Bully Debate... Teacher: Gamers Don't Get It... Developer: Teachers Should Play the Game

March 13, 2008 -

The debate over Bully: Scholarship Edition continues to rage, primarily in Canada.

There, Mary-Lou Donnelly, head of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, pens an op-ed slamming the game in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. Among her points: Gamers just don't get it:

Reporters, newspaper editors and game promoters have tried to downplay the game, saying that teacher organizations are overreacting... One accused teachers of not giving students enough credit to distinguish between reality and fantasy. Another said that teachers had missed the boat because the game could be used as a teaching tool against bullying...


Clearly, the creators and promoters of the game just don’t get it... A game such as Bully: The Scholarship Edition, which reduces bullying to a mere lark... contributes nothing positive to youth culture. Indeed, it contradicts everything that educators are trying to accomplish...

Well, here’s a hard fact: Bullying is never fun! 

Meanwhile, game developer Clint Hocking, writing for his Click Nothing blog, has issued a challenge to the educators who are protesting Bully:

Since I haven't even played Bully - and probably neither [have the teachers who are protesting it], 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...

Instead, I am going to invite [the teachers] 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... I extend an open invitation to play Bully with me, and once we have all finished we can collectively engage in an informed dialogue about the merits or failings of the game.

Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), debated Ms. Donnelly on CBC last Sunday (video here). Della Rocca writes about the Bully controversy on his Reality Panic blog:

The teachers are missing a prime opportunity to make progress... I’d argue that teachers could have leveraged Bully to both better understand the social politics of high school (by embodying a troubled teen) and open a much needed dialog with students about bullying...


While some argue that Bully could have been an even more scathing critique of school life, the challenge is that many simply do not look to games for meaningful social commentary (like The Breakfast Club, for example)...


Ultimately, we all want to stop bullying and built safe/effective schools, and there’s no doubt that games can play an important role in that effort. We’ll see what happens next…



Well, I can attest that Bully The Game wasn't the cause of the bullying I received when I was growing up. In fact, school administrators themselves told me that bullying was just a part of life that you just have to accept. So honestly, this seemingly caring organization that likes to think it knows what's best for kids can really stick their heads right back in the sand.

I finally got off my but to play bully, and I realize. The title Bully, is misleading as all hell. Though you can bully, it's honestly so minor it's easily forgetable.

"Well, here’s a hard fact: Bullying is never fun! "

Well, no... it isn't. But neither was World War 2. Why aren't you protesting the 100's of WW2 games then?

These teachers really annoy me. They don't have anargument, really. I don't even think bully is that good a game, but I completely support its right to exist and be sold as entertainment...

I wonder what these teachers think about the game banned from RPI.

I see it as they hardly understand our generation and what we do for fun. Would they prefer we turn back towards the 60's and 70's? Free "love" *cough sex cough* for all!

Mary-Lou Donnelly should get her head out of her ass, plain and simple.

It's obvious that she's never played the game, so that moron has no room to complain, considering:

-You're playing as an anti-bully fighting the bullies/class system.
-You're defending the weaker characters.
-You have to go to class and pass to unlock stuff and abilities.
-Bullying in the game has negative consequences(detention consists of cutting grass or shoveling snow).

Donnelly should get a clue: Teachers are a bigger cause of bullying, since most teachers turn a blind eye to it.

Maybe she should look in the mirror first before whining about a game.

Two Points:

1. An oft used history reference, in this case, definitely used by adults throughout time:

Books ==bad..."Let's ban edgy books and remove them from libraries"

Rock and Roll == bad "Let's ban rock and roll, and spread propaganda out it's sexual and violent influence on teens."

Comics == bad "Let's ban and burn books, prosecute the creators/publishers, and spread propaganda about the violent influence on teens."

TV == bad "Let's boycott shows we don't approve, because we don't have time to monitor our children's activities."

Movies == bad "Let's Ban edgy movies, sue the production companies, and picket in front of movie theaters and yell at the people buying tickets."

