January 17, 2013 3:00 AM | John Polson
The developers behind Super Crate Box, Thomas Was Alone, and more indie and AAA games have begun to share their stories about being bullied and how they've persevered via a new website called Beyond the Final Boss.
The man behind the passion project is Shahid Ahmad, the designer for the 1985 Atari game Chimera (recently recreated) and current Senior Business Development Manager at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.
Ahmad was inspired to take action after joining a heated discussion online about bullying between Thomas Was Alone developer Mike Bithell and former PomPom and Introversion developer Byron Atkinson-Jones. Ahmad got their permission to repost parts of their story and went out to find more developers who were willing to discuss their bullying experiences.
Somewhat reminiscent of the It Gets Better campaign, the accounts here are rather raw, but the text-based stories seem somewhat easier to divulge than on camera.
Thomas Was Alone's Bithell shared, "I was bullied for most of my secondary school years. I was pretty much the lowest rung in my school, mainly because of nerdiness I think, but I was also a bit overweight, at least at the start... I remember constant verbal abuse and name calling, and getting beaten up by groups. I was also regularly locked in cupboards. My head of year's response was to tell me to avoid populated areas of my school. Dickhead."
The first full profile on the site came from Vlambeer's Rami Ismail. He wrote, "The most vivid memory I have is one of the few friends I had back then walking up to me and telling me I'd no longer be invited to his birthday party, because we were no longer friends or the other kids would find him lame."
Ismail, like the others that followed, discussed how he managed the bullying and what the turning point was. "I had hoped college would be better, but things just continued to be terrible in general. I decided to intentionally flunk most of my tests so that I wouldn't pass the year and I could start over in another class. When that worked out and I went to school for the first day in that new class, I decided to no longer take any abuse and instead of trying to adapt to what people felt was cool, just to be myself."
His profile goes on to address how bullying has had an effect on him, how life is better now, and what he would say to those thinking about getting into video games but are experiencing bullying.
"The reason you're being bullied isn't because you're different - it's because your bullies can't deal with that. You're most likely smarter, more creative or more ambitious than those that bully you. You, unlike them, have the ability to see the world through a perspective most people could never see," Ismail writes.
Three more indie and AAA developers have added their messages this week: one Call of Duty audio director Mark Kilborn, former EA and Rockstar Leeds turned freelancer Stephen McGreal, and up-and-coming artist Charlotte Conopo of Dojit Games.
Ahmad told me several more testimonials are already lined up, and indie scene followers can expect to read about the Death Ray Manta (DRM) developer Rob Fearon's experiences very soon.
Ahmad said to me of the site's ongoing mission, "We want to show these young people examples of successful, happy lives achievable beyond the bullying. A fulfilled, happy and cool life is within their reach. We focus on the hope and show that it's not a pipe dream."