By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
Back in junior high and high school, I was a constantly sickly, little odious smartie who lived in mortal fear of getting less than an "A" on anything. Reading, writing, and learning were the only things I cared aboutaside from dying from being chronically sick, which terrified me daily. As a kid on high doses of steroids, I never was sure if I was coming or going. So, I was a favorite mutt of the local bullies. But at some point, after being spat on from above constantly, I figured enough was enough. I put on some pointy boots one morning and when the biggest of the bullies spat down on my pale forehead from the stairwell above, I casually walked up the stairs, aimed directly under his kneecap and kicked as hard as I could. The bully limped so badly for days later that no one bothered me much after that. I realized they really couldn't hit me: there was no pride in that since I was knockin' on heaven's door.
So it was with some trepidation that I cracked open Bully, the controversial new PlayStation 2 game from Rockstar, the makers of the even more controversial Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I didn't want to relive my life as a bullied high school student. It was too darn traumatic, even if a lot of those former toughs are drunks or criminals now.
When I watched the opening movie of Bully, the scenes tried hard to make me feel sorry for a runty delinquent who is being dropped off at a private school by his evil stepfather and uncaring mother. As the parents go on a lengthy cruise for their honeymoon, young Jimmy Hopkins is introduced to the torment-filled, oppressive ways of private school. It's an almost-cliché opening. Though it isn't badly written, it made me wonder why Bully had received all the hype it had from the game critic crowd.
Once you play the game, you'll see why there's a grand fuss about it. While part of the game is about bullying others when they pester you, there's humor and social satire here that's about as good as any game gets. And you get to exercise your brain muscles, too. In English class, you'll be given a bunch of letters and you'll have to make about 10 words in your allotted time. That's not easy, even if you play the Will Shortz puzzle game on NPR every weekend.
There are lots of missions to finish and many bullies and prefects to thwart you from completing them. Having said that, the world of Bullworth Academy is not as big as the universe within Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Yet, it's large enough, surprise-filled, and graphically rich. What I love most about Bully, however, are the weird and troubled students that you meet along the way. Sure, there are bullying giants with negative IQs. But there's the overwrought, overweight girl who has lost her chocolates and can't stop crying. There's the nice kid who's called a 'girl' simply because he's kind. It all makes you wonder how anyone, especially the weaker kids, survived those school years.
While Bully is not perfect, it's one of the last great games for the PlayStation 2, which will be considered old school by mid-November when the PS3 is launched. For those of us who left school years ago, Bully is a hard-edged, often-touching reminder of how school can be about survival of the fittest. For those current high school folks who consider themselves nerds and geeks (even though they aren't), Bully will probably be a triumphant experience in which they live vicariously through young Hopkins. The nerds won't have to wait until they graduate into adult life to succeed among their peers. They can rule the roost right now in Bully. At least, they can try. For they are like the pig's head in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Like the pig, "their half-shut eyes were dim with the infinite cynicism of adult life. They assured Simon that everything was a bad business." Until you get out of school.Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
The makers of horror, whether they're from the publishing, movie, or gaming worlds, make their livings as parasites of sorts. They prey on people's deepest fears, gorging themselves like ticks as your nerves fray. That's what I love about this time of year, daring people to scare me until I'm as withered and paranoid as Hawthorne's preacher from The Minister's Black Veil.
In the game world this year, the games aren't as terror-filled as in years past. Still, they hit the essence of Halloween, that idea of dressing up as someone else for a night of mischief and mayhem. Here's a look through the sometimes creepy peephole of horror.
DESTROY ALL HUMANS! 2This Teen-rated game is so full of fun and humor, you'll almost forget there's a creepy alien involved who wants to kill every human alive. Last year, THQ released a 50s-themed Destroy All Humans! This year, it's a 60s-themed release. Not only are the PlayStation 2 and Xbox games full of shooting fun, they're rife with on-target parodies of hippies, British rock, and miniskirts. There's even a section called "The Rage of Aquarius."
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!