A Video Game to Help Prevent Domestic Violence

February 25, 2010 • PMC in the News

In Development at Champlain College: a Video Game to Help Prevent Domestic Violence

By Jill Laster

A team at Champlain College wants to educate boys about the effects of violence against women. So they are creating a product using two things that appeal to their target audience: soccer and video games.

The university’s Emergent Media Center is working on a project with a grant from United Nations Population Fund to design a game for boys between 9 and 13. The project, created with support from the Population Media Center, features soccer matches broken up by narrative sections, with players facing social decisions on and off the field. The game should appear online sometime in March, and the production team will formally debut the game during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa this summer.

Ann DeMarle, the Emergent Media Center’s director, said that the group chose soccer because it is a sport popular around the globe — perfect for a game that the U.N. and Champlain hope will have international appeal. It also provides a competitive environment where sportsmanship lessons can be taught, Ms. DeMarle said, and it interests boys who are at age when they look to peers for how to behave.

“We need education of women, and we need to help victims,” Ms. DeMarle said, “but at the same time, you can only go so far if you can’t change the culture of the men.”

More than 50 students, as well as faculty members and hired employees, have worked on the three-year project. Employees at IBM have volunteered their help, as well as those at several game companies.

Champlain students working on the project include programmers, electronic-game designers, and art and marketing majors; they received no credit, but some were paid for their time. Many of the students also had little to no training on domestic-violence issues, Ms. DeMarle said. But students have learned, both by doing their own research and by traveling as a group to the Caribbean and South Africa to do research and product testing.

“To see them embracing the rest of the world and issues around the world. … It’s very powerful because it just broadens who they are and their understanding,” Ms. DeMarle said.

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