Happier Days

Happier Days

Bully hits a stronger nerve with an older crowd than its target demographic, while a Japanese RPG resonates more strongly with current teens.

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In regards to the melodrama of the characters in Persona 3 I'd kind of have to agree. P3's theme of self-destruction has a lot to do with it, but it was still a bit too much at times. However, I think Persona 4 does a better just matching the low points with high points. Many of the characters are pretty whiny early in their arcs, yeah, but I think a majority simply confide in you rather than bitch and moan.

Bully was an interesting game & a fun sandbox, but it never struck me as a realistic portrayal of anything. Thinking back, I suppose it was marketed toward teenagers, & you're right that it plays like the view of someone that remembers highschool as a series of 80's movie clips. I can't speak for everyone or every school, but as I remember it, highschool was a pretty terrible experience & miserable time to be alive; perhaps chiefly because one couldn't make anything resembling the free decision-making of Bully.
Maybe that's what the game was shooting for, just a power-fantasy of a guy who remembers highschool a little better than we think

I recently went back and played Bully again and it really doesn't hold up very well. Aside from just being ugly (and very laggy in terms of FPS, even on the Xbox 360), the whole thing just doesn't make nearly as much sense as it did when I played it back in the PS2 days.

I see we have a case of the pot calling the kettle not a pot.

One thing This article "refuses to acknowledge" is that school classes provide an actual benefit to gameplay by increasing your skills and giving you more options to interact with people. Jimmy's academic prowess was never an adressed because the story was about him getting into trouble and everything that happend outside the classroom. Even though there some hints at deeper issues for other kids besides the protagonist (his nemesis is a legitimate sociopath who went off his meds and his girlfriend was expelled for complaining one of the teachers was hitting on her) it isn't TRYING to be taken seriously. If you can't enjoy things like spud canons, soapbox racers, setting of firecrackers in toilets and stuffing nerds into garbage bins, then that's not the game's fault.

And for the record, Russell Northrop looked EXACTLY like one of the kids I went to High School with. Sure he was actually in theater not bullying, but he also play rugby

I never got the idea Bully was targeted toward high school goers at all. It's a nostalgic wink at the classic 50's styled high school, dreched in Rockstar seediness. It's definately not trying to display anthing current or real.

I'd say it's geared more toward the 30-something crowd who had a shitty time in real high school, and who want to return a simpler version of that and rule the joint.

You were very much looking for the wrong thing in Bully. Bully deals with topical and nasty parts of what might be part of school life and life in general in much the same way as GTA does: Often you have to do the nasty stuff, it lets you try to fix it or otherwise makes the people experiencing it into someone you care about.

People in Bully, just like GTA, are larger than life. They don't actually have real world equivalents. They may ave things in the real world that seems similar but they will never be as caricatured as the ones in the game. They are not trying to help you deal with problem in school or help you deal with your issues as you grow up. They are there to fuel the story.

Bully is actually a deceptive game in the way that it is mostly pranks and the like but there is true heart in there. There are serious stories mixed in there and that is actually par for the course for Rockstar. They have these silly missions al over the place. But the serious ones are there too. They may have a silly bent or some weird quirk but it is point to a serious subject. So in this way you get an antagonist that may be a bad guy but good will shine through from time to time. Jimmy is a bully and an anti-hero... but he knows right from wrong. He may often go the way of wrong but when the chips are down he will pick the side of the angels... though he may use the tactics of the devils. He will help the alcoholic teacher try to fix his life. He will help the weak against the strong. He will hurt the wicked. He will also perform atomic wedgies on anyone in his way.

And there we have where the game gets its teen rating. It is not Teen rated because it was ever aimed at teenagers or even people in high-school. It got the teen rating because the most sexy in the game is smooching, there is no killing and the violence is restricted to brawls and sling shots. These were not watered down to fit the demographic but is in the game because that is what a teenager has access to. The game has always been aimed at an older demographic. It was not meant to actually remind you of your high-school days. It was meant as a fun caricature of high-school, playing with the tools you use to craft a game.

In conclusion: Persona 3 and Bully are 2 very different games, aimed at two different demographics trying to do 2 distinctly different things. The only thing that makes them even remotely similar is that both of them happen to be going on in a school environment. Comparing them is a bit like comparing an RTS and an RPG because they are both sci-fi.
While a comparison on that basis might be interesting, I feel this piece fails to do so as the writer went into the experience and got something else. Instead of then just accepting that the writer chose to bemoan it.

Not good enough... much like this response.

