Before and after its release, Bully caused a lot controversy among parents and educators since its first inception. Criticism has arisen due to the adult nature of previous Rockstar Games, in particular the Hot Coffee mod in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The title of Bully itself caused a great deal of controversy, leading to the game being marketed as Canis Canem Edit in PAL regions, which means "dog eat dog" in Latin. While groups such as Bullying Online and Peaceaholics have criticized the game for glorifying or trivializing school bullying, some groups counter that the protagonist is just as much defending himself and crusading to end bullying in the Academy, and that picking on girls or weaker kids is a serious transgression with serious ramifications. Most of the criticism surrounding Bully was voiced before the content of the game was available to the public. In 2006, the United States-based Entertainment Software Rating Board officially gave Bully a rating of "T" (suitable for ages 13 and up), the BBFC gave Canis Canem Edit a 15 rating, the New Zealand OFLC restricted it to persons 15 years of age and over and the Australian OFLC rated it M (Moderate). In 2007, Yahoo! Games listed it as one of the top ten controversial games of all time.
United States Edit
Beginning in 2005, Jack Thompson supported a campaign to discourage Take-Two’s subsidiary, Rockstar Games, from releasing a game called Bully, in which, according to Thompson, "what you are in effect doing is rehearsing your physical revenge and violence against those whom you have been victimized by. And then you, like Klebold and Harris in Columbine, become the ultimate bully." Jack Thompson said, "The games shows you how to be bullying, take over your school". Thompson later requested to have the game banned from being sold in stores, and marketplaces in the United States. Thompson also criticized Bill Gates and Microsoft for contracting with Rockstar Games to release the game on the Xbox. Thompson wrote a letter to Microsoft saying "Dear Bill Gates, You have fifty-four (54) days in which to stop the release of Bully on XBox. Govern yourself accordingly." Jack Thompson also sued retailers: GameStop, Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Circuit City, and Toys R Us for requesting bully to be released on their shelves. Thompson told Best Buy, Take-Two and Gamestop he would like a copy and would like to review the game before it gets released (October 17, 2008). The Floridan Judge ruled out that Bully shall be released in public and didn't find anything that would go against the law. Thompson begged the Judge by saying "You don't understand".
Thompson later hopes that Bully would receive an M rating by the ESRB which means children under the age of 17 would not be allowed to buy or rent the game without permission by their parent or guardian.
When Thompson saw Bully being rated T for Teen (Which means the Game is suitable for teenagers aged 13 and older, but is not restricted), he was outraged. He later used the gay content in which Jimmy is able to kiss the six bisexual male characters for his evidence. Jack Thompson wrote to the ESRB:
"Dear Patricia Vance, We just found gay content in Bully that Jimmy Hopkins is able to kiss boys and make out with them. Good luck with your Teen rating now."
The ESRB responded saying they were already aware what was in the game before rating it.
Jack Thompson later became Infamous to players, as he tries to get their "favorite" games banned from being published.
United Kingdom Edit
Labour MP, Keith Vaz argued that Bully be banned or reclassified as rated 18 in the UK before its publication and before the content had been finalized, the game was released rated 15. Currys and PC World, both owned by DSG International, said that they do not wish to sell the game in the UK because it is "not appropriate for Currys' family-friendly image". The official statement lists what Currys believes is "the explicit link between violence and children" as the reason behind the ban, and continues: "We haven't taken this decision lightly, particularly considering the excellent relationship we have with Rockstar." However, despite this decision, other high street retailers, including GAME, HMV, Woolworths, and Virgin Megastores, have all announced an intention to stock the game. DSG stores still stock other Rockstar games including the GTA series, and other violent games have BBFC 18 ratings, whereas Bully has a BBFC 15 rating.
Bully was banned in Brazil. In April 2008, Brazilian justice prohibited the commerce, import and availability of the game in Brazilian houses. The decision was taken by judge Flávio Mendes Rabelo from the state of Rio Grande do Sul based on psychological findings by the state psychology society which claims that the game would be potentially harmful to teenagers and adults. Anyone caught selling or even owning the game would face a daily fine of R$1,000.00. Despite this, there are many pirate copies of Bully around Brazil.