The Boy Game is a dramatic, interactive experience based on off-the-record interviews with kids nationwide. It’s designed to help explore, challenge and transform masculine gender norms that dictate that boys be tough and silent.
- Deirdre Fishel
- Interactive Developer
- Anthony Gonzalez
- Content Consultants
- Tony Porter
- Jonathan Cohen
- Michael Kimmel
- Drew Wing
- Tony Heriza
- Ian S. Goldberg
- William Pollack
- Kenny Sosnowski
- Reynaldo Piniella
- Alsharik Sejour
- Associate Producers
- Alice Shindelar
- Marci Gruber
- Jodine Gordon
- David Alvarado
- Interactive Consultant
- Michael Gibson
- Sound Recording
- Keagan Fuller
- Jon-Carlos Evans
- Robert Arnold
- Sound Mix
- James LeBrecht
This project was made in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Masters in Fine Arts in the IMA Program at Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Special Thanks to:
- Kelly Anderson
- Ricardo Miranda
- Tim Portlock
- Michael Gitlin
- Steve Gorelick
- Veronique Bernard
- & The Whole IMA community
- Father: Phil Bernadin
- Alseny: Alseny Frederick
- Bryan: Bryan Gosip
- Chris: Christopher Gray
- Sophie: India Coombs Esmail
- Kristina: Kristina de Mora
- Kid in lunchroom/being bullied: Zyear Sejour
- Lady in Car: Alice Shindelar
Additional Thanks to:
- Steven Brion-Meisels
- Susan Wefald
- Ms. Foundation
- Men Can Stop Rape
- Dwight Engelwood High School
- Maura Clark
- Keith Wilson
- Neil Gordon Sr.
- Judy Kuskin
- Shannon Lockhart
- Yvonne Sheard
The Boy Game is an interactive website that explores hyper-masculine codes and how they promote peer violence among boys. While there are scenes that depict graphic incidents of bullying, the focus is on understanding and deconstructing hyper-masculine codes and their effect on boys’ lives and our society.
If we are to help boys and young men develop into healthy, fully human men – fathers, partners, husbands, friends and citizens – it is important to understand, explore, challenge and transform these “boy codes” that not only pressure boys to be tougher and more silent than they really are, but limit their access to themselves.
The experience begins with a bullying scene in which the three main characters are established. The first time Reynaldo, the character that bullies, is introduced he is labeled “the bully.” From that point on he is referred to by name. We struggled unsuccessfully with how to identify the characters quickly, without using labels. In fact, a main goal of the site is to show that boys are not the roles they play.
After the opening scene, users pick a character from whose perspective they will navigate through the story. Each scene ends at a decision point, where the character struggles with what to do. Internal monologues reveal the boy’s fears and fantasies about what each choice might bring.
"The online 'Boy Game' is not a video game, it is a dramatic interactive experience, therefore users do not effect the course of the narrative. The internal monologues, however, present the user with the ability to observe and consider the various perspectives of the characters and their personal struggles. Users thus witness the reality that boys, no matter what role they play, struggle between meeting their own emotional needs and their fear of not appearing “masculine enough.”
In addition to the scenes, the site has an array of documentary interviews with girls, boys, and experts who address masculine gender norms and bullying. Opening interviews give insight into the topic. The other interviews address specific dilemmas that the scenes bring up, and can be accessed on a sidebar that comes up after each scene or under the documentary interviews menu.
These nine interviews from girls, boys and experts shed light on the issues of masculine gender norms and bullying among boys.
Noted writer, professor, expert on gender/masculinity
Michael Kimmel is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University. The author of many books, including GUYLAND, he is the Director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities.
Co-Founder, Co-Executive Director, A Call To Men
Tony Porter, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of A CALL TO MEN, is both nationally and internationally recognized for his effort to end men's violence against women and promote healthy and respectful manhood. Author of "Well Meaning Men Breaking Out of the Man Box”, he has been a guest presenter to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Co-Founder, Co-Director, National School Climate Center
Jonathan Cohen is a psychologist and psychoanalyst. He is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the National School Climate Center, a non-profit dedicated to supporting students, parents/guardians, school personnel and community members learning and working together to promote safe, supportive and engaging K-12 schools.
Former gang member/works with men/boys
Juan Ramos is the Executive Director of Community Driven Solutions, Domestic Violence Compliance Program, one of the mostly widely used batterer intervention programs in NYC. He is devoted to working with young offenders of domestic violence and street violence, seeing the need for men to address violence at every level in our society.
Was both target and bystander in middle school
Eric Wefald was bullied in middle school. Later, when he gained some acceptance, he was a bystander to other kids being bullied. He is now a high school student.