I can see your point in saying that the characters/cliques are unrelateable stereotypes that no one in the targeted age group (teenagers) likely grew up with, but isn't that pretty much the same thing for most of the GTA games? Also the reason that they chose the certain stereotypes in the game rather than some more current ones is because pretty much EVERYONE knows what a typical nerd/jock/prep/greaser looks like while some adults may not even know what an Emo/goth or punk looks like.

The story itself is also quite good in my opinion. While it may not be true or realistic in any way (assaulting a chemical plant that is being held by a bunch of dropouts as a giant fortress then beating their leader over the head repeatedly with a giant, metal pipe is one of the final levels) it is in the very least entertaining.

While I have neglected playing any of the persona games (trust me, I'll get to it sometime) and thus cannot comment on them, I can comment on the fact that the school system in Japan and the school system in America (I'm assuming that is where the game takes place) are VASTLY different in many ways but it really comes down to two things: In Japan, high school is more like college in the way that you choose your high school based on what you want to do in life and also based on your abilities in class and thus are expected to do your absolute best and study hard. In America, however, high school is almost a required part of an education and is very much a simple progression within one single district. Because of this, American high school is focused less on studying and more on developing social skills. This is why the way school is depicted in the two games is so different. In persona the focus of school is (correct me if I'm wrong) to build up your skills to use in the dungeons in game and is a necessary part of progression. In bully you can go the entire game without going to class once (besides the first one, which is required) but you miss out on the benefits that come from said classes.

To put it simply: In Japan the focus is to get through school and on to the next level while in America the focus is less on class and more on you and who you are and it is represented in each game pretty well, to be honest.

Bully is not supposed to be realistic or anything like Persona, this article is just complaining about something because it didn't fit your idea of what it was supposed to be, it's like hating a drama for not being funny enough.

It think the writer is mistaken in their assumption that Bully (or Canis Canem Edit) was targeted towards teenagers.

Regardless of what rating the ESRB gave it, which isn't indicative of the age group the developers are making the game for - otherwise you'd believe that Civilization V was targeted towards 10 year olds, I got the distinct impression it's target group were mid 20-30 year olds and it would not so much resonate with their personal experiences of High School, but their memories of American High School and 'Small Town America' as featured in films and television programs of the 1980's (which in turn portrayed a earlier era).

A lot of the buzz I heard about the game before it was released was that it would be like a modern re-imagining of the 1984 game Skool Daze (an experience that would be unknown 13 year olds in 2006) and when I played it aged 26, I never got the impression that I was playing a game that was aimed at younger generation than mine, indeed I felt I was part of it's target age group.

It wasn't supposed to be a simulator for people currently in the same educational situation, it was a nostalgic throwback for people who had already experienced High School, a overblown satire of times past, not a social commentary on current issues that affect a specific subset of the population.

I think the reason Rockstar didn't feature such contemporary issues like Teen suicide wasn't that they were afraid of making the game unsuitable for 13 years old and losing it's T rating, it's that those types of issues and moods had no place in the game they were making.

The tag-line for this article should be: "Bully hits a stronger nerve with an older crowd than the suggested demographic that an independent ratings board who had nothing to do with it's development deemed it's content to be suitable for".

I also think that the writer gets it COMPLETELY wrong, Bully, is not suppose to be an accurate depiction of the American High School experience, the same way the Vice City is not suppose to be an accurate depiction of Miami in the 1980s, or San Andreas as a detailed account of African American experience in 1990s Los Angeles, its a backdrop, a place set and time in which a story is told, its also a parody of that specific environment, its not suppose to be taken seriously, all the characters in all three games are stereotypical caricatures that we tend to identify in that scenario, Why on earth did she compare it to Persona 3?? Its like comparing Battlefield 3 with Team Fortress, they are both FPS but give a very different experience and tend to be played by different people.

Secondly, the idea that "there is no incentive to go to class" is complete bullshit as they forgot to mention that going to class gave you upgrades that could be extremely useful and can open a lot more of the game than before, for example: going to Gym class meant Slingshot upgrades, chemistry class unlocked items like stink bombs , itching powder etc. Going to art class meant you got extra health boost by kissing girls. SO there is an incentive to go to class, ture the game doesn't "force" you to go, but missing classes meant loosing out on serious upgrades and a lot of items that made the game enjoyable.

