An Aussie Developer Is Making A Game To Help Victims Of Domestic Violence

In Hannah, you play as an old friend of the game's namesake. As the game unfolds, you discover she is a victim of domestic violence, and as the player you are provided with tools that can be utilised to help domestic violence victims in the real world.

Developer Susannah Emery of Lotus Media Studios is a researcher of the ability of games to help us experience social or cultural situations that are different than those we experience every day.

Image: Hannah

"I chose a game, or app, to tackle this concept for several reasons," she told Gizmodo. "It's a chat based game to reflect how more and more of our conversations these days are taking place through text or social media means."

Hannah communicates with the player via a messenger-style interface, sending texts about her feelings and experiences. The goal is to utilise the app format to allow for Hannah's messages to be sent directly to phones as notifications, so she becomes a part of your life, just as your friends and family are already.

"Through listening to and learning about Hannah, the player will uncover some of the many and varied forms of abuse Hannah is experiencing, as well as how it is affecting her," Emery explains. "The player plays a major role in Hannah's story, and must develop a strong, trust based, and most importantly non-judgmental relationship with her in order to help and support her through her journey."

Emery says that games are powerful teaching tools — and the practical conversational skills that the player learns in the game will be directly translatable to situations in real life, where friends or family may be experiencing domestic violence.

Friends and family knowing the right thing to do or say can make a huge differences in the lives of domestic violence victims.

"There are many barriers for victims of domestic violence trying to seek help," says Emery. "Leaving such a relationship is very complex and difficult. This is compounded due to the fact that many friends and family may not understand the difficulties faced by women trying to leave a violent relationship."

In the findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey for respondents 16–24 years, 80 per cent of young people agreed that 'it’s hard to understand why women stay in a violent relationship', with 61 per cent agreeing that 'a woman could leave a violent relationship if she really wanted to'.

"Unfortunately attitudes like this this make it more difficult for victims, as they often cite unhelpful responses and a lack of support from family and friends as a major reason they find it difficult to end abusive relationships," says Emergy. "Hannah is designed to try to help family and friends understand some of the reasons behind victim's choices, and the difficulties faced by a victim trying to find safety, as Hannah shares her feelings and experiences with the player, and to try to help family and friends develop a supportive vocabulary and learn practical skills to support their friends."

Emery has hopes that Hannah will now only help family and friends of domestic violence victims, but also that the game will bring greater awareness of the many complex issues faced by victims of violent relationships — including issues that from the outside may seem counter intuitive or even self destructive.

"It's a sad fact that sometimes even the closest of friends don't quite understand what someone is going through, and although their intentions may be good, they can sometimes give empty advice such as 'just leave the relationship', or ask the victim what they've done to make their partner so mad," Emery explains. "If these friends had been able to play Hannah, they might have understood why this kind of advice isn't particularly helpful."

Hannah is currently in prototype stage, with the aim to begin demos towards the end of 2016 while funding options are being explored. Lotus Media Studios, along with artist Andrew Taylor from Critter Studios on board, are planning for both iOS and Android release.


Comments

    In 2006 I was asked to become a White Ribbon Ambassador, a role I accepted. It was a long time ago and the organisation has changed a hell of a lot to try and adapt in certain ways during this period.

    The need has always been to educate, and de-mystify. WR always took the approach of engaging males and giving them a pro-active voice in the matter. You couldn't nominate yourself, you were always nominated by others.

    Oddly, maybe even inevitably, DV has become politicised in recent years but efforts like that of Lotus Media Studios are also inevitable, thankfully. I can't wait to see what they produce, best of luck to them.

    You know how the Australian film industry is unprofitable because local filmmakers take public money and then make obscure indie films that are dark, weird, generally offensive, exclusionist or otherwise targeted towards a small number of arts-hipsters?

    This ^^^

    I mean good for them if they can fund it for themselves, but games like this are exactly why the Aussie Government really shouldn’t be handing grants out to indie developers. This game might be spectacular, but it’s NEVER going to make a profit, be a major hit or benefit the economy in any way.

      But surely the government wants to educate people about this issue; do you think the "Violence against women" ads made any profit? Of course not, they were made to raise awareness of the problem and give people a bit of an idea how to respond.

      Games don't need to be seen as a commodity in order to be valuable or deserving of investment; a game like this done right could potentially be far more affecting and informative than an add campaign would be, even if it was only released in an opt in form and if it were given out as a task for high school students to complete as part of a compulsory education, perhaps in sex ed where abusive relationships aren't really discussed although they most certainly should be, the game / app could have a hugely positive impact.

        Is this game really going to help in a broader community sense?
        I have to say there’s zero chance of it ever stopping a single act of violence against women. No man who’s going to hit a woman is going to play this game unless a court orders them to do so!

        If the point is to improve awareness, help victims or protect the public they’d be far better throwing the money into womens shelters, TV advertising, police funding…. any number of things.

        I’m not saying the game is a bad idea, and honestly my original post comes across as a bit harsh so I apologise if it appears callous. If the game helps a victim cope or is enjoyed by the developer then by all means it should exist.

        I was just making a general point about the funding of Aussie projects which, while “artistic”, too often appeal only to the niche’st of niches. The film community does things like this ALL the time and then turns around and blames the public for not supporting Aussie cinema or the Government for not continuing to provide funding. It’s not our fault if filmmakers choose to make pet-projects for themselves and it’s not the Government’s responsibility to fund projects that don’t make a profit, provide ongoing jobs or fuel the economy.

          No, it certainly won't stop anyone currently committing acts of domestic violence, but that's not the focus of the game the devs are trying to get at.

          In the findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey for respondents 16–24 years, 80 per cent of young people agreed that ‘it’s hard to understand why women stay in a violent relationship’, with 61 per cent agreeing that ‘a woman could leave a violent relationship if she really wanted to’.

          “Unfortunately attitudes like this this make it more difficult for victims, as they often cite unhelpful responses and a lack of support from family and friends as a major reason they find it difficult to end abusive relationships,” says Emergy. “Hannah is designed to try to help family and friends understand some of the reasons behind victim’s choices, and the difficulties faced by a victim trying to find safety, as Hannah shares her feelings and experiences with the player, and to try to help family and friends develop a supportive vocabulary and learn practical skills to support their friends.”

          The game is trying to educate people about issues of and surrounding DV and I think funding those sorts of educational outreaches are exactly what the government should be doing (rather than, say, purchasing / building enormously expensive submarines). Now, I totally agree that games shouldn't be funded without a proper look at their potential effects, financial or otherwise, but I believe in this instance this would be in the government's best interests. A solution to this could be a promise of educational implementation in kids that could potentially come to deal with DV in the future, after the game has been approved / endorsed / supported by existing non-profit groups working to stop or lessen DV and its surrounding problems. While the immediate effects and benefits of the game might not be immediately huge, creating empathy and understanding in kids is a powerful way to attack the issues of DV before they come about and our sex ed programs are far too antiquated and focused exclusively on prevention to be teaching more important stuff than this.

          Last edited 15/03/16 12:58 pm

    Aren't these kinds of things "preaching to the choir"?

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