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    Ninja Pizza Girl

    PCPP first played Ninja Pizza Girl more than 18 months ago and, as it nears release, it is interesting to reflect on how the game has changed. As well as now being successfully funded through Kickstarter, it is clear that this once simple platformer has transcended its genre. It's still fun to play, but is now also quite a unique and evocative experience. By conscientiously considering their subject matter, the developers have allowed the game’s core message to influence visuals, story and mechanics.

    After a short time with the game, I moved from feeling frustrated and humiliated, to having a quiet sense of achievement. I was a pizza girl myself, many years ago, and the sense of urgency to the task never quite leaves you, But it is the ad which makes this worth practicing, be a great game to success. It would be a great game to play with the family, probably on the night you spend together and order pizza, obviously.

    ART/AUDIO Director, Producer And CO-Desiger NICOLE STARK On Sensitive Subject Matter In Games.

    Why is bullying important to portray carefully?

    Bullying has not been thoroughly explored in games. A lot of people have written to thank us for starting a conversation about something that has affected them deeply.

    Where did you find the information you needed about the subject matter?

    Our eldest daughter, the original Ninja Pizza Girl, just completed a psychology degree. She directed us to a lot of information on bullying and self-esteem.We also spoke to people from Beyond Blue and Reach Out, and attended a course on resilience run by a Brisbane clinic called Minds and Hearts.

    After receiving advice, what changes were made?

    We changed a lot of things; the resolution of the narrative, the way that Gemma recovers when she’s too discouraged and ready to give up. Instead of tracking the player’s physical health, Ninja Pizza Girl tracks something far more relevant; your ability to deal with the crap life throws at you.

    Hurting yourself in the game is annoying, but something that Gemma can deal with. Hurting yourself in front of a bunch of your fellow ninja however, is a serious issue. The rival ninja all stop to laugh at her. Shadows lengthen and colours drain from the world. If Gemma doesn’t stop the ninjas laughing or run away in time she’ll fall to her knees and give up. And giving up is something the player can ill afford when there’s pizza to deliver.

    On the other hand, when Gemma’s spent some time running fast and landing smooth jumps, she gets in the zone. The world blooms with vivid colour and she runs like wind.

    What do you most hope players experience while playing Ninja Pizza Girl?

    I hope they experience what it’s like to be a teenage girl; one who is wonderful, brave, clever and different. I hope they see how harmful the petty meanness of people who won’t tolerate difference is. And I hope it gives people who are or have been bullied some comfort and strategies for surviving with their sense of self-worth intact.

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