By Thomas Pouta

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In discussions of youth and their consumption of contemporary media, cyberbullying emerges as one of the most pressing issues. This project is designed to address this issue through stories inspired by the aesthetics and storylines of vintage adventure games such as Mytsery House (1980/On-Line Systems). As vintage aesthetics constantly trend in youth spaces through selfie filters and Tik-Tok lenses, I attempted to create a vintage-styled Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game that simulates the experience of being cyberbullied and explores the proper ways to deal with the problem. This project had me also adjust the work to be geared in a format that would not only be educational but fun and easy to understand. While this is only a snippet of what this game could later lead to with more months of work, I believe it’s a good game demo. The process of making it became sometimes more difficult as I began to create the four major pathways, but I believe the demo exemplifies some excellent ways to deal with cyberbullying.

For the project, I used the platform of Typeform and utilized photos I had taken of my friends and environment in order to accompany the story of a teen as I believed they’d be recognizable despite my editing which was done to emulate pixel art. As an ode to adventure games, I decided to edit all of my photos through the format of pixel art using a free site Pixel It. Pixel art is a common form of art found in many video games such as Stardew Valley (2016, Eric Barone), Octopath Traveler (2018, Square Enix) and Celeste (2018, Matt Makes Games). The use of pixel art allowed me to transfer my high-quality photos to approximately 32-pixel art.

Writing stories was another integral part of this project. I began by creating four different endings I wanted to include in this version of the game. I wanted two endings to be negative experiences and two to be positive ones. However, all endings are validated, even those with negative emotions. The message is that there are multiple ways you can deal with it. The app, I hope, encourages youth to stand up for others and themselves through a medium that is fun, aesthetically pleasing, and replayable.

In the game, I wanted also to highlight the role of witnesses or bystanders in cyberbullying. This is addressed in the “beach” path. The importance of the witness’s roles – other young people witnessing cyberbullying- is highlighted in research done by Media Smarts in 2015 which shows that “an increased awareness of the important role that witnesses play in any bullying situation” is important to counter cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is an important issue. I hope that games like CyberSupport can validate cyberbullying experiences and teach ways to confront cyberbullying through interactive ways.

Thomas Pouta is a fourth-year Communication and Media Studies student at Carleton University, minoring in Film Studies. He is passionate about finding ways we can use play and games to educate and he loves storytellling. He hopes to work on more projects like this in the future.