Steven Barclay’s Year 9 digital technology students were asked to design and build a retro role play game (RPG) to enter in the annual iAWARDS, which addresses a key concern affecting students nation-wide.

The result has been the creation of Life in High School – a game which raises awareness about bullying, and where players are encouraged to seek non-violent ways to deal with conflict.

Barclay says the students met multiple times before starting to decide on what software they would use, and decided to spread the message of anti-bullying via RPG games.

“The students are fans of retro RPG … one of the things that makes these games possible is the battle scene, so when they started developing the game, they realised it was the opposite of what they wanted to portray,” Barclay says.

Barclay’s students have kept the fight mechanics in their game, but players lose points if they result in fighting each other, as the object of the game is to resolve the issue by using alternatives to violence.

“The students went online to look at anti-bullying strategies – they included things such as if you witness bullying, don’t be passive, confront the issue and stick up for the person being bullied; if this doesn’t work, then tell an adult,” Barclay says.

“Players get points for using these strategies and getting outcomes based on following the anti-bully code.”

If players fight, players are suspended, just like in real life, he adds.

To complete this project, students used RPG Maker, where the assets such as characters and backgrounds are pre-built in, and once the demo is working the way the students want it to, they can create more assets and graphics.

Throughout the process, students gained key skills in multiple areas, such as learning a brandnew programming environment.

“It is one we don’t teach but an IT teacher at our school has used it before so could help out a little, but the students basically self-taught themselves, as I don’t have skills in that area,” Barclay explains.

Students also learnt event-driven languages, graphic design but mostly about the structure of algorithms, programming and being able to implement these things.

Barclay had two teams working on the project – a junior and senior team, and he says the junior team poured everything they had into it.

“The junior team worked on it so much harder, they were in the library every day discussing ideas and drawing storyboards, and one day a week they stayed late to work on it.”

Although the game is available only in demo format presently, once it is completed, it will be made available on a digital distribution platform.

Barclay is extremely proud of his students, having seen them go through the process of building the game, and coming to really understand the impact of bullying.

“I thought it was a really cool to take a game which is usually about fighting, and make it the opposite – that’s pretty exciting.”