"Sandra, 18, is among those who escaped. Offering only her first name and speaking in Los Angeles, where she was awaiting an immigration hearing, she described violence as a part of life in El Salvador. First, a classmate became pregnant by a gang member. Then, the cousin of another classmate disappeared".Approximately nine years ago, Bill Ryerson came to me with the idea of a game to address over population that he wished to present to his client, the UNFPA. I had begun four degree programs at Champlain College: Multi-media and Graphic Design, and the three Game Degrees based on a cohort model. It was time for a change and working with our former college president Dave Finney, I created the Emergent Media Center with the mission of giving students an opportunity to create media for clients in an internship-like model. Bill's idea was a perfect fit. What I did not know was how it would become a key mission in my own life.
We approached Aminata Toure then Gender Specialist at the UNFPA. She loved the idea of a game but not one on overpopulation. Instead she was insistent that there was a need for a game for boys on violence against women and girls. Let me say this again—a game for boys to change their attitudes and behavior towards girls. Though I was, and still am, an advocate for the power of games to educate, I had a difficult time seeing how this media which often negatively portrays women as either victims to be saved, objects to be violated, or as over sexualized creatures violent in their own right, could be designed and accepted by teen boys for the opposite. Even designers in the industry told me that game play mechanics couldn't support such a message.
|The first image we saw when arriving in South Africa to conduct research towards development of the game.|
|Our BREAKAWAY team in 2009 testing the game in St. Lucia|
But on another level, that of the heart, I need to explain that I have unexpectedly fallen in love with this tiny, troubled nation: a nation embattled by gang violence and poverty. A culture ruled by a deep Catholic faith and yet children give birth to children. A warm people with nothing to give yet who have given my students and the BREAKAWAY team so much! A nation where parents know there is little hope for the future and their children make the dangerous trek to the U.S. border with hopes of escaping the the violence.
|The Salvadoran children of BREAKAWAY 2014|
"7 June 2013 in Santa Tecla, the girlfriend of a gang member recruited two friends to go to a party. The gangsters suspected that one of the girls betrayed them, talking to a rival gang. Eight men raped the girls. First two were killed with multiple knife wounds. The third was held for 24 hours while they asked for ransom, but when they couldn't get the money they killed her, too. The three were dismembered. They were 12, 13 and 14 years old."
|The dedicated El Salvadoran BREAKAWAY Facilitators thanking the Champlain College team.|