Many people playing video games today remember the educational games given to us in elementary school. There were plenty of options to learn how to type, and there were plenty of science games that weren’t enjoyable whatsoever. Rubberkid, a game for children, aims to teach children how to deal with bullies. Kids play as Rubberkid, the titular hero, who dons a suit made out of rubber bands. His suit is used to bounce insults back at the bullies who threw them, thus protecting the intended targets.
Charlie Jackson, the developer of Rubberkid, is the creator of The Critterverse: a website full of games for children. With his newest game, Charlie plans to use his established art style and characters to teach kids valuable life skills. I recently sat down with him over Skype to learn more about the game and his overall mission.
Have you done any research with kids, such as hands-on game time, or anything like that?
Just barely. Not in person or anything but I’ve had some people play it online and say that they liked it.
So, it went well?
Yeah, yeah, they’ve liked it so far. The only comments I’ve really gotten on it so far were from one of the anti-bullying groups, and they didn’t like the way I worded things. They don’t like the term “anti-bullying” (they like bully prevention), and that kind of thing. But, I’m not too worried about that part.
Will any of those proceeds go to those bully prevention charities?
I was actually working on that. That’s what I was talking to them about, but they work with bigger names. So, I haven’t found anyone that would be willing to take the contributions. Instead, I’m using [the money] to promote it to libraries and schools. Such as mailing CD’s to them to rent out, that kind of a thing. That’s where the main proceeds are going to go: promoting it and getting [Rubberkid] into peoples’ hands.
With more gripping and intense games out there, do you think kids will get bored of Rubberkid?
That’s the reason it’s so short. The whole game can be played in about half an hour. Total, finishing all nine levels of the game. Between that, and the fact that there’s two different kinds of levels in the game (the regular style and a Pong style). None of the levels take more than a minute or two to finish. So, if someone were to play through and not die, which is the goal anyway, all of the game would be done in about fifteen minutes. So, hopefully, no.
When I was a kid, if I was told to play an educational video game, I would half ass the whole thing. Do you think kids will actually play this and absorb the message fully?
I think so. It does fit in with a whole bunch of other games that are more primarily aimed at fun. The Critterverse is mostly filled with silly games, not real education. This is the first one that’s more on the educational side of things. The goal [of Rubberkid] being that they dive into the gameplay pretty quickly, and, really, the parts that are anti-bullying can be skipped pretty easily. It’s just an “OK” button once you’re done reading it; there’s no quiz or anything. So, hopefully, it doesn’t get too boring for anybody.
With a game like this, do you worry that a child might learn something from this, go to the playground, stand up to a bully, and get hurt?
That’s always a concern. Anytime anyone stands up to a bully it’s possible they will get hurt. I really hope not; that would be one of the worst case scenarios. But, the aim of the game is to get kids to not bully one another, not to stand up [to a bully]. We want kids to not be active listeners. Maybe the second a child does start getting bullied if they are up to fighting back, they won’t laugh, and they’ll just walk away and ignore the bully.
Many people out there seem to think Charlie is on to something: the Kickstarter page for Rubberkid is almost fully funded. Hopefully, the game will go a long way in helping out kids who feel threatened.
Interview by Chris Lohr
Chris Lohr is a freelance writer currently in film school. If you’re looking for him to write for your website, manifesto, or Russian bride catalogue, send an email to email@example.com. Put today’s date as the subject line and include a picture of yourself. Must be DDD free and willing to host. All Articles by Chris.