Guest Post by Meghan Lazier
It sounded almost impossible: How can we make a game that people actually want to play around the issue of trafficking?
As students in the Design for Social Innovation MFA program at the School of Visual arts, Robin Newman and Michelle Kwon and I wanted to look at the issue of trafficking for our final project in our game design course.
Like all good designers, our first step was research. We talked to local NGOs, social workers and survivors of trafficking. We weren’t surprised to find that most Americans perceive sex trafficking as an issue that happens elsewhere. There is a lack of awareness that domestic sex trafficking impacts thousands of minors each year, who are typically coerced into the industry between the ages of 12-14 (source). A result, that there are not sufficient tools to address the issue that engage a pre-teen and teenage audience while also empowering those who are already in positions to educate and help youth.
By talking to social workers that are very familiar with domestic trafficking of minors, we discovered that minors who are trafficked show clear verbal and non-verbal signs and indicators (i.e. carrying two cell phones, wearing excessive makeup, withdrawn social behaviour) and that many girls are drawn into the trade with a promise of a romantic relationship.
We decided to make a game that could both empower girls about healthy relationships and serve as an assessment tool for social workers to better identify who might be at-risk of or currently trafficked. The result is our card game, Say No More.
How It Works
Say No More is designed to be played under the supervision of a responsible adult, preferably a licensed clinical social worker. The social worker will select a group of girls to play and create a safe and confidential environment.
The game is similar to Apples to Apples. There are two decks of cards, a deck of scenarios and a deck of reactions. For example, the scenario card might read: your boyfriend asks you to take topless photos of you. The reaction cards in a girl’s hand might read: who cares, act distracted, pretend you got a text message, cool, forget it. All girls must react to the scenario using a reaction card in their hand, and each girl will have a chance to pick a winner based on her interpretation of the best response to the scenario.
However, sometimes the scenario card will have a NO prompt on it. In this case, all of the players must use a reaction card in their hand and incorporate it into a sentence that says no to the prompt. The idea is that we want to help girls practice saying no in somewhat uncomfortable situations.
Each girl will always have check-in tool that will pause play if they feel they need to discuss something that has happened during the game.
While playing, the social worker also has an assessment guide to remind her of the cues that trafficked girls display and to make notes about observations made during the game.
Through a Sappi Ideas that Matter Grant, we are distributing 500 copies of our game to urban schools in the US in 2015.
Want to test the game, purchase a copy or just stay up-to-date on the project? Let us know here!
Justice Network will be sharing more information about this game and how it can be used effectively with youth at our Youth4Justice event on November 1st in Hawthorne, NJ. Click HERE for event details.