A group of Vermont college students has come up with a soccer-centric video game that teaches boys how to pass, dribble, tackle, score--and, hopefully, respect girls.
If that seems like an unlikely connection, students from the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College in Burlington would disagree. They've spent two years developing Breakaway, a free interactive online game that manages to impart lessons about violence to boys 8 to 15--while tossing them some lively gameplay.
"Breakaway is a game experience that offers youth the chance to discover how to become a champion both on and off the field," said Ann DeMarle, director of Champlain's Emergent Media Center.
The game--which debuted at the World Cup in South Africa this summer and today saw the release of its third and latest chapter--has attracted 1,000 registered users from 95 countries including Ghana, Mali, Tunisia, Indonesia, and Azerbaijan. In the early days of the game's creation, student developers journeyed to the townships of Cape Town, South Africa, as part of their research into social conditions that can lead to abuse.
The outgrowth of a United Nations-supported initiative aimed at using games to teach respect for girls and women, Breakaway has been endorsed by Cameroonian soccer star Samuel Eto'o, who also appears in the game as a virtual football mentor.
The title presents interactive storylines, each featuring new characters, that have players bouncing between skill-building mini-games focusing on speed, strength, agility, and timing, and narrative challenges that require collaborative decision making on social issues such as gender equality and racial stereotypes.
In one instance, a team captain who's talented and popular but tends to be a bully becomes progressively verbally abusive toward your sister as she stands on the field. In another, a member of your all-boys' team moves away with his family, and a girl replaces him.
Who you choose to side with during such situations--those team members who defend the girl being bullied or excluded or those who contribute to her ostracization--influences the caliber of soccer training you get, and thus, your chances of advancing as a player. … Read more