Ninja Pizza Girl is a game inspired by, well, a real life ninja pizza girl. Or at least a pizza girl. The game came about after Jason Stark’s teenage daughter, Alia, started telling him stories about her pizza delivery job.
More interesting, though, is how Alia’s insights came into play when Stark was trying to design the game. He originally came up with an idea for bad-guy robots, which met with some lukewarm reception from his wife and four daughters.
“Robots aren’t scary, Dad.”
“So what are teenage girls scared of?”
The answer? Other teenagers.
Ninja Pizza Girl is an interesting example of what can happen when game designers listen to the people around them instead of following the decades-old norms. Instead of making the protagonist white, male, and 30-something years old, Stark made the protagonist a teenage girl. Instead of making killing (or avoiding being killed) the primary mechanic, he built the game around dealing with personal, emotional attacks from bullies. Ninja Pizza Girl doesn’t fight.
The game, in essence, is meant to emulate the emotional highs and lows that teenagers, and specifically teenage girls, can face due to rumors and bullying from peers. When we were kids we said, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” right? Well, we all know that’s not true—and making teenage bullying the enemy might make the game that much more interesting. When the main character is happy, the world seems nicer, and when she’s smarting from a recent attack, it’s darker. If attacks go on too long, she’ll give up and fall to her knees.
I’m interested to see how this game plays out. It’s refreshing to see a game that explores emotional well-being instead of physical. I like that it acknowledges that sometimes it’s our own state of mind that does us in. I would love to see this game become a fun way for teens to work through their real life emotional highs and lows (or hey, adults! We’ve got emotions too, after all).
Check out the game’s Kickstarter, and donate before August 13th if you’re interested!