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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Senator Leahy Introduces BREAKAWAY Panel

Senator Patrick Leahy introduces the BREAKAWAY panel at Vermont 3.0 Tech Jam on Friday, October 15. Following his speech, students from the Emergent Media Center discussed the development of the game, from research and pitching at UN headquarters to crunch, launch, and beyond.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A bit quiet but much good in the silence

We’ve been a bit quiet on the home front but that is not due lack of energy and success with our game to address violence against women. It's more like we've been overwhelmingly busy! I'm sure many of you can relate.
We hosted a launch party this August and two chapters of an eventual 5 total have been released. As I’ve been updating the UN and others in the last few days on the successes of BREAKAWAY I realized that we needed to share with all of you as many of you have helped us reach the point we are at today!!! So first off THANK YOU!!!!

The team is full steam ahead on our third chapter release due in 13 days! Now over 90 Champlain students, the United Nations Population Fund, Population Media Center, numerous volunteers, and Champlain College faculty and staff have been putting forth amazing creative and productive efforts!

2 out of 5 chapters of BREAKAWAY have been released online since July. The remaining 3 chapters will be released monthly completing in December 2010.

Inter-Milan soccer star Samuel Eto’o is the spokesperson for and a character in the game. We interviewed and videotaped him this Spring. From this footage, corresponding video promos will be released on his thoughts about the nature of being a champion, being an advocate for others, and respect for women and girls.

Likewise, we've been busy getting the word out on the game to get it into the hands of young people. We have been helped immensely by press that has been drawn to the project. TV coverage by ChannelOne out of NYC aired on August 31 (see below) and scores of youth across the US became part of the game playing audience. It was cool to watch the US light up in Google Analytics in the ChannelOne broadcasting region!

To announce the game, we’ve been participating in summits and conferences. Sponsored by Liaison International , a student team, Lauren Nishikawa & myself just returned from presenting at "Images and Voice of Hope". We presented the project to an audience of media professional who are working to produce “media as an agent of world benefit”

This Friday, a panel of students will be presenting twice at Vermont 3.0 in Burlington . The panel title is:
From Zero to Hero: the process of game development,
10:30am – 11:15am and 1:00pm – 1:45pm.
And here is some very big news, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy will be giving the opening remarks for the 10:30 panel!

Other currently planned, upcoming presentations on BREAKAWAY include:
Presently, we can analyze hard data from our database and website analytics:
  • Since launching June 22, 2010 during the FIFA World Cup, the game has over 1070 registered online users from 90 different countries around the world.BREAKAWAY website for links)
  • Statistics regarding age and gender tell us we are reaching the target audience of young men – twice as many males as females are playing the game and over 50% of the user base is age 18 or under and they are coming back to play multiple times, a key component of the Sabido methodology on which this game is based.

  • In addition, 92% of players are making positive choices as opposed to negative choices within the game.
  • Potential influence and awareness is evident in website statistics which boast over 3800 visits from 133 different countries.
As you can well imagine with final online release in December, we won’t be finished yet with trying to change attitudes and behaviors around violence against women and girls.

After working on this project for over two years, we sometimes think our project and this message is old news, but with 1 out of 3 women abused in her lifetime there is much work to be done. We've traveled to and connected with the townships of South Africa to the schools of the Caribbean to the youth of Vermont, we want to reach youth around the world so they can discover, play, and all can benefit from this ground-breaking project!

Our future plans include finding funding to support: a global PR & marketing outreach, creating a facilitator/educator syllabus to distribute to schools, youth groups and soccer-affiliated groups, CD/DVD’s distribution for internet-poor areas (for distribution under the UNiTE campaign’s Men Engage), and a cell phone version to reach the poorest communities.

So we're asking each of you, to remember that it has been the little things that have added up in BIG terms on this project. Let's break through the silence. You can help! Please consider volunteering on the project, spreading the word, and consider donating as little as $5.00 towards our future goals. You can do so by visiting our project web site

Monday, September 13, 2010

"There's more to the game than just playing soccer..."

