Tweet the hashtag #EverydayHeroes and Square will make a donation to the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights' National Bullying Prevention Centre. Tweets are being compiled on the Life is Strange website.
If you haven't played Life is Strange, my review of Episodes 1 - 4 can be found here.
In short: I enjoyed it. The story managed to engage, the central time-travel conceit worked well, but I wasn't moved in the way that I think was intended. The mix of archetypical characters - bordering on the stereotype - and the high school cliches, just frustrated me. It felt like it was trying too hard to appeal to millennials, in a way that somehow excluded old farts like me.
When it did tackle bigger themes - including bullying - it felt, to me, superficial.
But then, I would say that where bullying is concerned...
I've spoken on here previously about my own experience of bullying.
Being tall, having glasses, getting facial hair far too young... coupled to a generally non-confrontational nature, made me a target.
I wasn't good at sport, I wasn't one of the boys that girls fancied, I wasn't cool... so, I stood out for the wrong reasons. At least, that's why I think I was a target.
Typically, bigger, older kids would inflict the physical stuff - I had my specs broken more times than I can count, ended up with darts thrown into my leg, a compass jabbed into my face, being spat at more than once, punched in the stomach, kicked to the ground - while the groups of smaller boys my age would spread the rumours, the gossip, invent the names and stories about me that would chip away at my identity.
I know I've said before that it was the verbal stuff that really stuck, and seeped into my bones. That and just how isolating being bullied can feel, even in a crowd. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end, so friends would generally wander away while it was happening. Or - in subtle ways - join in, by way of camouflage.
In my experience, once somebody becomes labelled as a target, they are a target for everyone. It felt like I became a sponge, or a beacon, for everyone's pent-up aggressive, frustration, impotence. It was just a given among my peers that this is why I existed; to make them feel better, and not so powerless. And it extended to the teachers too - when the deputy head joins in with the name-calling, there's nobody left to turn to.
I used to suffer recurring nightmares where I was alone at sea on a tiny boat, with no land anywhere in any direction: that's exactly how it felt.
My logic was this: to ask for help and admit I was being bullied would've been admitting I was weak... and admitting I was weak would've invited in more bullying. So I endured it, until the point when I genuinely thought I was in very real danger. Only then would I ask for help.
This was life, day in, day out, for years.
You see, bullying isn't a one-off; it's a campaign. It's not a battle, or a skirmish - it's a war. It's daily carpet-bombing of a person's self-esteem and self-worth. It takes away an individual's safety and security, strips their defences, and it leaves their infant soul exposed to the fires of the world.
Don't get me wrong: I've not grown up as some emotional basket case. Somehow, I've mostly held myself together, and I've had friends react with surprise when I've told them I was bullied.
I mean, it could've been much worse. I had a relatively stable home life - albeit one that was unsettled during my teens by a family that was dealing with unbearable grief. As I've mentioned elsewhere, video games became my safe place to retreat to, to lose myself in. There I had the power and the strength to fight back.
DON'T PITY THE FOOL
I don't seek pity in talking about all this: my intention is twofold.
Firstly, in all honesty, it helps to write about it. I'm still processing it, nearly 30 years later. Even though I spent a couple of years training as a psychotherapist, even though I'm blessed with the love of a wonderful family... the scars are still there. They are part of me now.
She wasn't to know - heck, even I wasn't to know - but in that moment, an emotional button was pressed, and my primal reaction surprised us both.
Secondly, I know I'm not alone in having had experience of bullying, whether it happened to you in the past, or is happening to your kids and you don't know... it serves nobody to not talk about it.
And I think that's why Life is Strange frustrated me.
It's not that I disapprove of its attempts to pay lip-service to how it feels to be bullied, but it didn't reflect my experience of being bullied. Consequently, I didn't buy it. It made that mistake made by lots of fiction, where somebody who is bullied is portrayed as weak, as a victim, as broken and friendless. I don't think it's ever that cliched or simple.
I was never some cowed in, beaten down, friendless, waif. The pain, the bullying, was internalised, and to most I seemed like a confident, self-assured kid. I wanted to appear stronger than I felt. I think that's still how people see me these days, and for the most part they're right to.
Certainly, being a big bloke, with a fair pair of shoulders, it's an assumption that people make when they meet me; "Oh, he can handle anything!". I've come through the worst of it to embody the strength I always wanted to have - I know who I am, but part of learning that has meant having to accept my weaknesses, and areas of damage, too.
I thank god that my daughters mostly escaped school unscathed. My middle daughter had it to a degree - in fact, she ended up in hospital with stitches in her head - but that was an one-off, rather than something that had been ongoing. We've also had some issues with social media stuff with my step-daughters - and I thank god that SnapChat, WhatsApp and Facebook weren't around when I was growing up.
Either way, now or then, school is hard, and for most of us growing up is an ordeal to some degree or other - whether you're bullied or not (and, let's face it, even those who do the bullying are usually dealing with their own problems). Any effort to try and make that easier for kids is to be applauded.
The intentions of the Life is Strange #EverydayHeroes campaign is sincere even if I didn't relate to the game's simplistic depiction of bullying.