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Plugged In

iOS game tackles cyberbullying, teen suicide after troubled player reaches out to programmers

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High School Story (Credit: Pixelberry)

A mobile game maker is taking on a tough subject: cyberbullying.

One of Pixelberry’s most popular titles is High School Story, a mostly lighthearted game in which players create their own high schools, enroll students, and engage in rivalry with neighboring institutions.

The Washington Post reports that one of the game's many players sent a message to the game's tip line saying that she was contemplating suicide.

Oliver Miao, Pixelberry's chief executive and co-founder, told the Washington Post, "We were scared that we were going to say the wrong thing." The tip line team consulted with the National Suicide Helpline and told the player to get professional help. However, team members also let the player know they were listening. The Post reports that at the end of the week, the player told the help line the game was the reason she was still alive and that she would indeed seek help.

The story so affected Miao and the rest of the High School Story team that they decided to create a "quest" in their game that tackles the subjects of cyberbullying and suicide.

In this particular quest, the Post reports, a new character named Hope is bullied by another character.

The Post reports that the Pixelberry team worked with cyberbullying charity Cybersmile to make the story arc "educational but not too disturbing for younger players."

Miao told the Post that he faced bullying when growing up, but that the bullying ended when he left school. Today, due to social networks, bullying can follow victims wherever they go.

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