Awesome interviewed Susannah, maker and designer of a video game, Hannah. Exploring the ways games can teach empathy, Susannah saw an opportunity to strengthen support networks around Domestic Violence victims. A truly new approach that Awesome Foundation had to fund! We can’t wait to see where Hannah takes us.
Tell us about yourself and your project?
I’m an SA based academic and game designer. Games for education and social change, currently completing my PhD in game design at Curtin University and tutoring in the Digital Design program. I am currently developing the game, Hannah. Hannah is a text-based, chat style video game that aims to raise awareness of the complex elements involved in Domestic Violence (DV). It’s to help family and friends provide positive emotional and practical support to those experiencing DV.
How did the idea come about?
The idea for Hannah came about because of my PhD research into the potential of video games to teach, share ideas and explore empathy education. Early into my research, I discovered that the responses of friends and family in DV situations are incredibly important, as negative and uninformed attitudes result in less understanding, empathy and support provided to survivors of violence. It can make it much harder for women to end abusive relationships.
Video games are used across the world to teach skills, information and concepts, and can invoke strong emotional responses in their players. This emotional response can help players develop empathy for the character in the game, and so gain a stronger understanding of the character’s experiences, thoughts and feelings. As they play Hannah, I want players to develop an understanding of why those in a violent or abusive relationship might act in ways that can seem counter-productive from the outside, such as staying in the relationship. From the outside it can seem as though leaving would be the safest option, however, in fact, leaving a violent relationship is incredibly dangerous and often extremely difficult for those being abused.
What do you most hope to achieve with this project?
Hannah’s design is so that family and friends wanting to help, can play it to develop a deeper understanding of the situation of someone experiencing DV, their experiences, feelings, and the difficulties they encounter attempting to gain support from support services. The game aims to model and demonstrate ways that the player can provide non-judgmental support and empower Hannah, as they help her on her complex journey to accessing support services. The skills that the player practices in Hannah will be relevant and useful in real life should a friend or family member be experiencing DV.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about the potential of video games to teach us new things, let us experience the world from a different point of view and change and improve our lives! Games are so good at engaging and immersing us in their stories that they really provide a unique opportunity for us to explore life experiences that may be very different to our own!
What’s your background?
While I teach at a tertiary level now, my teaching background includes primary and early years teaching, including in remote Central Australia! As a game designer, I’ve worked on games that focused on areas such as cultural collaboration with Indigenous Australian communities, mental health awareness such as anxiety, gender equality and education games focusing on Australian Curriculum outcomes.
What does winning Awesome mean to you?
Winning an Awesome Grant means so much to me, it shows me that the Awesome Foundation believes in video games for social good, and Hannah, as much as I do!
Any tips for applying to Awesome?
I recommend letting your passion for your idea show through in your application – let the Awesome Foundation know exactly just why you’re so passionate about your idea!
Anything else to add?
I just wanted to say a great big thank you to the Awesome Foundation for believing in the potential of video games to improve our lives. For believing that Hannah will help to improve the type of support that family and friends are providing to those experiencing DV, and hopefully make their journey to accessing support services a little easier.
Follow Hannah’s progress here: www.facebook.com/hannahgame/