April 2024 is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

For SAAM 2024, this game is a great way to start conversations about consent and its importance.

Talking about consent with teenagers isn’t always easy. Teaching them about consent can be even more challenging. The right resources can make both of these tasks easier.

Fortunately, the consent games produced by the nonprofit charity Jennifer Ann’s Group are a great way to engage young people about this important, but sensitive, topic. In 2024, as has been the case since 2001, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or SAAM. For SAAM 2024 we wanted to share an award-winning video game about consent with you called Crossing Boundaries.

Crossing Boundaries

We will be discussing Crossing Boundaries, a consent game for teenagers that can also be quite resourceful for college-age students. The game allows the player to play through several scenarios through which they learn about various ways that consent is important.

If you are an educator or counselor looking for a great consent resource for the classroom or if you are a parent unsure of how to have a conversation with your child, Crossing Boundaries will be a great help.

Crossing Boundaries combines a travel game with important scenarios about consent.

Travelling the World

Crossing Boundaries is all about three friends who recently got out of school. To celebrate this, they have saved up some money and decided to travel the world together. Eva and Alice bring along their friend Joe who doesn’t always do a good job of thinking his decisions through. Thanks to Joe, and missing a plane flight early on, the friends get into occasional bits of trouble on their adventure across the world. The game also incorporates a cute mini-game with some fun mechanics that drive home the themes of consent even more throughout the game.

Snog-a-Frog is the game-within-a-game you will play along with the game’s characters.

The favorite thing about Crossing Boundaries for many players is that it’s about more than just sexual consent. It highlights the fact that every person has their own will and no one has the right to ignore it: it is not okay to make choices for another person’s body.

Even if it’s something like trying to force someone to try a new food, “no means no!”

For example, in one city that the friends visit, Joe decides to sign his friends up for a perfume testing project without consulting them. He decides to do so without asking for their consent because “there weren’t many spots left.”

As the game clearly shows, the issue of consent extends beyond the realm of dating and sex to include anything that affects your personal space, will, or body.

The game offers many destinations, allowing repeat gameplay to experience all locales.

Crossing Boundaries also offers the player choices regarding how they want to respond when various dilemmas pop up. There are multiple choices to each situation and it’s up to you to choose how you react. Every circumstance has multiple paths you can follow, with multiple positive reactions to choose from. And the story reminds us that standing up to someone may not always be received as well as you might have hoped.

Dialogue choices provide different outcomes throughout the game.

People are complicated and so are their emotions. And when they are put into an uncomfortable situation they might not be thinking clearly or know how to properly react to being pressured by a friend or loved one. In Crossing Boundaries we are allowed to see Joe’s growth throughout the game.

Players safely experience situations in the game that might not be safe if they were to experience them in the real world.

You Can’t Script a Real Situation

Crossing Boundaries helps players see that there are many ways to react to a situation and that the “right” or “wrong” way is not always clear. Life is full of unique problems and people have to decide for themselves how they will respond and how that will make them – and others – feel.

Fortunately the decisions that you make in Crossing Boundaries are safe to make because, although they reflect real world situations, they have no real world consequences. Players can safely make a “wrong” decision and experience the outcome of that decision through a game. And they can play the game again, making different decisions and experiencing different outcomes. This is such a helpful way to allow young people to explore situations and decisions that would otherwise be unsafe or unhealthy in the real world.

As you travel the world you will unlock achievements. Will you unlock them all?

The game also makes it clear that silence does not equal agreement. We cannot assume that somebody is okay with a situation merely because they are not objecting. All in all, everyone has a right to decide what they feel comfortable with doing in their life. We all have an obligation to learn about consent and to recognize the impact there might be on ourselves, and on others, when it is not respected.

And remember, even if it’s not about a relationship, consent matters! Even seemingly inconsequential matters like tricking somebody to eat food that they don’t want, “no means no!”

Crossing Boundaries does an excellent job of providing many helpful examples of consent and its importance throughout the game. The dialogue, characters, and even a fun mini-game called Snog-a-Frog make learning about consent a surprisingly enjoyable experience. It’s wonderful that games like Crossing Boundaries exist today.

I wish Crossing Boundaries was available when I was a student!

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Gaming Against Violence is an award-winning program presented by Jennifer Ann's Group, a 501(c)3 charity [EIN: 20-4618499].

Play Crossing Boundaries

Developed by: Testudo Games
Produced by: Jennifer Ann's Group
Published by: Life Love Publishing
Price: Free (No Ads. No in-app purchases.)
Language: English
Age Rating: Rated 12+

More information about Crossing BoundariesGet Crossing Boundaries on the iTunes StoreCrossing Boundaries available at AmazonPlay Crossing Boundaries in your browserWatch a video trailer about Crossing Boundaries

ADRIFT: Learning Consent Without the Trauma

An interview with the developers of the award winning consent game ADRIFT.

