Nonprofit charity Jennifer Ann's Group has announced the latest video games from their annual game design challenge. The annual competition challenges game developers to create prosocial video games about issues impacting adolescents; past themes include consent, healthy relationships, bystander awareness, and gaslighting.
As part of the award-winning Gaming Against Violence program, for this 13th Annual Life.Love. Game Design Challenge video game designers were asked to create games about culture and the impact it has on young people's attitudes and beliefs about dating and healthy relationships. As with their previous game design challenges, the video games cannot contain any onscreen depictions of violence.
First place is Culture Overlord, from Lucas Vially in France, which allows the player to determine the mass media items used by the game's protagonist, Dan. The player decides what books Dan will read, the TV shows Dan watches, even the websites that Dan visits. These choices then determine Dan's decisions as he pursues "the new girl" at his school.
→ Watch the Video: Game trailer for Culture Overlord (YouTube)
Second place is Sea of Roses, from Midnight Moon of Tea, in Portugal, which shares the story of Marion. Marion is a budding potion maker from the past who has suddenly found herself in the present. Players will help Marion explore a new world while also helping her to reconsider the past.
→ Watch the Video: Game trailer for Sea of Roses (YouTube)
Third place is A Thousand Cuts, from Elizabeth Ballou, in the U.S., which explores campus culture and its impact on a student who is considering if they should go through the Title IX process. As the game's developer, Elizabeth Ballou, states,
"campus sexual assault is far more complex than it's often made out to be in headlines. The intersection of Title IX stipulations, the legal system, and a school's interest in protecting itself all make for a justice process that's shrouded in secrecy and hesitation. My hope is that my game might place players within this process, so that players understand the individuals caught in the center of it."
'A Thousand Cuts' and the other winning games will be available soon. Since 2008 Jennifer Ann's Group has published dozens of free video games for use by parents and in classrooms.
According to Drew Crecente of Jennifer Ann's Group, “these video games encourage players to explore, examine, and evaluate the role one’s culture can play in forming their attitudes regarding dating and healthy relationships.”
Several of the previously published games have been honored recently. In early 2020 the gaslighting game ‘Lamplight Hollow’ was a winner of JungleJam and featured at DreamHack Anaheim. In 2019 the consent game ‘Rispek Danis’ was recognized at the 2019 Games for Change Awards as a nominee for ‘Most Significant Impact.’ Also in 2019, the healthy relationship game HONEYMOON was included in the excellent reference guide for Educators: 100 Games to Use in the Classroom & Beyond.
Six of the video games published through the Gaming Against Violence program are featured in peer-reviewed published studies showing their effectiveness at changing unhealthy beliefs and attitudes regarding relationship and gender norms.
The intention of the Life.Love. Game Design Challenge is to develop and research prosocial video games about sensitive issues impacting adolescents in an effort to educate and empower young people around the world. The contest is the longest-running of its kind and has been recognized as a Top 10 Trailblazer by the National Youth Advisory Board for its unique approach to teen dating violence prevention through prosocial video games.
Additional winning games and screenshots as well as further details about these culture video games are in the official press release, Winners Announced: Video Games Exploring Culture's Influence on Dating