Challenge to Canadian Teachers' Federation head: play "Bully" before you call for a ban on it

Kim sez, "In response to the Canadian Teacher's Federation call for a ban on the release of Rockstar's 'Bully: Scholarship Edition', Ubisoft designer Clint Hocking has issued a pretty compelling challenge: He's offering to buy Emily Noble, head of the CTF, an Xbox360 or Wii system, along with a copy of the game, if she commits to entering a critical discussion of the games merits rather than call for its ban out of ignorance."
So, what is it that I or the CTF could contribute? Since I haven't even played Bully - and probably neither has Ms. Noble, President of the CTF, (nor probably have her counterparts in the coalition of teacher's unions in Canada, the United States, Britain, South Korea, Australia and the Caribbean who are mentioned in the article) I wonder if we even can contribute anything? Ought we enter into debate about public access to media that we have not even engaged ourselves? That seems unethical to me - especially given our roles. It is doubly unethical if Bully might in fact actively contribute to broader and deeper societal understanding of the very serious and real issues of bullying. While our teachers are certainly on the frontlines of the battle against bullying - they are not the owners of the issue and they are not the only ones entitled to examine or discuss it. Those who create art or other media such as films, novels or games that engage the issue are also part of society's attempt to deal with the problem.

So, no, I'm not going to defend Bully at all. Instead, I am going to invite Ms Noble and her counterparts to examine it with me, and to enter into a critical discussion of its merits and the difficulties it may or may not pose to students and to teachers who clearly and irrefutably have to deal with the daily reality of bullying in our society. If the concerns of these individuals - our de facto authorities on bullying - are not explored in a game like Bully, then perhaps Bully is nothing but sensationalist junk. On the contrary - if Bully does illuminate the social realities of Bullying within the reasonably defined scope and capability of the medium, then not only is it more than sensationalist junk - it is arguably an important work. Perhaps even a work that students should be playing in school as a part of their education in order to safely explore notions of bullying while having to neither engage in, nor be subjected to it.

Link (Thanks, Kim!)


  1. I bought this game a little while ago and to be honest I found the game slightly upsetting in the first 10 minutes as I got used to the controls because I was aimlessly running around a school, getting beat up by random kids with no recourse but to hit them back. Then I found some story missions and it was immediately apparent that my role would be to defend the helpless from the bullies who prey on them. Once I’d settled in a little I “got it”, and now I feel the game is about defending the helpless, not the inverse. I definitely agree with the sentiments of this story and I urge Canada’s teachers to play the game for at least an hour. You’re rewarded for going to class in this game!

    On an unrelated note, be sure to check out the absolutely fantastic soundtrack for this game which you can download from eMusic for free (just download each song individually). It’s written by Shawn Lee who has done both rock and electronica albums, and this soundtrack is basically Harry Potter meets Rockabilly meets Jamiroquai. It’s a genuinely interesting soundtrack that you will pay attention to as you listen.

  2. Where does this sudden outbreak of common sense come from?
    I mean, here we have someone advocating that someone actually play a game before banning it. (which seems like common sense to me)
    We have audiobook publishers leaving the DRM game. (great news)
    We have music labels leaving DRM on the wayside. (awesome)

    All I can say is, wow. Keep it up, people! Apparently, all is not yet lost.

  3. Although I would think the temptation to go with the free Streisandeffectvertising would be almost to hard to resist.

    “Hey Kids! Your teachers HATE this game! Wanna play it?”

  4. @Madjo:

    It would be worthy of the suddenoutbreakofcommonsense tag if one of the Teachers’ Federation’s numbers made the suggestion. I think the reaction from CTF will be, “Oh, we already know what Bully is all about from listening to parents.” We’re talking about deeply-held beliefs here. I’d be very surprised if a CTF member takes up the offer.

  5. I too have bought, played, and finished this game. It’s not as deep a “social commentary” as people think. It’s merely a new way to define an (anti-)hero and his enemy in a video game.

    I think Rockstar has done an exceptionally thoughtful job in recognizing potential political backlash in this game. There are pranks and misdeeds portrayed along the way, but the underlying theme is that of an outcast defending himself and others. What good is a video game that doesn’t have some sort of titillating quality to it? All in all this is very tame fare. And not at all important enough to play in school. Learn your fractions instead.

  6. Oh yeah, common sense, why don’t we let a COMMITTEE solve everything, because nothing solves a problem like sitting around and talking about it without action. Sorry, look, actually playing the game does not change the content of the game, does it? Right?

    This is no different than those clods in the 1990s who told me that I needed to READ Rush Limbaugh’s books and listen to his radio show before I could criticize him. So then I went ahead and read one of their books for a few pages and I criticized him because he was manipulating facts. Then it was, I had to read the entire book before I got a chance to express my views. Then it became I had to listen to the radio show over several weeks to EARN my right to criticize him, when their issue was they had nothing to back up their opinions once Rush was considered a fool.

    This brings me to my one-time aversion to first person shooters in the 1990s. I felt they were too violent and encouraged anti-social behavior among myself and my coworkers and so after wolfenstein 3d I wouldn’t play them in the 1990s. I didn’t like walking through a hallway after a long game and peering around doors- that was wrong.