Rap/Metal == bad "Oh...dear...God...Something must be done!!!"


Every time a new median comes out, the response gets harsher and harsher. The simple fact is people do not learn from their mistakes.

The leading generation often looks back on the past and says: "Man, what idiots our previous generations were for being narrow minded."

2. Teachers Against Bullying

Yeah, bullying can leave scars that last for many, many years. I'm happy there is an organization of teachers trying to figure out how to stop bullying. Bullying in schools has been around since school systems were implemented.

I was bullied from 1st - 9th grade. 8 YEARS! Ummm, why weren't teachers stepping in then? I had to fend for myself, and eventually started fighting back. Thanks a lot Mrs. Williams

It's impossible to not notice bullying, so why aren't the teachers going after the bullies?

1 point: people are retarded.

Ms. Mary Lou Donnelly doesn't put a personal email on the website, but here's the email to her organization if you want to give these retards a piece of your mind.

Personally, I just want to know where the increase in bullying is since this game has already been out for years.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union
General Email: nstu@nstu.ca

Isn't it ironic.
Bullies normally distort or change facts in order to use them as weapons against you. They misunderstand things and use these things as blunt weapons without ever trying to understand the root of the thing they've misunderstood.

Its interesting how teachers are then using the same bully tactics of "la-la i'm not listening to reason" to try and get this 2 year old game in difficulty.

It doesn't make light of the situation, it does quite the opposite.
why don't teachers complain about the depiction of them in the Simpsons when all of their teacher copies of books with answers in the back are stolen? Too close to home that one?

Here's an idea class: Ask your teacher if they have a stance on the game. If they do, ask them if they have played it. If the disapprove and haven't played it, tell them you are leaving the classroom to go to the library and do something constructive, such as read a banned book.

Not to discredit the many, many good teachers out there -- some of whom I've had personally, but they're exceptions to the rule:

Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym.

"One accused teachers of not giving students enough credit to distinguish between reality and fantasy."

Thats the cornerstone of media criticism, that the viewers cant distinguish between reality and fantasy... yet even from nine i could tell that the Alien movies were fake... that people's stomachs don't explode.

The poor woman is woefully uninformed for someone in such a position. It's better to be ignorant in secret, than to open your mouth and let everyone know.

In answer to some of the worse parts of her article:

"Recently, media attention has focused upon a newly released video game by Rockstar called Bully: The Scholarship Edition."

It's not new. The game has been out for at least a year. Where was the wave of bullying that caused?

"calling on retailers to boycott selling it and, more important, trying to raise parental awareness of the harmful effects of the game."

Ahem, the ALLEGED harmful effects. The ones that have never been proven to exist.

"Clearly, the creators and promoters of the game just don’t get it."

Look how black the kettle is!

"While violence has always been a challenge, in recent years we have seen a rise in violence in schools, specifically through bullying and lately through cyber-bullying."

Cyber bullying is just a new outlet for the bullying that existed already.

"A game such as Bully: The Scholarship Edition, which reduces bullying to a mere lark depicting negative stereotypes and targeting impressionable youth, contributes nothing positive to youth culture."

Bullying is hardly "a mere lark" in the game. As it's victim, Jimmy has to retaliate and work to show up the bullies and protect the other weaker students. I think anything that presents standing up to bullies as a goal cannot be accused of contributing nothing positive.

"Indeed, it contradicts everything that educators are trying to accomplish in maintaining an atmosphere of respect and safety in our schools and in society."

No, it doesn't! In the game you are rewarded for attending class! You are penalised for staying out late, missing classes, bullying others and disrespecting teachers! Here is the crux of the problem, people who know little or nothing about a game judging it by it's cover and projecting what they imagine it to be like.

"According to a UNESCO study, almost half of boys and girls report a strong overlap between what they perceive as reality and what they see on the screen."

That's because many tv shows and games are based on reality, not the other way around, I mean, World War 2 didn't happen because everyone copied Call of Duty! The game Bully is based on ALREADY EXISTING stereotypes of the kind of bullying that goes on in schools.

"And let’s not kid ourselves; while the game is rated T-13, meaning 13-year-olds are able to buy the game, eight-, nine- and 10-year-olds will be playing it, often without parental supervision."

Blaming the game for that helps no-one. As head of a TEACHER'S union, surely she is in a fantastic position to educate parents regarding monitoring and vetting their children's media intake? Educating is what teachers do right?

"in raising the awareness of parents and the general public about the harm that the inappropriate uses of technologies can bring. As a teacher organization, it is both our duty and social responsibility."

Then why have you shirked that responsibility and pointed your finger at one single game as the cause of the problem?

"Some question whether speaking out against one video game will make a difference."

The game hasn't made any difference over the past year...

"I assume game makers would not create a game where drunk drivers get points for killing and maiming people, or one that awards addicts points for smoking the most cigarettes and getting cancer or causing it for others through second-hand smoke."

Aside from the point that neither game would be a lot of fun, those games wouldn't affect people's behaviour either. I've played Bully and have not gone on to Bully people. I've played CS and have never shot anyone. I've GTA and never stole a car. If I were to play one of her hypothetical games I can confidently predict I would not take up smoking or drink driving.

"Is bullying fun? Ask those who have been victims themselves or, better yet, parents who have lost children as a result of bullying."

This is a heart string pulling little addendum to her article that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. Problem is though, it would take a lot of wind out of the sails of her argument to say "Is bullying fun? It is not depicted as such in this game and no-one has been a victim of bullying, nor have parents lost children to bullying as a result of this game."

What bothers me most aren't the attacks on Bully, but the hypocrisy. These are the same people who tell children to think critically, to gather information and facts, and to never, never decide out of prejudice. They teach mathematical proofs, requiring students to painstakingly lay out the course between point A and point B, to demonstrate a full understanding of the concepts involved. They teach scientific method, requiring that students start with a hypothesis, and perform tests to back it up.

Then, they throw it all out the window in the name of knee jerk reactions.

I haven't played Bully either. Maybe it is godawful. I don't know. But I won't judge something in ignorance, and that's precisely what teachers are doing. And, in so doing, they throw right out the window everything they ever taught about critical thinking. Teens may or may not be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. That's not germane to this post. They do, however, have a very acute sense for hypocrisy.


It isn't at all your fault, but I wish the media would stop lumping all teachers together (or any social group that ultimately is not uniform through its ranks). This is an OLD SCHOOL teachers' issue. The same people who are FAILING to teach students anything in schools.

The vast majority of teachers I know and respect are the new, fresh faces that have joined in the post Bush public educating industry -- the 23 to 25 year old crowd that is REQUIRED to be educated extensively themselves. This young, college educated crowd generally play games themselves (I know several who played Bully and enjoyed it), and are much more concerned with school policies, lack of parenting (how many children in Baltimore EVEN HAVE FATHERS?), lack of exercise and bad dietary choices.

It's the old guard, much the same as the older politicians who are past the age of being able to comprehend games as anything other than pong (or some sort of graphic sexual version of pong), that are causing the problem.

As long as those two groups don't pass any legistlation (or the courts keep shooting it down), the problem will be entirely gone in 10 years. Those people will just be gone from the professional sector.

Hey, Teachers, Guess what? *Ahem*
That is all. Goodnight.

" Indeed, it contradicts everything that educators are trying to accomplish…"

if a game try to teach kids to fight bullying is contradicting what they want to accomplish wouldn'T that means they are trying to get people to accept bullying... hmmm has a teacher once told me. better stay silent and look like an idiot than to speak and give proof you are (translated from french)


meh... I wouldn't say it's gotten worse since Nixon went after porn. Ultimately that marked the end of using true evidence in DC (the senate received scientifically valid findings that proved porn had no negative impact on adults, and then rejected the study and sided with anecdotal evidence provided by testimony of priests, teachers, and angry parents)

the result was putting a cameraman turned porn star into years of court battles (and risk jail), and promote organized crime around the industry, and ultimately direct the industry to where it is today: huge and artlessly focused on making good money.

