Category Archives: Feature

Gillian Helman is Beyond the Final Boss

We received this beautifully written email from the brave and eloquent Gillian who gave us her permission to reproduce it. 

To the geek/nerd on the other end of the wire,

I have been a fellow geek and supporter of geeks since I was old enough to understand why I was being bullied. The pain and rejection I felt throughout my life in school paved the way for a damaged, depressed and insecure person. But in this culture, this digital and tabletop world that I immersed myself in saved me from what would have been a terrible and unfulfilled life dominated by fear and regret.

So many years later I have found that some people, including myself still bear very real emotional scars from their years of abuse and torment. They may have made it out into the real world, but they are broken and uncomfortable in their own skin. I believe that what I lacked, what many of us lack, is confidence in yourself. I am trying to change that. One person at a time. 

Your platform is inspired and does so much more than I could ever do by myself. I wish there was more I could do to reach out to other gamers, geeks, nerds, LARPers, and general outcasts and tell them that they are gifted. They are special. From the person who knows every Batman villains backstory by heart, to the one who has just reorganized his six boxes of MAGIC cards again, to the person who has taken down the final boss in Molten Core more times than he can remember. 

Gaming, and geekery has traditionally been a solo act. Sure you have had some LAN parties with your friends, but all of us, need to come together. Solidarity in our awkwardness. Confidence in our mutually odd and unique talents. And the indisputable knowledge that our lives are not defined by what other people think and say about us. That our lives are defined by the value we place in ourselves.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me and so many others a forum to express our individuality and uniqueness.

Love, Gill

More from Antonio

Antonio sent us this after his last message:

Steps away from the end game

The tired hero raises his sword

They’ve been battered and broken

The enemies harping on every chord

The Final Boss makes his stand

Oversized, tough to overcome

With veteran allies this feat is possible

A tale of victory has been spun

The hero walks away

No longer at a loss

Others have shown them the way

To move Beyond The Final Boss.


BTFBoss received this email (amongst many). It speaks for itself.

I think what you guys are doing is great. I’m still in High School
myself but due to my increase in size since freshman year people tend
not to mess with me so much anymore.
I think it’s great that something like this exists to help people who
are less fortunate to persevere and rise above their situation. I’m
working on a game with a small group of people, and I would definitely
say that a lot of my influence for some of the enemies has come from
experiences with bullies and knowing what it truly means to be scared
and feel overwhelmed. People who are being tormented beyond belief
simply because of who they are should not learn to resent themselves,
but wave their personal flag high.
Now I guess what I’m getting at is that I love what you’re doing here.
Please, continue for the sake of all of those kids, teenagers, and
adults you have the potential to reach and help. Just… keep saving
lives, Keep saving minds.

Do Video Games Cause Violence?

Some of the recent tragedies to have unfolded in the USA have prompted calls for video games to come under review. Whilst some of the measures being proposed are eminently sensible, others are reactionary and fail to address decades of research that shows that there appears to be no causal link between perpetrators of violence and their gaming habits. It’s an easy trap to fall into and one I can relate to.

Some of the more sensible measures being proposed include restricting the sale of titles featuring violence to minors. That this isn’t being policed already is a shame. I would also suggest that parents have a duty of care to their children and shouldn’t arbitrarily expose their children to adult content, or turn a blind eye to them doing so. 

In my own case, I enjoyed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for years, playing against people online. Although I certainly experience raised adrenaline levels and am sometimes shocked by the blurring of lines between what’s happening in the real world and what I am able to achieve on screen, I feel no compulsion to take to the streets with an automatic weapon, or any weapon for that matter. Anyone who lives in London knows that one of the most dangerous weapons these days is a loaded mouth. One wrong word to the wrong person can cause all kinds of trouble. We don’t even look at each other on buses!

That gang violence in London is dominated by knives should beg the question: Where are the video games portraying youths arbitrarily shanking one another that have caused this mess?

There is another argument that the continual exposure to violent material has a desensitising effect on society. It means we are less shocked by gun crime than perhaps we might otherwise be. It certainly doesn’t mean that more of us want to take up arms. Gun controls in the UK after Dunblane have been on the whole, successful, whilst video game depiction of gun violence has become more graphic, but we don’t hear people arguing that an increase in video game violence is what has resulted in a decrease in real gun crime.

Here’s what I’m seeing: That with the stories on this site from the people who make all kinds of video games, a childhood in which violence was inflicted on them has resulted in a flowering of creativity, character, calm, peace and success that is truly inspiring. If you want to see an example of this in the world of computer science, you need look no further than the deeply moving story of Ping Fu. Now we see examples from the world of video games, where the likes of Rami Ismail, Mike Bithell, Byron Atkinson-Jones, Stephen McGreal, Mark Kilborn, Charlotte Conopo and many others show that although violence was inflicted on them when they were young, and although they felt no hope then, now, their lives are a joy and an inspiration. Surely, the beacons that are these wonderful people will shine a torch for some tragic young person to edge hopefully towards, despite their daily grim reality. This is life “Beyond the Final Boss”

We can now legitimately ask the question: Do video games cause violence? Or does violence cause video games?