National Eating Disorders Association
Blog

What High School Students can Learn from Mia

Christina Colon, Communications Intern

Mia is a lot like any high school student, but after hearing an unpleasant remark about her body, she resorts to dangerous extremes that begin to worry her classmates. She starts crash-dieting and over-exercising. She develops a dangerous eating disorder.

Luckily, Mia is just a character in Pixelberry Studios’s new version of the game High School Story, but unfortunately, that scenario is a reality for far too many teens. Through this digital world, players will explore various eating disorder themes, causes, and consequences. As players support Mia through her struggle with body dissatisfaction, they will hopefully learn from it as well.

The app, which is available via iOS and Android, promotes body positivity in a fun and effective way. Because the success of this program depended on extensive research, Pixelberry utilized NEDA’s resources and knowledge of eating disorders. The partnership wanted to ensure that the game be used as an enjoyable, if not completely reliable, educational tool. Many can utilize the provided FAQs, and communicate with the NEDA helpline staff. Pixelberry CEO Oliver Miao says in TechCrunch.com that he hopes that “players gain a better understanding of where body image pressures come from and learn ways of addressing them positively.”

Technology is a great way to spread awareness. With over 10 million downloads so far, the collaboration hopes to establish a platform that many people can access, and gain insight from. There will be links to NEDA’s teen-based website, Proud2BeMe, included in this assimilation of High School Story.

Claire Mysko, who supervises the online community, stresses the importance of reaching kids, and getting them engaged. She says, “It’s important to speak to kids in their own language and that means being online, in social media and even games.” Proud2BeMe is a place for teens to gather, connect, and take action in regards to personal and social change.

Miao acknowledges the fact that eating disorders are difficult subjects to bring up, let alone talk about. He says that he wants the game to “encourage teens to talk more openly about body image issues and eating disorders with friends and family — which is an important first step in getting help.”

Using games like this may in fact be imperative to early intervention. Reports indicate that by age 6, at least 40-60% of elementary school girls will begin to express worry over their weight. Many girls prone to dieting will develop pathological eating patterns, and of the 35% “normal dieters,” 20-25% will progress into full-blown eating disorders. One-third of teenage boys will also adapt unhealthy weight behaviors, such as meal skipping, vomiting, and fasting. Taking laxatives and smoking cigarettes are other harmful behaviors associated with unhealthy weight control.

High School Story allows players to build their own “dream high school.” The game will hopefully inspire a range of audiences to recognize disordered eating, and manifest a healthy mindset, along with an improved body image.