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SGS Feature: 'Taking Bully Seriously'

SGS Feature: 'Taking Bully Seriously'

November 2, 2006 | By Brandon Boyer

November 2, 2006 | By Brandon Boyer
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In today's main feature written for Gamasutra sister site Serious Games Source, which deals with games created for training, health, government, military, educational and other uses, Persuasive Games' Ian Bogost approaches controversial Rockstar title Bully from a serious games perspective and asks whether, given the copious media reporting that has, it should be taken seriously or not.

In this excerpt, Bogost talks about the already-infamous title and how the reactions to it differ between the game community and the general public, before asking which might be the more appropriate response:

"No matter how absurdist the public response to Bully might seem to those deeply immersed in video game culture, the game community’s own responses are framed almost entirely within the language and issues of that public debate. Nowhere do game reviewers, players, journalists, or developers discuss the game’s meaning on its own terms"neither in praise nor riposte.

We can understand this state of affairs through the lens of “seriousness.” On the one hand, the public detractors of Bully do take the game seriously, as a threat and a danger but not as a cultural artifact. The video game community, on the other hand, does not take the game seriously at all. It is allowing the legislators and attorneys and media watchdogs define the terms of the debate.

Rockstar doesn’t help matters, and not just because their releases seek out controversy to create a wake of free publicity. More so, they exacerbate the ambiguous meaning that surrounds the game by remaining silent about it. When Hollywood studios release films, even controversial ones, they launch huge press junkets to discuss them. They send the stars on The Tonight Show to talk about the film. They acknowledge that they take artistic license and make claims about the topics they choose to address. Taking Bully seriously means acknowledging that the game has something to say about the world, not just that the world has something to say about it. It means assessing how effectively the game tackles the topic of bullying and how meaningful its claims about it are.

All that huff and puff out of the way, what can we learn from Bully? Does it really fulfill the grant-worthy shoes I set out for it at the start of this article? The answer is, yes and no. "

You can now read the full Serious Games Source feature on the subject, including more on Bully's ambient social commentary. (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

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