Student working on desktop computer. Computer screen shows an animation design program with a character face in the design process
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Student-Designed ‘Breakaway’ E-Game Ready for Play

Jun 03, 2010

Student-Designed ‘Breakaway’ E-Game Ready for Play

With support of the United Nations and behavior change expertise of Population Media Center, a two-year project by Champlain College will make its worldwide debut later this month during the 2010 Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup in South Africa. Over 70 Champlain College students from a wide array of majors are developing an innovative, episodic web-based soccer game for boys ages 8-15.

The online game, entitled BREAKAWAY, is a tactical and narrative soccer (football) game that has been under development and testing since 2008 at the Champlain College Emergent Media Center (EMC). Students have traveled to Cape Town, South Africa and St. Lucia to research how best to tailor a game toward youth on a global level.

Breakaway is a game that offers youth the chance to discover how to become a champion both on and off the field. The game offers an engaging and fun way to develop successful intrapersonal skills,” explained Ann DeMarle, director of Champlain College’s Emergent Media Center It will debut online on June 22.

World-famous football star Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon – striker for the Football Club Internazionale Milano – joined the project as a celebrity spokesman and is expected to help gain international attention for the game with its intended audience of young boys, according to DeMarle.

Eto’o spent a day working with Champlain College students and faculty from the EMC and representatives from the United Nations in Milan, Italy, in mid-May to record interviews for game trailers, develop public service announcements for the game, and to model for his animated in-game character that will be included in the Breakaway narrative.

The ground-breaking game project is funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Shelburne, Vt.–based Population Media Center, the leading authority in using the Sabido methodology for social and behavioral change using radio and television dramas around the globe. The game is an integral part of the UN’s ongoing worldwide fight against poverty, violence against women, hunger, disease and environmental destruction. The game is also part of the UN Secretary Generals’ Campaign UNiTE to end violence against women.

Through an intensifying story arc and unique game mechanics, the player encounters real life situations that resonate with a teen’s experience such as peer pressure, competition, collaboration, teamwork, bullying and negative gender stereotypes. “Breakaway gives the player choices that allow them to make decisions, face consequences, reflect, and practice behaviors in a game and story format,” DeMarle explained. “The goal is to show young males that they should show respect on and off the field, not only to teammates, but to others in their life and community.”

“Millions of boys and young men look up to you,” said Leyla Sharafi, a technical specialist with the Gender, Human Rights and Culture branch of the UNFPA at the Milan meeting with Eto’o. “It is such a critical age where boys’ ideas about manhood, parenthood and being a partner are shaped. You have a chance to impress them with the positive values and behaviors, so that they grow up respecting their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters.”

Breakaway challenges players to understand the nature of a true champion while having fun practicing football and personal skills. (To see Episode I of 14, now in beta testing, visit: and follow instructions under “Play the Game.”

Beginning June 22, the first episodes of the free game will be unveiled during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and distributed locally in Africa during the month-long competition to young soccer players attending camps.

“The World Cup, viewed by one billion people, is an important part of the marketing strategy,” DeMarle said. The game will be available globally via the Web in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese language versions and the remaining 11 episodes will continue to be released through December 2010.

Champlain students working on the project include electronic game designers, programmers, artists, professional writers, digital filmmakers, and marketing, business and graphic art majors. Students have been directly involved in the initial research, development and testing done in the Caribbean, South Africa and Vermont. Champlain faculty and international technology, game and media businesses have lent their expertise and insight along the way, as well, she added.

The project has received attention from major news outlets, online bloggers and will be featured on dozens of online video game sites as the World Cup nears, organizers said. Breakaway’s initial beta testing site has drawn interest and players from dozens of countries around the world, DeMarle said. Students at the EMC are continuing to refine and improve the game right up until the June deadline using suggestions and comments from early online players. “The game’s final background art, animations, interface design, and character profiles will pleasantly surprise those who’ve been testing the rough cut version,” she added, “but what will really intrigue them is moving through the episodes and the plot twists and turns.”


Champlain College, a private, residential college founded in 1878, has a long tradition of educating professionals for leadership roles by providing a high-quality, career-oriented education. Champlain’s distinctive educational approach embodies the notion that true learning only occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain was named a “Top-Up-and-Coming School” by U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges 2010. To learn more about Champlain College,


Champlain’s Emergent Media Center, located in the Champlain Mill in Winooski, Vt., works directly with industry, public institutions and non-profit organizations to provide a laboratory/studio environment for discovering concepts, processes and application in electronic and video games. It allows students to experience learning and become leaders in the areas of technology, media in real-life work situations.