Students and staff at Champlain College's Emergent Media Center have collaborated on an online game that tackles sexual harassment and assault on campus.
How colleges and universities deal with sexual assault and harassment on campus has been a matter of controversy lately, with much of the discussion centered on how the institutions address reports of assault after the fact.
With Champlain College's Make a Change game, there's a new effort aimed at prevention. Amanda Crispel, assistant dean for game development at Champlain College, spoke to Vermont Edition on Monday about the game.
"The themes that are in the game are sexual harassment, bystander intervention, consent, risky behavior like drinking – and that's all experienced through this story," Crispel explains.
Crispel explains that Make a Change is a narrative-based game in comic book form that tells the stories of sophomore students over the course of a semester.
"We knew we wanted to have a story that we could talk about, because that's really the point, is to find common ground to discuss these topics," Crispel says. "And it's very hard to get a group of college students to sit around and talk about sexual assault, but when you can talk about a story and what characters are doing, it's a much more approachable conversation."
Built into the story arc of the game are tasks for users to complete.
"We put what some people call 'mini-games,' so these are the interactive components outside of the comic book that are intended to sort of simulate some of the emotional experiences and add content to the game," Crispel says.
While Crispel says the game's impact isn't something that is easily quantifiable, she has heard positive anecdotal responses about the conversations the game has prompted.
"We have some instances where we've heard that the game itself has influenced whether someone came and maybe reported something," Crispel adds.
Crispel acknowledges that some people may have felt such a serious topic wasn't appropriate for a game and admits she initially had reservations of her own about making a game. But she says she was convinced to try it, and is pleased with how her team approached this game.
"We handled it well," Crispel says. "We handled it tastefully, and it does allow for information to be learned and a conversation to be had."
Crispel says that Make a Change is one element of a larger need to address the issue of sexual assault as a community.
"It's a piece of the puzzle," Crispel says. "Not everyone's going to want to play a game, but it is another piece that helps us get through to more people."
Listen to the full interview above.
Correction 10:23 a.m. 11/17/2016 A previous version of the post incorrectly stated Make a Change was from Champlain College's Game Studio. The post has been corrected to reflect that the game was a collaboration at Champlain College's Emergent Media Center.