Can games help prevent teen dating violence?

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Games can be an inviting tool to educate young people on social issues -- like how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, how to help a friend or to seek help for oneself.

Since 2008, Jennifer Ann's Group, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about teen dating violence, has run an annual game design competition, launching each February to coincide with National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (I've acted as a competition judge in a couple of the years). Last year's winner, The Guardian, is available on the Android store.

There are notable prizes for winners, and this year's competition asks participants to create a game about teen dating violence that doesn't depict actual violence, relies on real-world data and events, and encourages advocacy, among other criteria. More information is available at the challenge website, and you can look at some past entries and winners here.

Drew Crecente, who founded Jennifer Ann's group in memory of his daughter, says the game submissions just keep getting more polished each year. "In order to keep our challenge sufficiently challenging we've added an additional layer of complexity this year, and can't wait to see what the entrants will create," he says.

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