As husband to a dedicated wife gamer and father to two gaming daughters (aged 9 and 14), I find myself in a relatively rare role. My wife, Brandee, is part of a well-known all-female group called the PMS Clan, and as a gamer myself, we understand the benefits gaming offers and have championed our daughters’ interests in the same hobby.
As a male in an all-female household, however, there are challenges, of course, some of which center on gaming. One of my key challenges is dealing with bullying in gaming, which has run rampant since the last generation of consoles, when online multiplayer became widespread. Unfortunately, games such as Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Halo—all games my enthusiast wife enjoys immensely—are dominated by insecure fellow gamers who use their headsets and mics to abuse in the most extreme and hurtful ways: racial-, sexual-, and gender-specific insults and are flung around mindlessly, quite literally during almost every gameplay session. It’s a frustrating issue that won’t go away.
So, even though these games promote multiplayer approaches, we usually opt for local sessions so our daughters can focus on gaming at its most fun—as a collaborative, joyful experience that introduces them to new worlds. Some of those worlds are undoubtedly violent, but we’ve helped our daughters distinguish fictional violence from real-world conflicts, and they understand that they are merely “playing.” Indeed, while my daughters are avid gamers, Brandee (aka PMS Dangerdoll) and I refuse our daughters access to online gaming unless the environment is strictly controlled, in which they play with friends we’ve come to trust and who amplify the experience into one productively competitive or cooperative.
Communication with mature gamers is part of the fun of gaming nowadays, and while we could remove the headset altogether or mute it, we shouldn’t have to, as many games now rely on strategic communication.
Unfortunately, we have little control over real-life bullies. Phoenix, my youngest daughter, was victim to two bullies in as many years, and she’s still in elementary school. Although Brandee and I handled these situations as civilly as we could, we were of course very upset. Luckily, the situation with the first bully, a girl, was handled amicably. We learned that the second bully, a boy, caused a far more hostile situation for Phoenix. Because he had threatened and intimated her by ensuring her that he’d make her life worse if she told, coaxing the situation from our youngest was an emotional ordeal.
Our initial reaction was to approach the bully ourselves. But, we knew we couldn’t do that. So, when we calmed down and thought about ways to deal with the situation, this Kickstarter project, a graphic novel entitled The Bully’s Bully, came to be.
The project is also a webcomic that began in January of 2013 and is released online for free every Monday and Wednesday. The story centers on a girl who can literally feel the agony, desperation, and pain that real-life bullies cause others. As an empathic soul, the child decides to do something about the problem. I won’t give away anymore of the narrative, as it has twists and turns and a few surprises I’d like readers to discover on their own.
Because we are all parents, and because we will likely have to deal with bullying in some context during our children’s lives, I hope you’ll find it worthy to donate to the vision of The Bully’s Bully to help me compile the comics into a paper-bound book. This story has the potential to help children and parents alike and to approach this wearying subject in positive, original, and productive ways.
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