Violence against women and girls can be difficult to talk about, which is why one interactive game is trying to do so in a more universal language: soccer. Breakaway, as it's been named, originally debuted in 2010.
The free video game was created with help from more than 60 students, teachers and staff members at Champlain College in Vermont to raise awareness of this all-too-common type of violence.
The game is easy enough — users are asked to create an account and practice their virtual soccer skills. However, dialogue within the game brings up sensitive issues, such as how to react to violent situations. It also presses the players to think about the equality of men and women.
Since the game's debut, it has been played in 180 countries and translated in four different languages. It comes with a facilitator's guide for educators who want to give students a little extra activity to jog their minds after playing the game.
In 2012, an educational camp model surrounding the game was developed and launched in Hebron, Palestine. The goal was to combine the facilitator's guides with the video game in an effort to effectively address violence issues on a local level. This model was eventually rolled out in El Salvador in 2013 and 2014.
In 2013, researchers from SUNY Buffalo were finally able to show the impact of these camps with study data. On a five-star rating scale, participants at the El Salvador camp ranked their experience at a 4.92, while facilitators gave it a 4.66.
"Despite the social norms against gender equality in El Salvador, our participants obtained useful knowledge about violence against women and girls, strategies against bullying, favorable attitude and behavioral tendencies toward women's rights at the end of a 5-day camp," the study authors wrote in their report. "Our findings demonstrated how the media and social networks complement each other and produce desirable social change outcomes."
In an effort to extend upon the success seen with the camps, Champlain College's Breakaway developers are looking to raise money to create a Mandarin translation of the game. As of May 16, it has raised $4,000 of its $18,500 goal.
The United Nations Population Fund sponsors Breakaway, and Emergent Media Center and Population Media Center helped developed the game.