Wednesday, May 21, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

When I came across a little Kickstarted game today called Sumoboy, a game inspired by anti-bullying advocacy, it quickly reminded me of a meet that had with one of my clients today.

“These big guys used to take me to the corner and beat the living shit out of me, just because they could.”

Norris, I’ll call him, has major depressive disorder that has been supplemented by family conflict, sexual abuse, financial struggles, and bullying; some in which may or may not have contributed to his suicide attempt more than half a year ago.

Today, we discussed bullying and his stance on it today, though he was less than willing to delve into “how does that make you feel” territory. He spoke about observing grade school children in their playground and witnessing the dynamics that contribute to bullying:

“There were several pockets of kids where the biggest one was always picking on the little one.”

He’s 50, a man who grew up in a completely different generation. A generation where pedophiles weren’t marked as registered sex offenders on the internet. A generation where schools didn’t address bullying as an “epidemic”. A generation where video games comprised as moving blocks, and were comparative light years away from discussing any kind of emotion.

I haven’t mentioned that even video games publically address bullying, but I can imagine the surprise and sense of validation if I were to tell him. Sumoboy  follows the story of Oji, a round little orphan who manages to escape his unimaginative world’s troubles of bullying to embark on a Japanese inspired mythological journey to save the world of Seishin.

Though I appreciate the narrative jump-off of Sumoboy, from what I’ve reviewed on the Kickstarter page, it looks like it’ll be shifting towards standard video game affair in the same vein of Diablo and Bastion.

For games that fully discuss the subject of bullying in a less fantastical context, look no further than High School Story. Though its website pegs it as being a simple superficial adolescent version of The Sims, their partnership with Cybersmile and the collaborated chapter on bullying actually helped students seek help after contemplating suicide.

Games like Sumoboy and High School Story embraces a theme that has affected all of us, certainly myself. And though he’s unlikely to play it, I’m sure that Norris will deeply appreciate that a medium many in his generation sees as “violently shallow” is addressing bullying directly. 

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