In 2017, we had the privilege of bringing one of our more successful games to life – in more ways than one. In ADRIFT, you play as a member of an interstellar salvage crew exploring an abandoned spaceship. Since then, the game has been played and downloaded thousands of times and in 2019, the MOD. museum at the University of South Australia built a life-size version for their patrons to play and experience. As our director, Drew Crecente, has said, one of the best parts of ADRIFT is that people can learn about consent without being traumatized in the process. What Life Love Publishing aims to do is publish pro-social games; these are games that look at positive and constructive messages, with no overt violent imagery. 

The player in ADRIFT

We recently got to sit down with the original developers, Quinn Crossley (he/him and they/them) and Andrew Connell (he/him), and hear what they’ve been up to. The designers, former roommates, and good friends shared a bit about life post-ADRIFT and their tips for aspiring game developers.

Let’s Talk About Space, Baby

We started off by asking Connell and Crossley what drew them to our Non-Violent Gaming Competition, and if they had experience with prosocial gaming before. They both expressed that, while the term “prosocial gaming” was new to them, they had been working in game development for educational purposes already. The competition gave them a tangible goal to start working towards. “We have the skillset, we have the time . . . both of us want to make things that matter,” Connell said. 

Now, why are we talking about consent on a spaceship? Crossley asserts that the choice to be on a spaceship, interacting with computers is very intentional. Who we interact with can influence the direction of a conversation. The conversation isn’t grounded in a familiar reality – unless you’ve been an explorer on an abandoned spaceship, of course. This allows for the discussion of consent to occur in a new light, “symbolism in a different context,” says Connell. 

Can you successfully navigate the puzzles in ADRIFT?

The two had previously worked on a game called Managing at Home. You play as a cancer patient navigating the first three days of chemotherapy, from what food they eat to how they cope with the side effects. Crossley shared that the game involved a lot of consent-adjacent conversations, like bodily autonomy, decision making, and bigger questions on how we treat ourselves and others.

Bringing ADRIFT to Life

ADRIFT was published in September 2017 and as far as the games’ designers were concerned that was the end of the story. But then “. . . we just get this email at like 3 in the morning, on a random weekday from some museum in Australia . . . we didn’t think this project had any more happening with it!” Crossley shared. “We wanted to make a little change in the world and this got way more attention than we ever anticipated.” They both shared that they were used to working the other way around – an organization would commission them and outline exactly what they needed. This time, someone sought them out. “It was really validating in a way,” says Connell. ADRIFT has had much success, but originally placed fourth in the original competition. “To see that it’s gone this far is really surprising.” 

Recreation of the consent game ADRIFT for the Hedonism exhibition at Australia's museum MOD.
ADRIFT brought to life at MOD.

The museum exhibit, entitled hedonism, launched in October 2019, exploring themes of healthy sexual relationships and consent. A life-size version of ADRIFT was born, relabeled as F. A. B. L. E.:

“Welcome, Operative, to F.A.B.L.E. – aka the Federated Association of Believers, Leaders, and Explorers. Your mission is simple: teleport on board this foreign spaceship and connect with the alien. As you explore this new world, there are protocols to follow. Make sure you check in with the alien as you go, follow the principles of consent, and achieve a two-way flow of information that will benefit both of our races.”


On Being Game Developers

When we asked them what the best and worst parts of being a game developer were, Connell immediately answered, “all of it” while Crossley laughed in agreement. They both agreed that the feedback can be the best and most difficult part of being game developers. Crossley shares that he loves seeing how people emotionally react to their work, even if it’s frustration. It’s wonderful for them to see how games can create bonds between people. “It’s cool to put something out in the word for people to connect over, but at the same time it’s hard to manage all the feedback…You can’t make everyone happy,” he shares. “I like making people feel stuff but also…it’s hard.”

Connell agrees, “we like to make people feel stuff, but we don’t want people’s feedback to make us feel too many things back. It can feel great to help people but since you put so much time and energy into it, it can feel really bad when it doesn’t go well.”

“It’s vulnerable for sure, but it can be really rewarding. You have to harness a lot of strength to share those pieces of yourself,” Crossley adds. 

Advice For New Developers

It can take time to develop that strength for newer developers. Crossley says that any time you put your art there, you are being vulnerable. Connell adds that it’s easy to feel vulnerable because you’re opening yourself up to criticism whenever you put yourself on the internet. The gaming industry can be a tough industry for newcomers. 

The gaming industry can be a tough industry for newcomers . . . it can be easy to push yourself hard enough to burn out. 

Andrew Connell and Quin Crossley, developers of ADRIFT

It can be a competitive fast-paced industry, and when you’re new, it can be easy to push yourself hard enough to burn out. People come in with a lot of passion, but it can come at the expense of their health. Crossley candidly shares that learning boundaries is one way to be successful in life, though it can be hard to apply those boundaries in a work setting. 

