Meet Charles Jackson, creator of The Adventures of Rubberkid
Anti-Bullying advocate and game designer Charles Jackson took some time out following the launch of The Adventures of Rubberkid to discuss bullying and why he chose to make a game about it with us.
Yeah, I was bullied throughout grade school, and by the time high school rolled around it was more of a “picking on” (which, in hindsight, is the same thing… Except that I was doing it to others myself, too). I was picked on for being the loner in class – I’ve always been rather unsocial – and because I never really gave into peer pressure. I can’t remember if it was because of me being bullied or my sister, but I know we both changed schools when I was going into 5th grade.
And yeah, it does still impact me quite a bit with a lack of confidence in public with people I don’t know… Especially any kind of group.
Q: Was sort of bullying prevention was available when you grew up, and did you consider it effective?
There really wasn’t any sort of bullying prevention at all at that time… It was pretty much “suck it up.” When we changed schools, it was because the school refused to do anything about it. Telling parents or teachers did absolutely no good either since we went that route too.
Q: Any advice for Indie Developers looking to make a game focused around a current social issue (unexpected hardships, surprising support)?
Definitely: there really was a large amount of support that I got just because the game focused on bullying, I think. Even if someone doesn’t really play games, just thinking “Hmmmm, a video game to help fight bullying?” was enough to get people to give it a like, or check it out.
But on the flip side, tackling a big issue like bullying or gender issues or pretty much anything means doing your homework! There will be a LOT of people out there who will catch you if you word things wrong, and I fell a few times to those comments. Having some people who are adept in the field try the game out is key, so that you can word things the best you can before the public gets a hold of it.
Q: What inspired you to create Rubber Kid?
The game was originally made as “The Adventures of Rubberman” for a Ludum Dare challenge (make a game in 48 hours) with the theme of “Enemies as a Weapon.” Angel (my fiancee) and I came up with the idea of using insults as the weapon, bouncing them back at innocent kids. The game was much simpler, didn’t involve any kind of story behind the kids you were helping… It was actually more about Unihorn (the leader of the bullies) trying to take over the world, and you had to help the critters so they wouldn’t become bullies too.
When I was coming back to the game to finish it, I decided I needed to really attack the issue of bullying with it. Luckily, after a few days of basically turning the game into a top-down shooter (like 1942 or Raiden), Angel pointed out that it was headed WAY in the wrong direction and helped straighten it out.
Q: How long did it take to make Rubber Kid, and how much would you estimate it has cost you thus far (if you don’t mind)?
It took me a total of about 3 months, give or take… It’s hard to judge because I worked on it some, then did some other things, ran the Kickstarter and THEN got back to it… And as for expense, other than just the time each day and not including the cost of shipping things out for the Kickstarter goodies, I’d say about $30-$35 of an expense for the game for two songs ($11 each) and then some testing. That doesn’t sound like much at all, but when factoring in the cost of bills over those three months, it quickly adds up.
Q: How vital was your Kickstarter to the project and do you recommend it as a backing source for indie projects?
I definitely recommend Kickstarter if you absolutely need the money to make the project, and wouldn’t do it if the Kickstarter failed. Also, one of the biggest things is to know that you will have ZERO time to work on the game during the Kickstarter. It seriously takes up every moment of every day! There’s a LOT to promoting it… I filled a spreadsheet with about 500 websites/emails/URLs over the course of the month, created all kinds of images for Facebook and so on… And wrote to those contacts a few times each throughout the Kickstarter. I don’t think I took a single day off…
Like most everything, though, if you plan on making games your life, there’s really no harm whatsoever in trying a Kickstarter. Just make sure you have the spare time to do it 100%!
Q: How has reception of the project been? Are you having a hard time garnering support for a game that isn’t being sold in the traditional retail sense?
That’s one of the tricky things with pitching a game for sponsorship (letting people put their ads in the game) – you never really know an exact date on release until the last minute… With a big game or movie or other media release, you can start somewhat early with “Coming [whenever]!”, but with the games I’ve made, it’s always “Check out this awesome game I’m working on!”