The amusing part is that I was recently speaking to a young Canadian university grad. who mentioned Bully as "that new game." It has been out for years, obviously, so if this were to have a negative impact it would already have been seen, maybe?

"Clearly, the creators and promoters of the game just don’t get it… A game such as Bully: The Scholarship Edition, which reduces bullying to a mere lark… contributes nothing positive to youth culture. Indeed, it contradicts everything that educators are trying to accomplish…

Well, here’s a hard fact: Bullying is never fun!"

I've said it before, and i'll say it as many times as i have to.

Video games don't brainwash and/or erase what anybody learns about the real world. Video games are NOT a real-life version of the Matrix that downloads knowhow about stuff into people's heads.

That is all.

@ jonwanker

I love that quote! And it is still true to an extent… especially since Gym teachers are the only rank not required to follow mandated course guidelines -- even art teachers have to follow those :P

but honestly, the quality of new teachers entering the system is much higher. At least in the USA. They are required to accomplish much more training, and are retested / certified every few years. There are also better state support systems to help teachers pay for good training at good schools. (why not take courses at Johns Hopkins University for 75% off?)

Good point from Della Rocca :

"Had a nice chat with Mary-Lou Donnelly from the CTF. She’s going to put me in touch with the folks heading up their anti-cyberbullying efforts (which lead the charge to ban Bully). Ultimately, we all want to stop bullying and built safe/effective schools, and there’s no doubt that games can play an important role in that effort. We’ll see what happens next…"

“Is bullying fun? Ask those who have been victims themselves or, better yet, parents who have lost children as a result of bullying.”

I've been a victim of bullying and can testify it isn't fun yet I've been on the other side and I did it to get friends and it was 'fun', at least that's what I tought and I probably undestand the reason people do those things better her.
The worst part is they don't end after school.
They happen in the work place and in the adult world.
I can say no video game made me do those things or made me a victim. Blaming media is just plain ignorence and I would expect better from somebody who said is fighting the problem.
I always thought to fight something effectively you need to understand it (read it in a book called the art of war) why doesn't a teacher understand that is beyond me but understanding how I could be bullied for 9 years and not get much help from teachers also is beyond me.

One accused teachers of not giving students enough credit to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

Is it me or does anyone else think that the opposite is true? Older people have a more difficult time distinguishing between fantasy and reality.

I mean, look at some of the stuff older people believe: Counterstrike turns people into cold hard killers. Bully causes increases in bullying levels. The Patriot Act is good for the US.

Boy I could go on and on.

I think the problem lies in this: For the older generations, the false realities they are presented with are presented in such a way that they are meant to be confused with actual reality. Businesses such as Fox News and such pretend to report on real life events, but we know different.

As children we have clearly defined lines between fantasy and reality. Reality is everything that happens to us personally. Fantasy happens in the books we read, the shows/movies we watch, the games we play.
These boundaries between fantasy and reality are very clearly defined.

But with adults, they are presented with extreme bias in the media that they read and watch. Sure they have some of the same boundaries between clear fiction and reality. But it is the blurring that happens in the news media that causes the adults to lose their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.


"The Patriot Act is good for the US." LOL! I love the cheap shot.

Yeah I'm starting to see a trend myself, if what they believe to be cold hard facts, why has over all crime rate drop, and why aren't there more shootings?

It seems this woman forgot one of the cornerstones of primary and secondary education in the United States...

Remember to ALWAYS, ALWAYS show your work.

We could have at least considered giving her partial credit for showing how she played the game and reached her answer.

As it is: she just fails.

Dude, she's Canadian. Come on, step up or drop the 160th SOAR reference from your name.

As for this teacher, this is just the continuation of a trend I've noticed at the ACJS conference (a national criminology conference). People are blaming things that are inanimate for poor behavior and for problems.

It's an easy sell. Blame the CD for the Skinhead. Blame the movie for the copycat car heist. Blame Doom/Counter-strike/America's Army/Sonic the Hedgehog(that's where I learned to shoot)/COD4 for the school shooting. Don't look any farther than that.