Like all games, Bully is not without faults, no games are, but there is a certain way that you are supposed to approach various games, you can't approach Gran Trurismo the same way as Need For Speed, you can't approach Serious Sam the same way as Half Life 2. And you can't approach a RockstarGame the same way as a JRPG even if they share things in common, you are bound to get different experiences out of them. I don't pick Vice City as an accurate potrail of cocaine smuggling in 1908s miami, sure thats the theme of it, its parodying it, but its not gonna be real-life experiences shown through a game. Bully is a great game and is one of my all time favourites,I was around the same age as Jimmy Hopkins when I bought it, but being a Rockstar Game I immiediately knew that it wasn't going to be anything like my high school experience, and it didn't. So why would anyone expect it to be?

Just out of curiosity, what the heck is a townie?

Bully was never intended to be a school simulator. Videogames are a form of escapism (you know like "escapist"magazine.com). Why would students want to finally go home from school, pop a game in and play "sitting in school?" No, what they want is to live out fantasies of stealing panties and beating the crap out of classmates. Bully is a lighter form of GTA. Are you suggesting that GTA games should make their adult protagonists sit through an 8 hour shift at work every day, in order to "hit a nerve" with their target demographic?

I got to the bit about consequences for skipping class, and I realized something disturbing.. I never skipped class in that game. A few times I ended up breaking curfew, but most of the time I found it quite easy to fit the missions and other activities around the school. It actually became a kind of rhythm of grinding through the days and waiting for the evenings and weekends, which I think was kind of the intended effect, it served to break up the story-driven gameplay into small, bite-sized chunks.

I guess maybe playing the game like that says something about me (thought probably not very much, since I skipped a lot of classes in high school).

But really.. I found the game funny and quite unique in that it was basically GTA in a school (except kind of better than most of the recent GTA games because it had a clear sense of fun). Pretty much the same story structure. I didn't find it a convincing account of high school, but I don't think it was meant to be, any more than William Does His Bit was meant to be an account of growing up during World War 2.

Snownine:
Just out of curiosity, what the heck is a townie?

Well, in parts of the UK in the 90s, it was the name given to the "chav" style of the time. Less designer clothes than the modern chav stereotype, more sportswear and massive puffer jackets. Heavily gelled hair for boys, or pulled back with very thin bangs for girls.

That's just where I grew up though. They called that style different things all over the place. It looked awful, but I think that was almost part of the intent.

evilthecat:

Snownine:
Just out of curiosity, what the heck is a townie?

Well, in parts of the UK in the 90s, it was the name given to the "chav" style of the time. Less designer clothes than the modern chav stereotype, more sportswear and massive puffer jackets. Heavily gelled hair for boys, or pulled back with very thin bangs for girls.

That's just where I grew up though. They called that style different things all over the place. It looked awful, but I think that was almost part of the intent.

Thanks for the lowdown.

OT: Although I have never played Bully, I think the comparison with Persona 3 is a little weak. Aside from the fact that they involve a school in some way they are very different games and almost certainly going for a different feeling.

Putting up Persona 3 against Bully? Apples and oranges... Serious shit happens in Bully. Oh wait, no its a parody of what most of the core gaming crowd (those of us who grew up in the late 70's, the 80's and the 90's) went through in High School, that it was a joke plain and simple. It still is a joke, but to us "old" fogies to whom High School is a distant memory well we may not get it anymore.
The social commentary was there, in-between the nerds aren't cool jokes and jocks are dumb jokes. It was more about how cliquish high school is, that there are kids who don't fit any side of the aisle and the system itself doesn't give a rats ass. And thats really it. In Bully show up for class and maybe you learn something which applies towards either getting out of trouble, getting "laid" (as best as you can in a "T for Teen" game) or causing more havoc and mayhem (better fireworks thru chemistry). The other half of that is if you skip class, no one cares in the faculty (Bulworth being a rich ass "reform" school its all about the money not attendance). And to be honest, maybe the cliques in American school has changed, but bullying is still there, teachers still don't give a rats ass if you pass or fail (especially in the public school system) which they usually just pass you anyway.
Bully also had Dodgeball, which I don't find a bad thing and am still pissed they removed it from schools. Dodgeball teaches you that life sucks and a lot of people are going to try to take you down a peg or two (only not with dodgeballs) so move your ass fast or catch them before they catch you. Not a pessimist btw, just really tired of PC bullshit (not the master race kind, the political kind).
So Bully wasn't necessarily aimed at Teens because of its rating, most of the people who were following Bully were R* fans because of GTA3. Two demographics, kids who thought it would be GTA at a school (complete with "real" violence) and the adults who grew up with games and knew R*'s intentions with Bully. Hell I think the only reason it got a "T" rating was because they couldn't conceive a way of making a mature game about high school ("M" for mature not "M" for "Oscar-bait") without pissing too many people off. GTA3 had started enough legal fires and R* played it smart.
I loved it for the parody it was, and back then (before Red Dead Redemption and GTA IV) R* was also known for being over-the-top and not too serious. So thanks for the analysis but a japanese high school sim with RPG tendencies isn't the same as a bipolar ADD infested action-fantasy about high school in America and can't be compared.
When are people going to learn that RPG's aren't comparable to every other game out there?

