Dabe Alan

Beyond the Final Boss isn’t about bullying, it’s about what life holds after - it’s about winning

Beyond the Final Boss isn’t about bullying, it’s about what life holds after - it’s about winning

Beyond the Final Boss is a site, created by Shahid Ahmad, Senior Business Development Manager at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, which collects stories from individuals in the games industry and shares them with the hope that the stories will inspire those who read them. The stories recount an individual’s experience with, and coping mechanisms for, bullying. But Ahmad told the Report that’s the wrong way to look at it.

It’s not about the boss, it’s what comes after

“This wasn’t about focusing on the bullying. There are lots of excellent organizations that focus on bullying, how to prevent it, how to spot it, how to treat it, and schools are getting better at this. This wasn’t about that,” Ahmad said. “It was that, despite all of these measures, we know that there are people who still get bullied, and we know that these youngsters don’t always feel comfortable talking about it.”

Ahmad said that Beyond the Final Boss is not meant to be seen as a site that offers help, at least not in the “traditional” sense. There are no “find a counselor in your area” widgets, no numbers for suicide hotlines, for example. Ahmad said Beyond the Final Boss is meant to be “complementary” to such programs, serving as a source of inspiration rather than as a tool for treatment.

Ahmad wants to inspire people; to give the bullied a place where they can see idols who have grown up to be successes, despite their histories with bullying. “I remember when I was young, reading stories about people I thought were inspiring. I really wanted to be like those people, but you know what made me think at the time that maybe I couldn’t be? I didn’t see examples of how they were like me. I couldn’t make that connection, I couldn’t see how their childhood was like mine,” Ahmad told the Report.

“What we’re doing here is saying, the people profiled here did have similar childhoods, and the reason for having so many different profiles up there is because every person has a different story, every person has a different example. Perhaps one person will connect where another would not,” he said.

“This is about real people who’ve been through crap in their lives, and yet these real people, despite that background, have succeeded in a really cool sphere. We’re not talking about them becoming accountants, you know?”

The first boss

Beyond the Final Boss started when Ahmad saw indie developers Mike Bithell (Thomas Was Alone) and Byron Atkinson-Jones (Darwinia+) discussing the subject of bullying over Twitter.

“I was, and this should sufficiently prove my geek credentials, watching Nerdcore Rising. There’s a bit where MC Frontalot is talking about growing up as a nerd, and how bullying was just a natural part of that. And it set me thinking about myself and my friends and colleagues. I realized that everyone I think is awesome is a nerd, and therefore, probably, got bullied,” Bithell told the Report. “ I commented that I wished 13 year old me had understood that school ends, and nerds become successful and drive society. That my heroes at the time had probably been bullied and realizing that might have helped.”

Once Shahid joined the conversation, events didn’t so much snowball as they were fired from a rail gun. “It was very quick, Shahid doesn’t like to wait around,” Atkinson-Jones said. “He, like me, is a grab it and run with it kind of person so in all took less than a couple of hours before it was up on the blog for everybody to read. All it took was a relatively quick email where I poured out the story.”

“I must admit I pressed send very quickly just in case I backed out.”

There are already more than half a dozen profiles posted on Beyond the Final Boss of people involved in the games industry at all levels, from solo indie developers to art directors at EA and audio directors for Call of Duty.

You don’t have to be a developer, you don’t have to have name recognition. If you’re involved in the industry in some way and can say how life got better, you can submit your story. For now, that’s the mission of Beyond the Final Boss; collect and share stories. Ahmad said he has no plans to get any middle-men involved or turn the project into “something corporate.” The stories need to stay heartfelt and genuine.

“The authenticity is key. Kids know when something’s fake. You just know,” Ahmad said.

Regardless of where the site goes next, Bithell said he’s just happy something was started. “Ultimately, all credit goes to Shahid. I posted a dumb tweet, and he started something epic with it,” he said. “I’m so proud of what he’s doing, and really chuffed I played a small part.”