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Few video games in history have sparked more misplaced outrage than Bully, the seminal semi-open world, action game from Rockstar Games.
The 2006 video game engendered quite a bit of consternation based on its name and its publisher’s reputation (Rockstar is best known for producing the violent “Grand Theft Auto” series of games) alone, before ever even being released.
Bully was actually banned from Brazil for eight years (2008-2016) and was an infamous target of activist and disbarred lawyer Jack Thompson, who went on quite the crusade against Bully that included threatening Bill Gates to not release Bully on the Microsoft-owned Xbox.
Much of the outcry over the game was based on the assumption that the player character would be the titular “bully” and the game would trivialize (or worse, glorify) bullying in schools.
Worse yet for the game, the previous blockbuster release from Rockstar — 2004’s Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — was grappling with the infamous “hot coffee” controversy where a mini-game meant to simulate sexual intercourse was found deep in the code of the game. Thompson unsurprisingly latched onto that controversy as well.
Never mind that that mini-game was not accessible without tinkering with the game’s coding, the hysteria over video game content — especially Rockstar’s — was in full force.
And yet, when Bully finally did release… it was not the school shooting-, pro-bullying-, underage sex-, gore-fueled monstrosity that many critics were expecting it to be.
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