Luckily, with the game being focused on bullying, it really does help with the support of the title, despite the different method of distribution. The game itself is free, and it’s not too tricky to get people to play something for free
Q: Do you have an idea how many people have played Rubber Kid thus far? Is it in line with your predictions (more/less)?
The game has been somewhat hidden, so I think a fair estimate of the number of people to play it would be around 50-75 or so maybe. The real trick will be seeing how many play it once it’s fully released… I do have some very high expectations of the number of players then, and it’s kind of scary waiting for that day…
Q: What are your long-term aspirations for the project – do you envision it being used in schools and/or internationally to teach about bullying?
Definitely! The ultimate goal of the game, and the main reason for running the Kickstarter, is to get it into as many schools and libraries as possible. I really want this game to be as accessible as possible… It will be free to play online or as a download, and if a school or library is interested, I’ll even send it to them to use as they wish. I have a couple libraries already interested in renting it out, so that’s quite fun too!
Q: If you had endless time and finances, how would you make Rubber Kid better, or do you feel that it would function just as effectively as it is?
That’s an awesome question! I originally wanted to make a comic with it too, particularly at the beginning and end of it… And if I had unlimited time and money, I’d just send a copy to every library and school that I could… I also had stretch goals for the Kickstarter of making additional versions – a Cyberbullying Edition for teens and a Workplace Edition for adults. There was also the possibility of a Childrens book and a full comic as well. Each would be entirely different of course, even the games would have different methods of play… And if The Adventures of Rubberkid does well enough, those are still future possibilities
Q: Any plans for future Adventures of Rubber Kid? What are you working on now or have planned out next?
Depending on the success of the game, I may still make additional versions (like the ones I just mentioned), but in the mean time I’m finishing up some of my other games – a silly Hangman game made up of sci-fi and fantasy movie quotes/characters/locations, an RPG-like game where you have to “Escape from the Afterlife” floor by floor (I’ve sworn to not use true violence in my games, so you scare enemies off with a flashlight and they simply scare you, they never hurt you)… There’s also a game called Garage Zombie* where you hit up garage sales to try to make money. Angel pointed out that, while it’s fun and addictive for adults too, it’s great for kids (colorful and simple) and even teaches math a bit (you’re presented with an estimated price, and so it’s up to you to buy or not… Example: A book that’s estimated worth is $5-$10 and they’re charging $6, or a painting worth $100-$150 and they’re charging $90). There’s a short time frame, so it’s a matter of quickly considering whether it’s worth it or not.
Q: How would you react if you caught your kids bullying? Or what would you tell them if you found out they had been bullied?
If I had a kid and he or she was bullying, I would do everything I could to show him/her why it’s wrong – primarily that it really hurts other people’s feelings… I think most kids don’t realize just how much that can hurt, and just consider it to be funny…
If he or she was the victim of bullying, I’d explain that bullies pick on others not because there’s anything wrong with that person, but because they’re misguided and don’t realize just how mean they’re being. It’s vital that a kid, or even an adult, not let the horrible things said make them feel bad or let it take away their confidence… I’d then talk to someone at the school about it, and if necessary, go to the teacher and/or the parents of the bully and explain.
The Adventures of Rubberkid was backed on Kickstarter using work that was in progress as an example of the final product in December 2012. Charles used the funds to dedicate himself to the project and release a completely free anti-bullying interactive tool that he hopes to expand to use in schools and libraries. Succeeding in his goal, the final release has met with praise from indie sites around the web.
“This may broaden the young gamers’ perspective that a whole range of stories can be told through the video game medium.” – Darklights (Tanya Kan) / Indie Game Reviewer
“Often we forget that video games are not only a device solely for entertaining the masses but they can also be a powerful tool to educate people as well. Video games offer a great way for the players to interact with environments in games to better immerse themselves.” – Alex Wilkinson / Indie Gaming Mag
“Gamers around the world have rescued princesses, saved the world and stopped horrible villains countless times, but how many times have they done something as simple as protect someone who is being bullied?” – Jordan Maison / Cinelinx
For More Information on Rubberkid, please visit: