Six years ago, students and staff at the Emergent Media Center (EMC) at Champlain College in the US created an online video game, and it's now providing much more than entertainment to the children who are playing it in 185 countries around the world.
In a preview of the game, BREAKAWAY, young soccer players are asked to make positive or negative choices regarding sexist behavior, as seen through challenges on the soccer field. The choices they make determine their score in the game.
BREAKAWAY truly is an international endeavor, and over 150 US-based and international students helped create and develop the program. The ultimate goal of the game is to teach children aged 9-15 about what attitudes towards women are and are not healthy. BREAKAWAY tracks the scores of its users, and so far, 86% of players make more positive than negative choices about how to treat girls and women.
BREAKAWAY is making progress offline, as well, and real-life soccer camps in El Salvador and Palestinian territories are promoting women's rights. The game led to a particularly monumental match in Hebron, in the West Bank, when boys and girls played soccer together for the first time.
The BREAKAWAY teams has future plans to work with Grassroots Soccer, an international organization that has been using sports to educate young people around the world on HIV and gender-based violence since 2002. With this partnership, BREAKAWAY hopes to run camps, and also create a mobile version of the game.
According to BREAKAWAY, "BREAKAWAY and Grassroots Soccer believe they can play an important part in shifting the prevalent, harmful gender norms in South Africa among a new generation of young people. The task is urgent and we believe the universal language of soccer could play a vital role."