Snownine:

evilthecat:

Snownine:
Just out of curiosity, what the heck is a townie?

Well, in parts of the UK in the 90s, it was the name given to the "chav" style of the time. Less designer clothes than the modern chav stereotype, more sportswear and massive puffer jackets. Heavily gelled hair for boys, or pulled back with very thin bangs for girls.

That's just where I grew up though. They called that style different things all over the place. It looked awful, but I think that was almost part of the intent.

Thanks for the lowdown.

While the above description is accurate for the UK definition of Townies, it's slightly different in the context of Bully and it's universe.

In Bully, the Townies are another faction that is comprised of the teenage sons and daughters of the working class residents of the town of Bullworth, who live in the apartment projects and trailer parks of the old town near it's industrial area and are far removed from the rich teenagers who attend the prestigious Bullworth Academy, but aren't actually from that town.

The Townies are the working class natives of that town who have little other prospects other than working in the town's industrial area, as opposed to the upper class students who board at the school who are expected to graduate and move onto better things (even the Greaser clique are only pretending at slumming it, since their parents can still afford to send them to Bullworth, whereas the Townies are slumming it because that's who they are).

Simply put, the Townies are the "local poor kid" clique in contrast to the Academy's 5 other cliques (Bullies, Nerds, Jocks, Greasers and Preps) and for gameplay purposes, the are another group of NPCs of a similar age range who you can legitimately attack without getting in trouble for 'violence towards authority' or 'violence towards children', and primarily serve as antagonists once you open up the map fully and can explore the carnival and industrial area (initially you're restricted to the Academy grounds and only face antagonists from the other student factions).

Snownine:
Just out of curiosity, what the heck is a townie?

In the vernacular I'm familiar with, it's just whoever actually lives in the town in question. Usually used by college students to describe the people that live in the town their school is a part of.

I feel out of place here... I loved Bully. It was an enjoyable sandbox game which didn't take itself too seriously, it offered quite a lot of side games, customisation and some delightful characters. It deliberately took the clichés and ramped them up, that was kind of the point.

I'd actually go as far to say that it remains one of my favourite games!

I also greatly enjoyed Bully, or Canis Canem Edit as it was released on this side of the pond. Being British I could draw no real parallels between the game and my own schooling experience, my only contact with the American school system was through TV and Films and as a result all I could do is find myself laughing through the cliches and the world in which this game was set.

While it has been a while since I played it It always struck me as a highly enjoyable light hearted game. We must remember that when this was released in 2006 this kind of game was fairly nonexistent, you either got super serious FPSs such as COD 3 or Tom Clancy or arcade style Mario games. I enjoyed it for the change of pace, its humour (it had a certain crude charm) and the way I could immerse myself in a world so utterly different yet with instances and moments that we can all relate to.

Based on his description of both games I think I'd like Bully more. I hated highschool, why would I be nostalgic about it or want to realistically relive it? I'd take a fantasy GTA version of highschool with over the top stereotypes any day than have to relive the actual experience.

Bully is really a game about a teenager who is dropped off in a collective memory of what high school was like between 1950 and 1980, it's a fantasy based loosely on history. It's not meant to be topical or current, quite the opposite. And unlike L.A. Noire it's not meant to be totally accurate. While they wanted teens to be able to play it, that wasn't the audience that was supposed to understand it. It plays in the same way it feels to watch a marathon of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" "Because They're Young" "Corvette Summer" and "Porky's". It's a fantasy game, no one's high school was like all of those things.

If you look at Rockstar games, you'll see that their games are always hyper-realistic satires. No one is supposed to 'identify' with their games or humour. It's normally a perversion of stereotypes. Look at everything from the Red Dead franchise to even L.A. Noire. It's using an audiences awareness of genre cliches to spin something a little different. Bully was a brave effort and whatever shortcomings it has, for the enviroment and market it was released to it was quite fresh.

I agree with most of these comments in that this article seems to have held an idea of what the game should be and then held it against his idealised values. Bully was never meant to be serious and to claim it should tackle real world teenage problems is absurd.

Persona, like others have already pointed out, is also a completely different game so it makes no sense to compare them like the author did.

 

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