BREAKAWAY: Combating Violence Against Women and Girls through Soccer Video Game and Youth Camps

Hua Wang, Ann Demarle, Jihye Choi and Yishin Wu


Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a major global economic, health, and human rights issue and causes severe damages to individual victims and societies at large. Early interventions among youth are crucial for combating VAWG. BREAKAWAY is an online, narrative-based, role-playing soccer game purposefully designed to educate youth worldwide about the issue of VAWG and to change their attitudes and behaviors. In 2013, the BREAKAWAY team hosted two 5-day youth camps in El Salvador.

Event-based time diary, participatory sketching, gamification strategies, and supplementary post-hoc Facebook Insights analysis was used for assessment. Overall, the game and camp experience had a profound impact on participants in terms of awareness, knowledge, attitude, skill building, and initiation of behavioral change regarding gender inequality and VAWG. Through game play around the main characters and their dialogues in various challenging situations, participants formed their understanding of the good qualities of sportsmanship, debated about the rationale of different decision-making processes, wrote individual letters to the abusive character, and co-constructed RESPECT acrostic poems/rap songs. They showed empathy and sympathy to the characters that were mistreated in the game and admiration and approval for the positive role models. They were also able to sketch out real-life bullying scenarios and demonstrate some of the VAWG strategies they learned from the game and camp activities. Participants chose significantly more female player stickers as rewards than male player stickers. The BREAKAWAY Facebook page attracted more traffic and engaged more user activities.