We are excited to share with you a news clip about BREAKAWAY, produced by Channel One News.  Channel One is the leading television news network for teens nationwide. Their mission is to "inform, educate and inspire by making news relevant and engaging for young people and sparking discussion around the important issues impacting youth today."

Chapter 2 of BREAKAWAY is now live!  Don't worry, if you haven't played Chapter 1 yet, you'll play that first so you don't miss any of the story.  Head on over and see what all the buzz is about!

(This post also cross-posted at the Emergent Media Center blog.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

What is a Champion?

The Breakaway game is counting down to release the game with the FIFA World Cup this June. In a circular world, everything seems to return round again. When we began researching the problem of violence against women, and attitudes and behaviors of youth, we began in Cape Town, South Africa. It was a world that had both 1st and 3rd world economies and an overwhelmingly negative statistics in regards to violence against women and girls. We had no idea then that the game would be a soccer/football game in time for the World Cup in South Africa or that it would be for 8-15 year old boys.
Likewise when we began the project we were a small group with a lot of doubters. How could a game prevent violence against women and why?

Many have a difficult time even speaking about the issue of violence against women. The issue gets caught up in thinking that sees it as a private family matter or a cultural issue that others should not interfere with. Even where we are today, in modern Italy, it is legal for a husband to lose his temper and murder his wife in a "crime of passion". And what of honor killings in which a man or his family burn the wife for reasons as anti-passionate as the size of a dowry, or lack of a male heir? Dare one speak out against that? What would the victim ask? Is death at the hands of another not a crime?
Others associate violence against women and girls as a "women's issue" bound up in anti-feminism rhetoric. What about the effects on the children of an abused partner or girls who are sold into sexual slavery at ages as young as 8 or 9, or the female babies and toddlers denied health care because of their sex at birth? Is that not a family issue—a human rights issue—a moral issue?
And how might a game address the problem? At first I even had to think long and hard before writing the first proposal to the United Nations. How would one utilize a medium accused of being violent and apply it towards anti-violence? By uniting game-play mechanics, reward systems, narrative, and fun in the right mix. Games can be powerful learning tools. They encourage reflective thinking and critical problem solving. If experienced at a crucial age, they can inspire new ways of seeing choices and consequences of decisions. I also firmly believe that if anyone can create a concept to engage boys, it is youth—our Champlain students who have academic experience in the medium, but who also enjoy, play and analyze it.
With progress towards our goals, believers...champions have come to our side from the most unlikely places. First Senator Patrick Leahy lent his support of the project and the team's ability to complete it. He stated that when he first started his career as State's Attorney he started prosecuting for domestic violence. When told "that isn't how we do things around here." He replied "well there's a new sheriff in town and now we do!".
Other supporters came to our aid when funding was in limbo last summer. Among them Laura Dagan and her employer Dwight Asset Management, our partner Population Media Center through their president Bill Ryerson, and many other individuals gifting as little as $1.00 or as much as $10,000. Without their generosity and pledges totaling $52,000 the project would have ended without reaching its goals.

Well this week we have new champions! And I must admit my mind is still reeling. Part of our team is in Milan, Italy videotaping for the game trailers, other PSA's, and a new character in our game. We are here because we brainstormed with game pros in Montreal, Canada and JDK in Burlington, Vermont. Then we took the concept and presented to the UN. Through them Aminata Toure, gender expert at the UNFPA, and Enzo di Taranto, director of the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, campaign connected to the Spokesperson to the President of the General Assembly of the UN, Jean-Victor Nkolo.
He connected to his countryman, international soccer/football star Samuel Eto'o. This week Samuel Eto'o pledged to give his all to support the project and the cause. We just spent two days working with him. What an incredible role-model for boys, youth, men around the world.
Senator Patrick Leahy, Bill Ryerson, Laura Dagan, Aminata Toure, Enzo di Taranto, Jean-Victor Nkolo, and Samuel Eto'o are all successful people whom others look to as leaders in their fields. They are all champions working to end violence against women. If more spoke out like these there would be no need for our project. From a project that few believed possible to one with such support!
In less than a month we release the first chapter of Breakaway to coincide with the World Cup 2010. We will have 5 more chapters to release through until December 2010—for these we are seeking corporate sponsorship and appreciate individual and foundational gifts. You can be a champion as well—we are looking for volunteers to translate scripts for us into other languages, to test the game, find bugs, give feedback, and for help getting the word out. Our game site is at , Facebook Fan page at, and the project page for info and donations at ttp:// .

