Bully, but without bullying.

This is my proposal for a textual analysis of Rockstar’s Bully. I have built my analytical framework considering post-Structuralism, the game’s Political Economy and Psychoanalysis of the characters. At the end I will also propose a digital artefact to accompany the analysis.

What is a Textual Anaysis?

What is Post-Structualism and why is it important?

Making a post-structural analysis of the game will help us understand why Bully caused controversy and why it was received differently by different cultures and different age demographics. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, Bully was met with a negative reception from mainstream media strongly influencing parents against letting their children play it, even described as a ‘Columbine simulator’. In Brazil however, psychological research from Rio Grande do Sul suggested that Bully could potentially cause harm to both teenagers and adults. In 2008 Judge Flavio Mendes Rabelo banned Bully from Brazil. A post-structural analysis would allow us to consider the different reactions to the game separately, as post-structuralism states: “all truths are contextual”.

What is the Political Economy in Game meida?

An analysis of this game must include a consideration of the political economy as it is important to note the power of legislation on the game’s audience. In the United Kingdom and the United States, Bully was viewed as harmful for children, evident in its 15+ rating. If the 18+ rating suggested by the government in Florida, however, had been ruled, Bully would no doubt have seen an even smaller audience. The political tool of legislation made Bully become a “rare”, and perhaps, a “cool” game to play as a teenager, whereas hefty fines were charged to anyone in possession of the game in Brazil, possibly leading to an increase of cracked gaming consoles in south America. It wasn’t until 2016 the ban was lifted and without any explanation why. By then Bully had missed its prime time on the shelves.

‘ratings comparison’, image from kaspersky.com.au

What is the psychoanalysis of Bullying?

So far, my analytical lens has been focused on the context around game, however with a psychoanalysis we can begin to look at the content. During the game’s announcement, screenshots were released, portraying main character Jimmy Hopkins as the antagonist, the “bully”. It was later revealed, in fact Jimmy was the protagonist who stood up against bullies. As my analytical framework consists of a psychoanalysis of bullying, I would explore the narrative, Jimmy’s character, and the psyche of the different cliques: Bullies, Jocks, Nerds, Preps, Greasers and Townies. Not limited to content, the psychoanalysis will also explore Rockstar’s reputation for games. To strengthen the analytical framework further, I would also explore Rockstar’s demographic.

‘Bully Scholarship Edition Intro’, YouTube video from JamesInDigital

The Digital Artefact (online project):

“Bully, but without bullying”

My proposal for a digital artefact is a pacifist playthrough. It would be interesting to play through the entire game as passively as possible, fighting as little as possible. As this would involve a lot of restarting, it would be a Twitch stream, where audience would be able to witness all the failed attempts and experience the process of trial and error.

Why not read more? comment below your thoughts!


Diane Carr, ‘Textual Analysis, Digital Games, Zombies’

Gary Radford & Marie Radford, ‘Structuralism, post-structuralism, and the library: de Saussure and Foucault’

Interactions.agu.org, ‘Public Policies and Violence in Video Games’

Susan Swearer & Shelley Hymel, ‘Understanding the psychology of Bulling’

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