On a related note, on March 6th or 8th, there was a school shooting in Israel. It was put down by a student armed with a pistol, who shot the Arab who had been walking through the school firing 600 rounds from his AK. The kill was confirmed by a paratrooper living adjacent to the school.

Note that when some good gets done, video games don't get any mention.

Also, bullying is a part of socialization. Before you're accepted, you're mocked. Its something I would suggest we not go out on a limb to fuck with.

Why would they get attention for good? It's easier to blame problem on things than people. People want EXTREMLY simple answers to etremly complex problems.

Besides if anyone wants to blames shootings on games, why not blame house of the dead, or Area-51 hell any rail shooter. Hell even aracde Time Crisis gives recoil. It would be easier to blame them and not GTA.

I really admire Della Roca he's a great public speaker. What he said was pure intellegence. I think Ms. Donnelly had no clue what she was going up against in the interview. I don't like to state wins or fails but both sides have valid points...

@ Ebonheart

Actually, I believe the crime rate increased slightly in 2007. However, it was far lower than it was in the early 90s and lower than when the crime rate started to reduce. Some suggested the slight increase might be contributed by Katrina refugees (being displaced and having trouble finding legitimate work). Personally, I think it was just a natural fluctuation. We'll never completely stop crime and what goes down must come up in this case.

Last I heard, the first half of 2008 had a reduced crime rate. I'm not sure if they have compiled and released the information for the second half of 2008 yet.

Can someone give the transcript of Della Rocca's debate with Mrs. Donnelly ? I can't watch the video from my computer, and it's not on YouTube yet. Thanks in advance !

@ Gameboy

The current times are still greatly lower than crime in the 60's and 70's.

I just think it's funny that games get this negative attention and have people going "Kids who play games go insane!" By that a lot of us gamers should by now be on death row for seriel rape, seriel murder, extrostion, blackmail, possestion of countless illegal unregistered firearms and explosives, what else can we tack on there they (main stream media) have accused us of doing?

Mrs. Donnelly clearly hasn't done much more than read a badly written synopsis... wow
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Let me say this first hand: Teachers are as responsible for causing bullying as the bullies themselves. This is all just posing to look good in the media. Teachers don't really care.

Did Donnelly contradict herself in the interview? "I haven't seen anything but what's in the trailers", "we got kids to play it and we watched them". So has she seen it or not?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@ Ebonheart

No doubt about that, but people are concerned about present crime. Crime is never good for people or society and I think we have a duty and obligation to attempt to reduce it as much as possible. We'll never eradicate it, but we can reduce the impact.

Wait. You're not on death row for murder/rape/etc? Damn, now I feel lonely.

"Clearly, the creators and promoters of the game just don’t get it… A game such as Bully: The Scholarship Edition, which reduces bullying to a mere lark… contributes nothing positive to youth culture. Indeed, it contradicts everything that educators are trying to accomplish…

Well, here’s a hard fact: Bullying is never fun!"

Going by previous comment sections on this issue, I'd say Mrs Donnelly misses a fairly important point here: a lot of the people defending the game (maybe not its publicly visible defenders, but the GP crowd at any rate) know perfectly well that bullying isn't fun - they've been bullied extensively in school themselves. Not especially surprising - in the apparently eternal and unchangeable system of social groups in the US educational system puts people who like video games pretty damn low in the pecking order.

I am a teacher in Canada and I can clearly see how this game is basically an "attack of the nerds" or even something like a typical teenage high school comedy.

Its a great game that EVERY teacher should play. If I was still in Canada (I am teaching for a bit overseas) I would bring my copy into class and base lessons around it.

@ Gameboy

Apprently I should be according to the media, after all I play the evil causing "GTA" *bum bum buuum!* So the police should be kicking in my apartment door sometime soon. /joke

@E. Zachary Knight

I think in many ways you're right but I suspect that age creates cerebral laziness. All our lives we're bombarded with things that claim to be news which is at best a bit biased and as people get older, they tend to get lazy and believe rather than think.