As one of our champions, you can be a part of enabling youth worldwide to be able to explore and discover for themselves how to truly be a champion.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Job Openings on Empowering Play Project

Join our team!  The Emergent Media Center is hiring for late Spring/Summer 2010 positions on the UNFPA/Empowering Play project.  You MUST be a Champlain College student in order to apply.

Click HERE for a listing of open positions.

Hurry!  Resume, cover letter, and deliverables (if required) are due by Friday, April 16th!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Out of the Storm and Into a New View of the World

Airports are a mass of humanity. Most of them are stressed out. I’m in the Reagan International Airport. I am stuck here because my flight was OVERBOOKED!!!!! UGH!!!!!!! I have grown to dislike immensely airports and flying.

My flight into DC was stressful. I flew out in the middle of a snowstorm that had finally hit Vermont. Of course prior I had been wishing for the snow that seemed to be going elsewhere all winter. I love skiing (and would prefer to be doing so this weekend but like I said I am stuck in an airport).

On Wednesday when I flew out, it was a true blizzard with everything—roads, ground, horizon, air—pure white. As we climbed higher and higher after takeoff the plane tossed and turned more violently with every gain in altitude. And when it reached its worse—and my prayers and thoughts of loved ones most fervent—it broke. And what I viewed was what I had as a small child imagined heaven was: the sunset expansive over hundreds of miles of blue clouds!

Here I am again awaiting a flight into a storm, however reflecting on the light beyond the clouds, I recognize that this week has resulted in a fairly productive series of events; the potential formation of a SIG for the IEEE Computer Society for those with interest in games; on-the-ground international support for our ground-breaking game to end violence against women; and this article in the Chronicle for Higher Ed:

Results. We are driven in this current society for short-term results. No waiting. Instant rewards. More, more, more. Let me have it NOW! Hence the stress, the rudeness, the inhumanity of an airport. But have you ever looked at the babies and small children? People smile when they see them, and as I heard one woman say this morning deep in the security line “I’ll hold her for you!” Children seem to bring us back to our humanity. They are long–term.

It is for those babies that I am here in this airport giving up yet another weekend with those I love deepest.

Our Champlain students and EMC faculty and staff, guided by experts in change, have discovered the means that can make the world a less violent, more economically stable place for our children and youth to grow into. Seems like an awfully BIG promise doesn’t it? Perhaps but its a promise backed up by a solid plan.

Our solution is grounded in proven behavior theory, designed to engage boys at a pivotal age, enable them to see beyond immediate culture conditioning. It allows them to practice key behaviors to discover the rewards of positive behavior and uncover the imprisonments of negative behavior. The project is being linked to on-the-ground structures that can support individual choice for change. And it is to be launched by an international star who provides an inspirational role model.

Yes, I can see a world achievable within my lifetime where the status quo is one of peace and prosperity. One where nine year old girls are not sold or abducted for trade as sex slaves as described in “Half the Sky” or their mothers are not violently “disciplined” by their fathers (as we learned in Africa); a world in which engaging babies can grow up to be equal partners working side-by-side towards a positive future for their babies and for us all. A world in balance.

However here we are again, awaiting launch with delays impeding takeoff. We have funding that will get us to the launch of the game but for full impact we need but two more months of funding.

Can you see the peace achievable beyond the storm? Would you like to help us get above the clouds? Become a part of this project that can turn the tides on a world-view that allows baby girls, pre-teens, their sisters and their mothers to become victims of sex trafficking, maternal mortality and violence against women. Become a game-changer.