Bullying is a topic that video games has scarcely delved into – outside of Rockstar’s brilliant Bully – and it certainly has never been approached from the idea of educating the player on the subject.
Cataclysmic Games looks to change all that with The Adventures of Rubberkid.
Rubberkid includes a series of nine mini-games split into three different game types. Ultimately though they all play like variations of Super Breakout, repelling the insults thrown by the bullies back at them. In some versions the bullies upon being hit will turn into good school children, and other modes play more like tower-defense games - holding off the insults until the timer runs out. Whether any of this teaches the child on the subject of bullying is up for debate. Regardless, it’s a simple gameplay mechanic that works for its audience in mind.
Visually and technically there is no reason it would struggle to find its way onto touchscreen devices. It’s not groundbreaking but it works solidly enough. With that said, the gameplay is only part of the purpose here; it’s the message that needs to be discussed.
Each of the nine mini-games have a different scenario involving a child or children. You receive an explanation beforehand as to the reasoning behind why the child is being bullied. If you’re successful in preventing the taunting reaching the child, you are given two scenarios explaining what would happen to the child’s life; one scenario is a ‘happy ending’ and alternatively one is a ‘sad ending’.
Here is where the main issue with the game lies: It’s the inherent problem with tackling a subject like this to an audience of a young age with such a minimalistic approach of bullying = bad! Compliments = good! For example, Alan is bullied for being the chess club champion at school. If you are successful, Alan will become a great inventor and remove bullying from schools completely. If you fail, Alan will commit suicide. It’s completely black or white as you’re either Christ reborn or the reincarnation of Satan. Here the child will do some great thing for humanity as a whole, or will spend the rest of their life not fulfilling their potential – or much worse. There is no ‘absolute’ outcome in real life, and anyone who has been affected by bullying might feel that entire subject comes across as cartoonish, which I’m sure was not the intent of the developer.
Overall it is hard to recommend Rubberkid. As a light-hearted casual game for a child to play, there are better games out there. As a tool to educate your child on bullying, you’re probably better off talking to the child yourself. While I would say that video games have the potential to educate kids on weighty topics like bullying, that discussion – along with topics like racism and sexism – have a long way to go.
The game is free to play on browser with the option to pay what you like.
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