Video Games Against College Sexual Assault and Drinking Get High Score
Author: Justin Mckibben
Imagine Super Mario Cart having a deeper message. Or imagine Call of Duty being used to raise awareness.
We have seen in the past how different research teams and treatment programs have tried to incorporate virtual reality into attacking different important topics pertaining to mental health and substance abuse, and leaning on technology makes more sense as time goes on and our connection to technology grows.
Now there are two new interactive games recently developed with the intention of helping college students to learn critical thinking and a better understanding about alcohol abuse and sexual decision-making, where issues such as binge drinking and sexual assault have been noted as consistent concerns.
There is some evidence that has shown how video games can have a great deal of influence on young people, and we have seen time and time again how society’s connection to our gadgets has shaped our behaviors, so maybe these games can inspire a lot of positive change in a huge way.
Decisions That Matter
”Decisions That Matter” is the new interactive game focusing on bystander intervention in sexual assault scenarios. The game is displayed in the style of a graphic novel, and was created as part of a class at Carnegie Mellon University and will be tested this fall.
Bystander intervention is a popular violence-prevention strategy when it comes to combating sexual assault.
“Decisions That Matter” walks the user through various scenarios involving unwanted sexual advances, prompting bystanders to decide if and how they might take action in these situations and intervene.
One big highlight of this games implementation is that it shows how sexual assault is not always a black-and-white issue, and compels individuals to assess and intervene with critical thinking in response to a more ‘gray area’ scenario.
The situations presented through the game are meant to be as realistic as possible and to show students how they’re actions as a bystander can have very real impacts on the lives of others. Choosing whether or not to intervene in the game will result in consequences for other characters, and it makes the reality of sexual assault prevention more personal.
Kirsten Rispin is one of the student co-producers of the game, and she hopes this kind of game will help in numerous ways, including:
- Urge families to discuss the outcomes with their kids
- Help families discuss consent and healthy sexual decision-making
- Open up more discussion about sexual assault with college students
Jessica Klein, coordinator of gender programs and sexual violence prevention at Carnegie Mellon University, said:
“Part of sexual violence prevention is to talk about sexual empowerment and that includes not having sex as well.”
So beyond prompting people to know where they can take action to help others in situations with high risk sexual circumstances, they can also be inspired to talk about their own sexuality and about healthier decisions.
What Kind of Drinker Are You?
Alcohol abuse and binge drinking is another enormous problem on college campuses, which also happens to be commonly linked to sexual assault. “What Kind of Drinker Are You?” was created by a Pennsylvania rehab center to help students think critically about their drinking, and it seems to present an interesting perspective into combating alcohol abuse.
Players log their gender and weight before navigating a night of virtual partying in this game, and they can see throughout the evening as they participate in drinking games how their blood alcohol content changes, and at the end of the game players receive a drinking profile score showing how their actions has an accumulative effect.
The idea is to give students a realistic view of college drinking culture and show how these kinds of drinking decisions can affect not only their night, their college experience in the long term, and their health and drinking habits.
Developers of both games encourage parents to have a frank discussion with students. Raeann Davis, a health educator at the University of California stated:
“When the student hears the parent or a professional or someone really acknowledging that these things happen and being realistic about it, they’re much more prone to listening to the messages,”
Bystander intervention as shown in the previous game can also be applied to drinking, said Davis. Again a huge point to be made with this interactive exploit is to encourage families to have open lines of communication about drinking habits, the dangers of excessive drinking and how these actions can have a variety of residual effects.
Video games have evolved so much over time, and there has been a lot of work done to take notice as to how they influence our culture, so it is exciting to see some efforts put towards using that influence for great causes that affect a lot of young people.
There are always new and creative ways being developed for the treatment of mental health disorders, substance abuse and other issues impacting young people, but on the path to real recovery it all begins with the decision to get better.
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