    Then at the dotcom I worked at, everybody played multiplayer Quake and I gave it a shot. I was immersed in this violent world and it was both cool, but also really lame. You couldn’t build anything, just destroy things. About a year into it, in the middle of some violent encounter one of the vice presidents shouts from the other room to one of my gay coworkers, “That that you ****-****ing f*****t.”

    The office froze. The guy had gotten so immersed in the game that he had no idea what he just said in the office. Not only did he kill a gay man onscreen and use that language, there was a room full of lesbians already having problems with the good old boyness of these games. A written apology later, my cool coworker took it in stride.

    the knuckleheads played Quake after work, but no one else did. I sporadically looked at quake or unreal, but the FPS is dead to me. It’s just not a smart enough genre.

    So sure, go ahead and tell me that your discussion committee is going to make a difference! I think it’s a navel-gazing timewaster and you just want people to agree with you, not present a detailed critique of the issue- that FPS games do weird things to people.

  7. “I think Rockstar has done an exceptionally thoughtful job in recognizing potential political backlash in this game.”

    It wasn’t quite as thoughtful in the first year of development, I assure you. Then the Hot Coffee debacle dropped and things got way more thoughtful at Rockstar very very quickly.

  8. @2 Braindamage:
    Thank you for the link, most spectacular.

    @9 Dcer:
    Your vice president is an immature clod and for you to take your experiences as the measure of the entire situation is ridiculous. For one, games do not belong in the businessplace because they are not a professional activity. Therefore, any insults such as the one you stated are out of place and possibly cause for a worker’s suit. However, games in a friendly environment removed from the business environment are perfectly acceptable. One of my gay friends responds with laughter and invitations whenever somebody screams you ****** or go ****-**** during a game, because we’re friends and its understood that we like him anyway and the insults don’t matter. Furthermore, sometimes we play in the house with parents around, and somehow, a group of seventeen year olds are capable of controlling their mouths and not swearing colorfully during a supervised game, whereas we put sailors to shame on a normal basis.

    I am female, I am seventeen, I play Quake, Doom, and Halo with friends and alone and with family members. I have no ‘crazy things’ done to me by games, other than a heightened sense of awareness during the game and for perhaps a couple of minutes after. This is no different than reading a horrifying book with extraordinary imagery, or watching a terrifying movie. This is the point of media entertainment; to change the senses and introduce you to a different environment. If you have a problem with it, that’s your affair. I have a friend who won’t play games because they make her twitchy and nervous, especially games like Doom. When she’s around, we play cards. She has the decency not to fault games for making her look around corners, but instead look at her own temperament.

    Oh, and as for FPS games not being ‘smart’? Try games like Half-Life.

  9. You do not play a bully in “Bully”. Your job is to STOP the bullies and protect the kids being bullied, and to do well in school.

    Holy crap. I can’t believe that has to be spelled out.

    If BULLY was called by its European/UK name, “Canus Canum Edit”, would it be banned ignorantly as easily?

  10. Gobo, I can’t speak for anyone else, but as someone who hasn’t played Bully, but has seen commercials for it, I was also (until now) under the impression that the game involves playing a bully and bullying other kids.

    Certainly someone calling for a game to be banned has an obligation to find out what it’s actually about, either by playing it or by reading reliable reviews. But the marketing for the game is also to blame if people who haven’t played it misunderstand it.

  11. This open-minded and unbiased approach to problem solving has left me slightly dizzy and disoriented. Putting the research before the conclusion? What a novel idea. I can haz common sense?

  12. What a grandstanding prick.

    As a teacher, I have had to deal with bullying on a daily basis, and I find this so-called ‘overture to discussion’ cynical. The game is all about turning a major problem into a game. There is no heuristic value to it. I can’t see any value to it at all.

    I am suspicious of Clint Hocking’s motives. The time for his proposed discussion was BEFORE the game got produced, not during the publicity / marketing stage.

    Sorry, furious.

  13. @Avram: Bully was indeed totally marketed as a game where you get to be a bully and wreck a school. That’s what I assumed it was, too, until I played it.

    The game starts out with you starting a new school after getting kicked out of your old one for bullying and truancy. You’re given your class schedule and the ability to bully kids, and you learn really quickly that all that gets you is time doing boring, stupid detention mini-games.

    But if you actually talk to kids, you learn that the Nerds are being bullied by the Jocks, so you stand up to the Jocks to stop the bullying. Then the Jocks get bullied by the Preps, so you have to stop that bullying, too, and so on.

    The only way to advance in the game is to do well at your classes, make friends with the teachers, help the other students, and protect the school from kids who’re working against it.

    In the spirit of the GTA games, you can choose what you want to do — beat up on kids, punch teachers — but that only gets you detention. If I were the Canadian Teacher’s Federation, I’d be damn well championing this game, not banning it.

  14. Has anyone issued a challenge to the Marketing Department to come up with an ad campaign for the game that doesn’t misrepresent it?

  15. Oh, and Nikkesen? I know for certain that some of your fellow commenters here are older teachers.

  16. @Teresa: The game was renamed Canis Canem Edit for the UK market after Jack Thomson took Take Two to court over the game, so they’re definitely aware of the confusion the game’s title creates. But as to the marketing, I’m guessing an ad campaign around “Do well in school! Be nice to teachers! Escort pants-wetting D&D players to the bathroom!” wouldn’t generate many sales… which is a pity, because it’s a great game.

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