][65] Take-Two Interactive offered to bring in a copy and let both the judge and Thompson view the game in the judge's chambers on 12 October 2006.[66] On 13 October 2006, Judge Ronald 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 a fiery speech directed at the judge.[67] 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.[68]

Possible sequel[edit]

In November 2006, Michael Pachter, Managing Director of Research for Wedbush Morgan Securities, predicted that Bully would not sell well enough over the upcoming holidays to warrant a sequel.[69] However, when his prediction turned out to be untrue, Pachter apologized to Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive, calling a potential sequel a "possibility".[70]

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".[71][72]

In November 2011, in an interview with Gamasutra, Rockstar executive Dan Houser revealed that the studio might focus on a sequel for Bully after the release of Max Payne 3. "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 [Rockstar Vancouver] – even though it is a property that, like [Max Payne], 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 Payne], and then we will see what we can do with Bully."[73][74]

In July 2012, Rockstar Vancouver was merged into Rockstar Toronto, and the staff was offered to join a different Rockstar studio.[75]

In September 2013, Dan Houser said he has many different ideas for a Bully sequel.[76] To date, this is the last official comment on a Bully sequel.

On 28 August 2017, concept art rumoured to be from the development of a sequel leaked online; it purported to show new characters and a run-down suburban home along with a few other bits of art; Rockstar Games did not comment.[77]

On 10 October 2018, alleged casting calls for a Bully sequel were revealed. These castings are to be auditioned at Spotlight in London, England, and shooting would commence on October 26, 2018 at Pinewood Studios, also located in London, and would be using motion capture technology.[78] Jessica Jefferies, casting director on this unknown title, confirmed via Twitter that the title she was referring to was not a sequel to Bully.[79]

Cancelled sequel[edit]

In July 2019, YouTuber SWEGTA posted a video discussing a leaked conversation with an individual (whose name was initially shown) who allegedly worked at Rockstar New England before being laid off. SWEGTA found the individual's name credited in Bully: Scholarship Edition, which confirmed his authenticity as a former Rockstar Games employee. According to the ex-employee, Rockstar had worked on a sequel for several months before shutting it down in 2009. He claimed to have worked on various game mechanics in the scrapped project and stated that the story would have featured Jimmy living with his mother and step-siblings in his stepfather's mansion during summer vacation.[80]

In October 2019, Video Games Chronicle published a story based on inside sources corroborating that Rockstar had indeed worked on Bully 2 for eighteen months before cancelling it. Production of the game however began in May 2010, shortly after Red Dead Redemption was released, and eventually was discontinued sometime before the end of 2013 as the project did not get much traction in the studio. During this time, a reported small slice of a working game was built using the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE). According to these sources, the studio had worked out some of the story but were not sure what period of time it would cover. One source confirmed the ex-employee's claims reported by SWEGTA that the story began with Jimmy spending summer vacation with his mother and stepfamily. Rockstar Games refused to comment on this topic.[81]


  1. ^ Scholarship Edition developed by Mad Doc Software. Ported to Wii by Rockstar Toronto. Anniversary Edition developed by War Drum Studios.
  2. ^ Used by the Scholarship Edition.
  3. ^ Multiplayer available only for the Wii, Xbox 360 and Anniversary Edition.


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