Former EA devs take a stand against cyberbullying with iOS game

Mobile game High School Story adds quests where players meet cyberbullying victim and must help her stand up to bullies.

A high school-themed iOS game from a group of former Electronic Arts developers is taking on the issue of cyberbullying, which is believed to affect one in six US teens per year.

The game, High School Story from Pixelberry Studios, was released this summer and has seen more than 4 million downloads to date. After the deaths of teenagers Rebecca Sedwick and Audrie Potts, who committed suicide this year after they were cyberbullied, Pixelberry CEO Oliver Miao decided to take a stand through the company's mobile game.

To that end, Pixelberry has added numerous cyberbullying-themed quests and content to High School Story. Specifically, players will meet a young cyberbullying victim named Hope (above) and must help her stand up to bullies.

Players will make use of "sensitive, realistic messaging" techniques created in collaboration with cyberbullying charity The Cybersmile Foundation in the game. The cyberbullying quests launched recently and have seen more than 400,000 players so far.

According to Pixelberry, as developers began writing the cyberbullying-themed quests, a player reached out to them acknowledging suicidal thoughts. After contacting a crisis hotline to provide this person with assistance, developers began to understand how much of an impact they could have on the issue with High School Story.

“For me, one of the worst things about being bullied was feeling like there was nobody I could turn to for help," Miao said in a statement. “Pixelberry is excited to be using High School Story to help teens learn how to stop cyberbullying. Based on statistics from the Center of Disease Control, we’re estimating that 80,000 of our players could attempt suicide this year. If our efforts can help just a fraction of these players, High School Story will be supporting hundreds, if not thousands of teens through challenging junctures in their lives.”

On top of the in-game content, Pixelberry has pledged over $100,000 to Cybersmile through matching purchases of a special in-game item. "Tens of thousands" of the items have been purchased already, Pixelberry said.

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Discussion

79 comments
hystavito
hystavito

As I continued to browse Gamespot, I realized something.  Could all the Eddie hate around here be considered cyberbullying?

hystavito
hystavito

I'm not saying I think it's OK to cyber-bully someone (whatever that means exactly, just like regular bullying it suffers from the problem of how do you define or draw the line for when it becomes bullying), but I believe that a lot of people are now simply pointing to this new thing because it's easier to blame it on that.


The problem of suicide is far deeper than this, cyberbullying is just a convenient way to say that's why these kids are killing themselves.  The real reasons, well they could be many things, and some of them might be too frightening to admit/face when a parent has lost their child to suicide.  It's far easier to just say some "evil bully(ies)" caused it.

snacky_smorez
snacky_smorez

I don't understand this. Unless you know the person bullying you in real life turn the computer off. Simple. How low is your self esteem that you would let that continue. And if you know this person in real life, report it to someone or kick their ass. Why is this so hard?

Cyber bullying is just something that happens on the internet. Take this site, there are a lot of people who strongly dislike elegantspock and pretty much bully him. People need to not take things to heart. Christ, people need to grow a pair.

musalala
musalala

"cyber-bullying" Kids today are soft as twinkies...back in my day

musalala
musalala

"cyber-bullying" I sorry but you kids today are soft, back in my day........

pszone
pszone

Well im getting cyber bullying on here :[

  I think not right way I type and its not my fault im different. :[  

My sexy girlfriend understand me and if anyone   don't understand me don't reply  and this people saying nasty things need to grow up and leave other people alone. 

 Never hurt anyone on game spot and support other people comments if I don't understand them ill still read and reply.  

DrKill09
DrKill09

Know how to stop cyber bullying?  Don't let your kids use social media, and teach them to fight back. 

pyro1245
pyro1245

do kids nowadays have such low self-esteem?

helldragonzer
helldragonzer

considering he worked for EA he knows a lot about cyber bullying. and great concept btw, though in my day bullies where in front of you and we had to face them head on.

CnConrad
CnConrad

Or perhaps all hospitals should make parents learn one phrase before taking their newborn home.

