Bully has an interesting history. Although announced long ago by Rockstar, very few details have been released about the game. However, that didn't stop eager politicians to decry the title, knowing only that it was about bullying and by the same developers who make Grand Theft Auto. Anti-game activist Jack Thompson cites the game in nearly every press release and publicized letter, calling it a "Columbine simulator."

The now PS2 exclusive has been unveiled to the mainstream press, and it turns out the controversy is a tad overblown. The New York Times and Rocky Mountain News discuss (and laud) its punishment system, which forces the character to do menial tasks for breaking the rules (e.g. mowing the grass, shoveling snow). In essence, the game pushes you to be a good student, earn a kiss from a girl, and stand up to Bullies.

USA Today and Reuters, both of whom were allowed to play the game, and found the rewards more plentiful when your character goes to class -- you learn how to make fireworks, you play word jumble, and you increase your literacy. The latter results in increased likelihood you can talk yourself our of trouble and woo women.

"You need certain rules in a boarding school," said Rockstar's Rodney Walker. "We want you to feel like you're in school, that constant pressure of class."

Another point made is that fighting is rather tame. There are no blood, bruises, guns, or knives. While fighting is a part of the game, Rockstar made a point to note that exploration is the primary goal. And there are punishments for fighting. One interesting feature noted was the ability to end a fight by simply apologizing.

Did Rockstar play the safe route with this game? Indeed. Will there still be controversy, and will politicians still correlate this game with the downfall of Western Civilization? Most definitely. But will it be fun? We'll find out soon enough.

[Thanks, Mike Fink and Jay]

Read -- With Bully, Rockstar Looks to Beat the Grand Theft Auto Rap (NYTimes)
Read -- 'Bully' hits schoolyard, for good or bad (USA Today)
Read -- "Bully" video game to be released in October (Reuters)
Read -- 'Bully' lies in wait (Rocky Mountain News)

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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