Can Mobile Games Help Stop Cyberbullying?

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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Can Mobile Games Help Stop Cyberbullying?

Bullying is an all too real fact of life for many out there, whether it's real-time bullying or its online equivalent known as cyberbullying. But there may be some hope out there for those who find themselves on the receiving end, and it's going to be hope that, for those getting bullied, may come from a familiar source: mobile gaming.

It's not quite so clear-cut as it once was, but not so long ago, many gamers were also bullied for their involvement in gaming. While the increasingly mainstream nature of gaming has changed this fact somewhat, it's still sadly often the case that those who enjoy video games find themselves attacked by their more physically developed peers. And one developer, Pixelberry, may have the means to stop it well in hand.

Pixelberry developed “High School Story,” a game that essentially allows players to set up and run a high school of their own. Sounds pretty good, especially to the bullied, but there's one part of “High School Story” that has a particular resonance with gamers: a three-part quest story that deals particularly with cyberbullying. More specifically, the quest in question follows Hope, one of the younger sisters of the main character who finds herself on the receiving end of some of this behavior. At the time, all the player will know is that Hope's been keeping to herself a lot lately, and that's unusual for Hope, so it's a trigger mechanism that something's amiss. Part of the quest even refers players to a real-world charity known as Cybersmile which provides help and counseling to kids who have been affected by cyberbullying behavior in the past. Those who find themselves identifying with Hope can, in turn, take advantage of the counseling services right from the mobile game itself, and so far, around 100 players a week have been doing just that.

Pixelberry isn't alone here, either; DoSomething.org brought out a game in relation to its own efforts known as “The Bully Text,” a text-based “choose your own adventure” style of game that allowed players to explore bullying, particularly its reactions and emotions involved.

Of course, this isn't the first time that games have been used for social benefit. There have been games about cancer research, about quitting smoking; not so long ago we saw games attempt to teach about emotional intelligence. Bullying is just one more social ill that's getting hit by gaming, and really should go much farther than it does in terms of proving that gaming isn't just a bunch of “murder simulators” as was so trenchantly put not so long ago. Gaming has a potential to do quite a bit of good, and the more games like this can come out, clearly doing good, clearly having a value to the community, the easier it will be to look at gaming and consider it more than just some electronic wasteland where people spend time like water and get nothing out of it but eye strain and a sore wrist.

Gaming is a field where plenty of different perspectives can live and work right along side each other, and the market ultimately decides which perspectives have sufficient value to be explored more fully. It's got clear potential to go still farther than it already has, and is offering up some very exciting possibilities. Only time will tell where it all ends up, but with examples like this afoot, gaming may be regarded as a simple hobby sooner than we may think.
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