'suck it up buttercup'

That would fix 75% of bullying right there.

djpetitte
djpetitte

How about sites like FB step up and do something about it.

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

This is a game teaching people about cyberbullying, but half the commenters don't seem to understand what cyberbullying is. You can't f*cking punch back at anonymous people out to screw over your life. It can be as small as someone just posting abuse on your profile, to entire groups of people finding your email, physical address, your relationships and just messing with you completely.

People do far worse things when they're anonymous than in person! Show some empathy.

djpetitte
djpetitte

How about this, learn to block and delete and get can of pepper spray.

Hurvl
Hurvl

It's great that they've been able to help someone already, because these things usually seem more like full of good intentions than actually being good for anything.

raydawg2000
raydawg2000

every new parent should be provided a book before they leave the hospital..."How to raise your kid to not be an asshole for Dummies"....problem solved.

Takeno456
Takeno456

Ah the modern day. Being harassed from behind a computer screen. Our society is one of cowards. 

obsequies
obsequies

if you things arent good then move, get out of school or leave home, block people get a mac or download some protection. This whole cyber bullying thing is silly, sorry devs I just grew up in an age where a bully broke your nose not your facebook page

obsequies
obsequies

whats cyber bullying anyways? getting a virus or getting hacked? 

Radnen
Radnen

The problem I see with bullying is that it can't be fixed, it must only be understood. Every year schools refresh a portion of their students, and every 4 to 5 years, they are completely refreshed since that's the period of time it takes for a student to move through the system. That means if you can only help those few who were affected, good but you scarcely solved the problem. Quite frankly, I think it is unsolvable and part of human nature.


It ultimately comes down to parent responsibility. Whenever I hear schools doing outreach programs to stop bullying I don't think immediately of the schools and programs, I think of the parents. Where are they in all this, what role do they play? Bullying can be avoided with a tough skin and not letting your child grow up believing everything is happy-dandy. Plus, those bullies also have real issues too, mostly due to a dysfunctional family, and need help just as equally.


Cyberbullies I have found are not that kind of bully though (the one that picks on people at the playground), so It's less of a fact they are from a dysfunction family and may just have inferiority complexes. They hide behind the anonymity or impersonal distance of the internet and tell themselves they can throw those punches. After all, the punches back don't hurt. These people still come down to an ultimate lack of responsibility from their parents. What are they doing in their free time? I hardly think they are productive. Cyberbullies may range anywhere from jealousy to depression, and they try to cope by playing their game on the internet not realizing whose life they really are affecting on the other side.


It's sad, but I think part of the problem is also understanding. As I said, this issue will go largely unsolved, unless certain restraints that are no good for social networking are imposed. True enough, they take advantage of the system to do their work. I think they just need to be understood. Kinds need to be educated. It won't make the problem go away (like meeting random strangers) but at least it educates kids to make the right decisions when interacting with them. I tend to see both sides as victims to cyberbullying. And the more we understand that relationship, the better off we will be. Parents can make that difference, parents can be educators too. Perhaps a bully and his parents won't understand, but there are always two to an interaction and it's the job of at least one of the two to understand the other.

Tripwolf
Tripwolf

Buy the microtransactions or the bullies win.


Give - me - a - break.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

*sigh* I... If... whatever. What an inventive way to stand against cyberbullying!

nurnberg
nurnberg

The best way to stand against bullying is obviously to buy more DLC.

rachelkirk
rachelkirk

@hystavito Cyber bullying means bullying, but online. And although you say that you miss one thing Cyber bullying help push them over that edge. They don't have support from home, school, or friends and then find out even online they get pushed to far and that why its called evil because it just pushes way to far making them feel more alone then ever. Even if they have support at home sometimes they don't see it or choose not to. Sometimes its hard to see your support when your depress or don't want to and when you have so many people putting you down in real and school it pushes to hard making you feel singled out when your not.

rachelkirk
rachelkirk

@snacky_smorez It's hard because the internet can be addicting and when people are talking about you it's like you feel the need to keep reading what they say and sometimes typing things back. It is never easy to just step away from something when you feel your some call it honor, rep or w.e you wish to call it. Being stepped and smashed on.