High school student
Willa Norris is a high school student who lives in Brooklyn with her dog and cat. She is invested in the work of the organization Best Buddies, whose mission is to create opportunities for people with intellectual and development disabilities.
High school student
Rose Reiner is a high school student who lives in Brooklyn. Her interests are traveling, singing and dancing. She has also worked at a summer camp with young children.
Bystander in middle school
Noel Gordon witnessed bullying in middle school. We interviewed him, when he was in high school, to talk about his experiences. He is now in college.
Gay college student, in the closet in middle school
Kadeem McMillon hid his homosexuality in middle school, afraid of being rejected by his parents who are devout Christians. He later shared the truth with them and was relieved to gain their full support. Kadeem, interested in theatre, now attends community college.
Go to opening interviews that give background on the topic >
- Michael Kimmel
- Tony Porter
- Jonathan Cohen
- Juan Ramos
- Eric Wefald
- Willa Norris
- Rose Reiner
- Noel Gordon
- Kadeem McMillon
- Reynaldo 1-5
- Kenny 1-5
- Noel 1-5
- Peer Pressure
- Gender Norms for Boys
- Struggles Bystanders Face
- Moral Imperative to do the Right Thing
- Power of Standing Up
- Devastation Targets Face
- Need a Community to Stand Up
- Why Targets Don't Stand Up for Themselves
- Why Targets May Start Bullying
- A Compassionate Look at Boys who Bully and Why They Do It
- Bullying is a Performance
- Role of Schools
- Scene 1
- Scene 2
- Scene 3
- Scene 4
- Scene 5
- Scene 1
- Scene 2
- Scene 3
- Scene 4
- Scene 5
- Scene 1
- Scene 2
- Scene 3
- Scene 4
- Scene 5
Attached is the study guide for the linear video version of the project (available for sale through New Day Films). It provides an overview of the issues, asks questions to help raise meaningful dialogue, and outlines a variety of powerful activities to do with middle and high school students. We are currently working on a study guide specifically for this website.
- A CALL TO MEN: The Next Generation of Manhood, www.acalltomen.com
- What they do: Through seminars, workshops and other educational vehicles, A Call To Men challenges men to reconsider their long held beliefs about women, in an effort to create a more just society. They achieve this by encouraging change in the behaviors of men through a re-education and training process that promotes healthy manhood.
- National School Climate Change, www.schoolclimate.org
- What they do: The National School Climate Center helps schools integrate crucial social and emotional learning with academic instruction. In doing so, they enhance student performance, prevent dropouts, reduce physical violence, bullying, and develop healthy and positively engaged adults.
- Boys to Men, www.maineboystomen.org
- What they do: The Mission of Boys To Men, based out of Maine, is to reduce interpersonal violence by offering programs that, support the healthy development of adolescent boys, provide assistance and educational resources to boys and those who help raise them, and increase community awareness about the specific needs of boys.
- Men Can Stop Rape, www.mencanstoprape.org
- What they do: Man Can Stop Rape’s mission is to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men's violence against women. They are based out of Washington, DC and their work includes youth programs, public awareness campaigns, and training for youth professionals.
- Barbara Coloroso, The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander (Harper Collins, 2008)
- Synopsis: In this edition of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, which includes a new section on cyberbullying, one of the world's most trusted parenting educators gives parents, caregivers, educators—and most of all, kids—the tools to break the cycle of violence.
- John Devine and Jonathan Cohen, Making Your School Safe: Strategies to Protect Children and Promote Learning (Teachers College Press, 2007)
- Synopsis: In this practical manual, the authors demonstrate the important relationship between social emotional and ethical education and school safety. They combine traditional crisis management and emergency planning with all of the principles that have become the cornerstones of the field of evidence-based, social emotional learning and character education.
- Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition, 2011)
- Synopsis: For more than three decades, the women's movement and its scholars have exhaustively studied women's complex history, roles, and struggles. In Manhood in America, Michael Kimmel argues that it is time for men to rediscover their own evolution.
- Michael Kimmel, Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men (Harper; 1 edition, 2008)
- Synopsis: Today, growing up has become more complex and confusing, as young men drift casually through college and beyond—hanging out, partying, playing with tech toys, and watching sports. But beneath the appearance of a simple extended boyhood, a more dangerous social world has developed, far away from the traditional signposts and cultural signals that once helped boys navigate their way to manhood—a territory Michael Kimmel has identified as "Guyland."