Bullying is not fun, they're right about that. In both primary & high school I was both the nerd and the fat kid so as a concentration of the 2 most popular targets I was pretty well pincered. The teachers tried to help but by encouraging me to feel good about myself rather than stopping it. I didn't think that was good at the time but I'm now firmly convinced that there was some extremely wise thought behind it. If a kid gets everything done for them & not ever learn to defend themselves, they often turn into selfish little shits who take and never give anything back. I knew my fair share of those in school too.

On the defensive I managed to give better than I got, I broke a kids nose, another ones finger & someone's arm without injury to myself. I created a public demonstration of rage by throwing a seat made from 2 logs (that weighed almost as much as I did) at someone who was teasing me and strangely enough, noone bothered me after that. Probably not the best way to go but I'd prefer to inspire dread than fear-based spiteful humour.

There was an article in our local paper the other day about this. I've emailed both the writer of the article, and the editor of the paper. Neither has even replied.

The stupid thing is that the article was total bullshit, accusing the game of content it doesn't even have. I Guess truth has no place in school and newspapers.

I think the whole controversy is caused by a misconception stemming from the game's title. The teachers assume (wrongly) that the title 'Bully' means that the player plays a bully. This is not the case. The title, it seems to me, refers more to the name of the school - Bulworth (or 'Bully' for short). Heck, the main character is fighting back AGAINST the bullies in the school. Personally, as a kid who was bullied in school I enjoy the vicarious thrill of getting back - getting a bit of that resentment that's still there in my mind in a healthy way that doesn't result in anyone actually getting hurt.

Heck, in my view teachers are part of the problem - they often turn a blind eye to bullying. Evil prospers when good people do nothing, and teachers have done nothing about bullying for a very long time. This latest controversy is evidence that they're missing the mark yet again! The real bullies are in schools - not in a video game company.

Bullying may not be fun, but being bullied and overcoming it by succeeding at other things (such as school, gaining higher social status by achievement, etc) feels pretty good.

Hmm... and seeing how I've finished the game, I think I'm qualified to say that that is exactly what the game is about.


I agree with you about how news media can easily bullshit the older generations (boomers etc.) about topics that they are not familiar with involving new media (internet, video games, and issues about cell phones for example). Seeing how news media serialy put out false information about games raises many questions.

The cycle is now clear about why games are being constantly attacked. The politicans recieve angry letters, e-mails, and phone calls about a topic that they are not familar with by people who are not familiar with said topic. The people who contacted the politicans got that information from the media (media that does little to no research or intentionaly lies about the information because they now that said people won't research that topic on their own). We now know that the media can be caterorgized into two styles when they talk about games. The styles I call them are "Idiot" and "Tabloid".

@ Vellocet

Sometimes, just being great at something isn't enough. Some people have extremly low self esteem. Kid I knew when I was in high school, found out just after I graduated hs that he pulled a knife on one of the kids bulling him. Kid was smart, and teachers praised him. Kid had reporrted his bullies several times but the school never did anything about it. After the knife incident the kid bullied got expelled, but the most that happened to the 3 kids that teased and bullied him relentlessly got 2 days suspenstion. but only after the kid pushed the other over the line.

Why are so many of our educators poor critical thinkers? They should be ashamed.

I have been harshly bullied in elementary school. I reported it to the principal, but she did nothing. Instead, the kids who were bulling me reported that I was swearing, and I got deep trouble for that. At the time, I didn't even know the existence of swear words.

I find it odd how cursing is worse then having the whole class against you all the time.

I never seen physical bulling at my school. If there is a fight on school grounds, it wasn't because of bulling. I bet some schools have physical bulling, but I don't see them.

Maybe these teachers should concern more about actual bulling then boycotting the game Bully.

As usual we see the greatest problem with these situations is not the inherent idiocy and unwillingness to be open to nother point of view, but the pressing need to be seen to be doing something.
That is where this stems from.

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