RedDragonGecko
RedDragonGecko

@pszoneYou are so ugly it looks like someone hit you in the face with a hot shovel.

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

@frylock1987I'm going to guess by your comment that you don't actually know what cyber bullying is. It isn't just about anonymous people randomly insulting other anonymous people online. One form of cyber bullying is where a group of kids at a school will create a website about their victim which acts as a platform for them degrade that victim as much as possible. They then share the link and spread it around school until just about everyone is in on it and the victim's life becomes hell both at school and anywhere else.


It's a very real and severe form of bullying with real consequences and it often results in physical and psychological bullying as well, once the victim has been socially isolated from all his peers, so please, before you spout anymore ignorant nonsense on the matter, do some research, take a look at some real life cases, and enlighten yourself about what really happens out there in the real world. Maybe that way, you'll come across as less of a complete douchebag who sounds like he couldn't give a damn.

skittzo_s
skittzo_s

@CnConrad Pfft F'ck that, all my children need's to know is my mobile number.

snacky_smorez
snacky_smorez

How about parents step up and do their jobs? Lazy parents are the problem, not Facebook.

frylock1987
frylock1987

Because its not Facebooks Job to protect you from bullying? hence why they have all those privacy settings you can use?

djpetitte
djpetitte

if facebook pays me I will personally monitor profiles for offensive material 8 to 9 hours a day and delete it.

thorn3000
thorn3000

admit it, you like it, that's why you keep paying

thorn3000
thorn3000

you sure they do? in my high school experience people did quite bad bad things in person and had no quarrels about it

Slim02
Slim02

@TehUndeadHorror


You are talking to the worry people. If people here had empathy or respect for others. We would not be here talking about.. They are as bad as cyberbullys and bullies themselves.. 

Spectralfire0
Spectralfire0

A bully breaking your nose wouldn't be so bad compared to some of what goes on now.  Bullies these days are out to ruin kids lives by embarrassing them through social media.  You can't face them, its all done behind a computer.  It's hard to understand it if it isn't happening to your kid, but trust me its a sad state of affairs. 

Sl4cka
Sl4cka

Your avatar looks like a dirty mug with a stupid hat.


You are welcome.

goggles123456
goggles123456

I love your post. You have a lot of really great ideas in there, in particular the part about understanding. From a martial arts perspective, I help people all the time to try to understand and deal with bullying. It's easy enough to walk away from a physical bully, and I feel so bad for these people that get "followed" everywhere on the internet and harassed. You may be right in that bullying is an unsolvable problem, and we can certainly better equip ourselves to handle the issue as it arises. We should consider very deeply what we decide to put on social media site and forums and such, because it will give bullies one less thing to target.

helldragonzer
helldragonzer

but he is right, before you either stood up for yourself or got beat up, now you don't even know who your bully is and yet it's much worst than getting beat up.

CnConrad
CnConrad

First world problems, if our kids biggest issues come from mean words typed on a screen we are pretty damn lucky.

helldragonzer
helldragonzer

you know what I mean, before kids were thought to try to talk it out but if that didn't work then defend themselves, now they are thought to talk it our or just run away, and running won't make your problems go away.

helldragonzer
helldragonzer

and yet that's how society was before and it was a lot easier back then.

93ChevyNut
93ChevyNut

You're right in that it's much worse because you can't face your attacker.  However, his "suck it up" solution isn't the answer.  That's like saying, "Somebody stole your car?  Suck it up.  It was your fault for owning the car in the first place."  Civilized society cannot be built on that premise.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@CnConrad Well, kind of. You also have to realize how influenced kids are by their peers. Their minds aren't as strong as those of us who have more experience with assholes.