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Is School an Appropriate Video Game Setting?

by Nate Paolasso on 12/20/12 05:02:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


This article was originally posted on GamerXChange.

School is a huge part of most people’s lives. Whether they’re still a student in high school, or are studying at a college level, almost everyone experiences a school setting for a good portion of their life. During the years spent at school, a lot can happen and change in lives. Friendships start and end, romances come and go, experiences are made, and drama spreads like wildfire. So if such a big part of the average life is spent in school, how come video games aren’t using this setting more often? Or is it even appropriate to use this setting for a video game?


A few games have used a school as their setting and were pretty successful at that. The Persona series uses a high school as the main setting and it works well for that series. Even games as old as Final Fantasy VIII use a school of sorts as the setting. But by far, the game that best suits this setting, and is the main inspiration for this article, is Bully. Rockstar nailed it on the head for this game. The main protagonist is a student whose parents sent him to a private school for the misbehaved. Think Grand Theft Auto, but replace the guns, cars, and mobsters with baseball bats, bikes, and cliques. Time is spent going to class, or skipping, and performing tasks for cliques and teachers in hopes of taking over the school. Even though many criticized Bully for being a “watered-down” version of GTA, with less violence and gun-play, it is probably the best game with a school setting to ever be made and is one of my personal favorites. Even with its rather cliché portrayal of the students, meaning that the school grounds are littered with very stereotypical versions of bullies, greasers, geeks, jocks, and preps, it still represents high school life better than any game I had played previously.

Developers so readily rush towards the generic settings, like war zones, for their games, that they have become normal and quite boring. Now gamers can expect the yearly Call of Duty, Battlefield, and the odd third-person shooter. It isn’t that these games are bad, they just seem overdone. And if giant developers such as: Atlus, Square-Enix, and Rockstar can use the school setting successfully, and without stepping on too many toes, then I see no reason why other developers don’t take advantage of this hardly used setting. Making this type of game can be tricky, mostly because school deals with children, but time has shown that it can be done right. The school setting is something that I think everyone one can relate to and whether out of love or hate, revisiting this setting through video games is something special.

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