1.5 Million is too many: Game Design Challenge Aims To Educate Teens About Dating Violence

Posted by | July 21, 2014 | News | No Comments
classroom(Source: KT King
Drew Crescent, founder of Jennifer Ann Group for the prevention of dating violence, with his daughter Jennifer.

Jennifer and her father, Drew Crescent, founder of Jennifer Ann’s Group. (Source: JenniferAnn.org

Jennifer Ann’s Group is an organization that aims to prevent teen dating violence. The group was formed in memory of Jennifer Ann Crescente, who was murdered by a classmate in 2006. Her father, Drew Crescente—founder and Executive Director—writes that the organization’s goals are to:

“…educate young people about danger signs. About warning signals. About indications that they are in above their heads and not immortal.

And then we’ll point them in the right direction – toward the many groups that offer assistance, counseling and protection. We will not rest until every young person has been educated about an epidemic that impacts over 20% of our teenage population.”

That 20% might seem like a lot, but it’s paltry in comparison to the 44% of students who will have been in an abusive relationship by the time they graduate college. Abuse can be verbal or physical, and kids need to learn what constitutes abuse. We need to find a better way to reach them.

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"In the U.S. alone almost 1.5 million high school students are physically abused by a dating partner every year."

− Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Teens who have been in abusive relationships are more likely to feel hopeless and attempt suicide."

− Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"44% of all students have been in an abusive relationship by the time they graduate from college."

− The Journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine

"Teens who have experienced dating violence are more likely to experience violent relationships as an adult."

− Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"Teens in abusive dating relationships are more likely to smoke, binge drink, and use drugs."

− Silverman, Raj, Mucci, & Hathaway (2001)

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So where do games come into this? Simple: Jennifer Ann’s Group has sponsored the Life.Love. Game Design Challenge every year since 2008. The Challenge calls on young game designers to “…design a game about Teen Dating Violence without using violence in the game itself”—a weighty objective. Crescente says: 

“Video games are often unfairly blamed for violence in our society. Using them as a tool for social change to prevent violence is fitting as well as being very effective. We have found that teens prefer to explore a sensitive issue like teen dating violence through self-paced exploration. Additionally, parents like to use these games as an easy way to begin a conversation with their teenagers about abusive behavior in dating relationships.”

Video games can be an excellent way to reach teenagers (and younger kids) where they live. Whether they’re playing these games or making them, bringing the realities of domestic abuse to light in a safe, exploratory environment is really important.

Dating violence can have a profound effect on kids into their adult lives.

Grace's Diary is a winner from a previous year, designed by Hima from Thailand. (Source: Kotaku

Grace’s Diary is a winner from a previous year, designed by Hima from Thailand. (Source: Kotaku

Registrants from all over the world are welcome to join, as long as they are 13 or older.

This year’s winner, announced July 3rd, is The Guardian (Argentina), with second and third place going to Little Things (Canada) and By the Water Cooler (United States). All games can be found here.

Keezy Young

About Keezy Young

Keezy is a gamer, illustrator, and designer. Her background is in teaching and tutoring kids from ages 9 to 19, and she's led workshops for young women in STEM. She is also holds a certificate in teaching English. Her first memory of gaming is when her dad taught her to play the first Warcraft when she was five. You can find her at Key of Zee and on Twitter @KeezyBees.