Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Contest: Life. Love. Game Design Challenge

Most parents are prepared to talk with their children about sex, drugs and alcohol, but teen dating violence is rarely on a parent’s list of necessary sit-down conversations. It turns out that one in three 14-year-olds has experienced physical, sexual or psychological emotional violence within a dating relationship, rising to 44 percent by the time American young people graduate from college. In an effort to educate and prevent teen dating violence, the non-profit Jennifer Ann’s Group has launched an international video game design contest.
“I knew to talk with Jen about alcohol, drugs, sex and all those other parenting talks, but I never knew I had to teach her about dating violence,” said Drew Crecente. “I did not realize that it was such a pervasive issue at such a young age.”
After Crecente’s 18-year-old daughter was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, he founded Jennifer Ann’s Group to increase awareness about teen dating violence as well as provide educational information to help teens, tweens, and young adults identify and avoid abusive relationships. The non-profit started out by distributing leaflets, bookmarks and other printed materials across the United States, but since 2008, it has been running the Life.Love. Game Design Challenge, and the interactive approach is working.
Research has shown that the most difficult thing for teenagers is seeking or accepting help. To that end, exploring concepts behind relationship abuse through games, at their own pace and often outside the classroom, has proven to be more effective than traditional pen-and-paper learning on the subject in a school environment.
“Video games are often unfairly blamed for violence in our society, but using them as a tool for social change to prevent violence is extremely effective. We have found that teens prefer to explore a sensitive issue like teen dating violence through self-paced exploration. Additionally, parents like to use these games as an easy way to begin a conversation with their teenagers about abusive behavior in dating relationships,” explains Crecente.
Registration for the contest is open now and entries are due by June 1, 2016.  Winners will receive international recognition and $11,000 in prizes will be distributed:
  • First place: $8,000
  • Second place: $2,000
  • Third place: $800
  • Door prize: $200 
How to enter:
Rules, registration, FAQs, and previous winners are available at:
“The contest really provides game developers and programmers the opportunity to garner attention and respect from the international gaming community to catapult their careers,” explains Crecente.

About Jennifer Ann’s Group
Jennifer Ann’s Group is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization preventing teen dating violence through awareness, education, and advocacy. The organization has been instrumental in the passing of legislation mandating teen dating violence awareness in schools and has distributed over a half-million free educational materials to schools, churches, and other organizations throughout the U.S. and U.K. at no cost to the recipients. 
On February 15, 2006, Jennifer Ann Crecente, a high school senior, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Jennifer was an honor roll student in high school, a camp counselor, a hospital volunteer, and participated in community theatre with her dad. Jennifer Ann’s Group is run by her father.

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