Any parent knows it’s hard to talk to teens about anything, let alone abusive relationships. The non-profit Jennifer Ann’s Group believes games can help in this difficult situation. That’s why it’s been sponsoring a game design contest since 2008. The Life.Love. Game Design Challenge has already helped a lot of teens, and submissions are now open for this year’s challenge.

“Video games are often unfairly blamed for violence in our society, but using them as a tool for social change to prevent violence is extremely effective,” said Drew Crecente, the founder of Jennifer Ann’s Group. “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.”

Crecente started Jennifer Ann’s Group after his teen daughter was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2006. According to an official release about the contest, 44 percent of teens have experienced some type of abuse in a relationship by the time they graduate college. One of the things the non-profit does is to spread awareness and help educate parents on how to talk to teens about this touchy subject.

“I knew to talk with Jen about alcohol, drugs, sex and all those other parenting talks, but I never knew I had to teach her about dating violence,” Crecente. “I did not realize that it was such a pervasive issue at such a young age.”

Registration for the Life.Love. Game Design Challenge is open now, with a deadline of June 1, 2016 for submissions. The winner will receive $8,000 with additional prizes for second and third place contestants.

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Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.