Video games have long been demonised as promoting and contributing to sexism, misogyny, and violence against women (VAW). Popular games like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption have VAW (including rape and sexual assault) built into their gameplay and game worlds, leading critics to observe that they are rewarding players for acting out their fantasies of VAW which may translate into real-world behaviour. Indeed, the violently misogynist Gamergate movement which attacked women in the gaming community and industry, including Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, and Brianna Wu, reinforces this perception of gaming and gamers.
What critics may have overlooked is that games can also be used to help prevent VAW and promote gender equality. Some experts have even put forth the case that violent video games may, in fact, help to reduce violence in general. In recent years, a growing number of game designers, women’s organisations, and anti-violence nonprofits have started using the potential impact of ICT and gaming, with many new games being developed to increase awareness about the impact of VAW, bystander intervention, consent in relationships among young people in particular. The games that these people create range from PC games and Facebook games to mobile applications and even board games. These games seek to educate players about VAW and simulate the experience of VAW for players or sometimes just start the conversation around VAW.
In this article, we present a list of 16 games that are designed to help stop VAW. This is just a starting point which we hope will encourage and inspire more people to start seeing games as tools and gaming communities as potential allies with enormous potential for creating positive consequences in the battle against VAW.
Written and compiled by Rubina Singh; Additional content and research by Regina Yau.
A Casual Chat was the winner of the 2016 Life.Love.Game Design Challenge produced by Jennifer Ann’s Group and aims to increase awareness about teen dating violence. The game invites players to interact with Katie, a high school senior and follow her story about her relationship with her boyfriend.
Game Against VAW #2: After Party – Sonder Games, Abertay University – United Kingdom
Students from Abertay University have developed After Party – a game on the importance of consent in relationships. After Party recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Games4Health competition at Utah University, USA.
Game Against VAW #3: Angry Brides – Shaadi.com – India
Angry Brides is a Facebook Game developed by a matrimonial website Shaadi.com. The game is an interactive way to raise awareness about dowry and the impact it has on women in India.
Game Against VAW #4: Another Chance – Jean Hehn, Another Kind – Belgium
Another Chance was the winner of the 2015 Life.Love.Game Design challenge produced by Jennifer Ann’s Group, a non-profit working to prevent teen dating violence. The game explores the theme of violence in relationships.
Game Against VAW #5: Breakaway – Champlain College Emergent Media Centre – USA
Breakaway is an interactive online video game that uses soccer as a tool to educate players about VAW and gender equality. The game was designed by the Champlain College Emergent Media Centre in Vermont, USA for the United Nations Population Fund as part of the UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women.
Game Against VAW #6: Bystander – Game Changer Chicago, University of Chicago – USA
As part of the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health at the University of Chicago, Game Changer Design Lab developed Bystander, an interactive video game to encourage young people to become active bystanders and prevent incidents of VAW.
Game Against VAW #7: Cool-Not Cool Quiz – Futures without Violence – USA
As part of the ‘That’s Not Cool’ initiative of Futures Without Violence, the Cool-Not Cool quiz addresses the issue of teen dating violence. The game is available on mobile and online and uses an interactive quiz format to help users understand the signs of teen dating violence and dating abuse.
Game Against VAW #8: Decisions that Matter – Carnegie Mellon University – USA
Decisions that Matter is an interactive online game developed by students at Carnegie Mellon University as an attempt to prevent situations of sexual assault on college campuses. The game invites the player to respond to varied scenarios of sexual harassment and violence in order to be an effective bystander.
Game Against VAW #9: Elite Sharp CCT – Institute of Creative Technologies, University of Southern California – USA
The Emergent Leader Immersive Training Environment Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention Command Team Trainer (ELITE SHARP CTT) is a training game made for the American military to address issues of sexual harassment. The games showcases scenarios that train command teams to respond to incidents of sexual harassment.
Game Against VAW #10: Ending the Cycle – Peter Wonica and the Galerstein Women’s Center at the University of Texas at Dallas – USA
Developed initially with the Galerstein Women’s Center at the University of Texas at Dallas, Ending the Cycle is a board game designed to simulate experiences of a person in an abusive relationship. Players walk through the different phases that a survivor of domestic violence may go through while leaving an abusive relationship.
Game Against VAW #11: Green Acres High School – CAVA (Changing Attitudes to dating Violence in Adolescents) Project – Sweden
Green Acres High School aims to raise awareness about violence in adolescent relationships through modeled scenarios of different stages in relationships. Targeted at 12-16 year old players, the game is accompanied with resource material for teachers as well.
Game Against VAW #12: Half the Sky Movement: The Game – Frima Studio – Worldwide
The founders of the Half the Sky Movement launched a Facebook game to raise awareness and funds for empowering women and girls across the world. Players see multiple situations faced every day by women in different countries and learn about the issues faced by them.
Game Against VAW #13: Hannah – Lotus Media Studios – Australia
Hannah is a text-based video game that aims to raise awareness about domestic violence. The gamer is asked to use different tools to assist Hannah, who is a victim of domestic violence and help her to become a survivor. The game will be officially released at the end of this year.
Game Against VAW #14: In Tune – Tweed Couch Games – Canada
In Tune is an interactive game where players learn about consent in physical relationships. Players make teams of two and re-create scenes of physical touch that they view on screen. They wear ‘consent bracelets’ which registers their level of comfort during the interaction through skin contact.
Game Against VAW #15: Mission Hazaar – Blue Ant Digital Intelligence for Breakthrough – India
As a part of their campaign to address the declining child sex ratio in India, Breakthrough developed an HTML5 game to increase awareness about the issue and engage more people in the conversation. The point-and-click game takes users across five States in India with the worst sex ratio to find hidden girls and women.
Game Against VAW #16: PS Be Brave – Damian Hadyi (99UNO Designer) and Dario Gimenez – Argentina
With the aim of increasing awareness about relationship abuse and teen dating violence, PS Be Brave invites users to share advice and experiences around violence in relationship. The game also has useful resources to address abuse in relationships.