- William Pollack, Kathleen Cushman, Real Boys Workbook: The Definitive Guide to Understanding and Interacting with Boys of All Ages (Villard; 1st edition, 2001)
- Synopsis: The Real Boys' Workbook is a unique, instructive workbook, full of advice, exercises, and stories to help parents, professionals, and boys themselves understand boys—and how to make life with them better.
- William Pollack, Todd Shuster, Real Boys' Voices (Penguin Books; 5th edition, 2001)
- Synopsis: Now, in Real Boys' Voices, Pollack lets us hear what boys today are saying, even as he explores ways to get them to talk more openly with us. "Boys long to talk about the things that are hurting them; their harassment from other boys, their troubled relationships with their fathers, their embarrassment around girls and confusion about sex, their disconnection from and love for their parents, the violence that haunts them at school and on the street, their constant fear that they might not be as masculine as other boys."
- Anthony Tony Porter, Breaking Out of the Man Box (A Call To Men, 2008)
- Synopsis: This groundbreaking book invites “well-meaning” men to leave the sidelines of silence for the playing field of action in ending violence against women. While Breaking Out of the Box may force men out of our comfort zone, reading this book can lead us into the end zone of positive change in our relationships with women, children and other men.
- Bully. Director. Lee Hirsch. The Bully Project, 2011.
- Synopsis: A documentary on peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America. The film follows the lives of five students who face bullying on a daily basis.
- Let’s Get Real. Director. Debra Chasnoff. 2004 New Day Films
- Synopsis: Let's Get Real gives young people the chance to tell their stories in their own words and the results are heartbreaking, shocking, inspiring and poignant. It examines a variety of issues that lead to taunting and bullying, including racial differences, perceived sexual orientation, learning disabilities, religious differences, sexual harassment and others. The film not only gives a voice to targeted kids, but also to kids who do the bullying to find out why they lash out at their peers and how it makes them feel.
- Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity. Director. Sut Jhaly. Media Education Foundation, 1999.
- Synopsis: Tough Guise systematically examines the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century.
- National School Climate Center’s resource for bully prevention, Bully bust: Promoting a Community of Upstanders website.
Websites and Resources
- This site includes two rich sets of resources: The Youth Leaders’ Toolkit and the Youth Have the Power! (YHTP!) website. Here you can find tools to organize alliances at your school and in your community.
- This site is the home of the National Bully Prevention Awareness Month activities and provides key resources, including links to two age-appropriate student-focused web sites.
- A site where teenagers can locate resources, learn how to respond to bullying, organize their peers, and act out against bullying.
- A site where kids can play kid oriented games and see what their peers have to say about bullying.
- Oasis Center, Nashville, Tennessee. The Center is the source of some ideas for youth organizing that are contained in this toolkit.
Here are a few ideas for actions that students can take to help others understand and change hyper-masculine gender norms.
Small group conversation with Peer Leadership group or Student Council. Ask to meet with your school’s Peer Leadership club or Student Council. Present scenes and/or interviews from the website and lead a small discussion about what you learned. Ask for their support in creating a school-wide public awareness program.
Presentation to Parent Teacher Organization or Faculty meeting. Request time on the agenda of the Parent Teacher Organization or Faculty meeting. Present scenes and/or interviews from the website and lead a brief discussion of it with the adults. You might focus on the roles of adults or media in creating and enforcing hyper-masculine codes. Consider asking for financial support to create a public awareness campaign using billboards, radio or local community access cable TV.
Offer to show scenes from the website and facilitate discussion in health classes. After preparation and practice, offer to lead a discussion of key scenes from the website in a health or physical education class. If you do this, it is important to work closely with the faculty teaching the class, and to be clear about what your agenda is
Bring in a guest speaker from violence prevention, LGBT, suicide prevention or other groups working to combat youth violence or offer support for a more inclusive view of masculinity. For example, the Center for Sport and Society at Northeastern University (Boston, MA) has resources that connect athletes with young people around these themes. Young people as speakers can be especially effective.
Public Service Announcements. Working with art classes, media or film classes, a school or community print shop, or local public access station, create a video or poster PSA campaign about inclusion or Upstander behavior, ads and op-ed pieces in the local newspaper.
Start an Upstander Alliance. Transforming hyper-masculine codes requires alliances, including partnerships across generations and locations. The National School Climate Center (NSCC) has created materials to help start cross-generation partnerships that prevent and heal bullying. Visit their website for a free download of their Upstander Alliance toolkits (one for young people and a second for adult sponsors): Bully bust: Promoting Community of Upstanders. The site has other useful resources and links.
Link with young people in other schools, churches, youth groups, or community agencies. The local United Way may be able to help create and fund these links. Consider a youth summit, shared projects with younger children, shared public presentations or a community-wide public awareness campaign.