What tips do these two have for people wanting to break into the industry? Make something and put it out there, says Connell. You’re a game developer by making games, not just thinking about them. It’s a competitive field where success is based on your improvement and your output. Get involved, go to game jams – there is more value in just doing what you love, rather than focusing on what looks good on your resume. However, he adds, work in the environment that works for you. Don’t force yourself to fit somewhere that creates stress for you.

You’re a game developer by making games, not just thinking about them.

“Perfect is the enemy of good,” Crossley adds. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing even if the outcome isn’t perfect. Successful designers don’t necessarily have the strongest skills, but they put themselves out there and aren’t afraid to jump onto projects and participate. Taking risks is a large part of moving forward in the gaming industry.

Where Are They Now?

“I miss you!” Crossley exclaimed, when asked if they were still working together. Life has changed for these two – distance, the pandemic, and general growth have led to them working in very different careers in different parts of the country, although working together again is certainly not out of the question. Neither is a sequel to ADRIFT

“We played with that years ago…it is a possibility,” says Connell. 

“It sounds like it’s out there, helping people and making an impact, so yeah I’d keep following it,” says Crossley. 

Connell is currently working as a simulation engineer for an advanced learning company, and makes educational Youtube videos. He’s even created a learning course for Unity, a game development engine. His long-term goal is to have a life that lets him create in a healthy way – “I’m finally getting to the stage of making things for me, making things that make people feel something, and appeal to me on a deeper level.”

A screenshot from the video game 'ADRIFT'. A dark background with a red diamond in the center. Above the diamond is the sentence: "Consent is informed, freely given, actively given, and revocable."
ADRIFT offers a useful reminder about consent.

Crossley did a couple of museum projects, and even developed some games for PBS Kids. They took a break during the COVID-19 pandemic and worked as a technical writer in the corporate world. Even more exciting, he is currently traveling and aspires to visit all 50 states. He’s already visited at least 35 with his dog. Crossley and Connell are dreaming of reuniting in Yellowstone, where they can go wolf-watching. As they work in their new roles and make plans to reunite, they can feel confident that somebody, somewhere is learning about the meaning and importance of consent through the clever little game they created.

Support this work by donating online: 

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Or by texting STOPTDV to 707070 

Gaming Against Violence is an award-winning program presented by Jennifer Ann's Group, a 501(c)3 charity [EIN: 20-4618499].
Play nowPlay in your browser or download from the AppStorejag.itch.io/adrift
DevelopmentQuinn Crossley and Andrew Connell
Produced byJennifer Ann’s Group@stopTDV (Mastodon)
Published byLife Love Publishing@LifeLovePublish (Mastodon)
RightRating™EveryoneNo ads. No in-app purchases. No loot boxes. No privacy tracking.

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Serious Video Games Helping to Tackle Serious Issues

Grace’s Diary is a great example of how intentionally designed video games can be effective at addressing serious issues.

Video games have been found effective at raising awareness and promoting violence prevention.

Grace’s Diary has clearly impacted many adolescents who have played it.

“When Grace’s mother tells her to get back in the car… and to not bother telling Natalie’s mother, I was absolutely appalled.”

By the end I got to really despise Natalie’s boyfriend.”

“...this actually happens, and makes it so much more terrible…”

A broken phone is just one reminder of abusive behavior in Grace’s Diary.

These are just some of the comments from players of a game called Grace’s Diary. Unlike many of the more mainstream games, Grace’s Diary doesn’t feature mining, materials, shooting, or random dance moves. Instead, Grace’s Diary follows the protagonist, Grace, as she reflects on and tries to speak with her friend Natalie about Natalie’s relationship with her abusive boyfriend, Ken.

Real quotes from players:

“This game will probably be so helpful for me and my friends later on. I just hope that won’t happen to any of us.”

“…we know or will know a Natalie at some point in our lives, or are/will become a Natalie ourselves.”

“…getting the message out… that violent and controlling relationships are not normal or acceptable is fundamentally important.”

Grace sharing the National Dating Abuse Helpline number with her friend Natalie.

An initiative of the non-profit Jennifer Ann’s Group, Grace’s Diary is one of their many games which are targeted at informing and educating players around issues related to abusive dating behavior. Although most of the group’s serious video games address teen dating violence (TDV), they also cover related subjects like consent, healthy relationships, and the impact of peer pressure and social media.

While Natalie’s story is revealed through a series of observations, dialogue choices and point-and-click-puzzles, the charity is not limited to any one set approach and the games they publish tackle the issues from a variety of genres including dating-sims, lo-fi RPGs, persuasive art, and escape-the-room simulators. Important exceptions however are first-person-shooter and fighting games, which run counter to the non-violent conversation Jennifer Ann’s Group is trying to promote. 

Grace writes memos in her diary throughout the game.

With a number of recent studies highlighting the pressing concern of TDV, as well as the difficulties educational institutions have had in successfully addressing it, TDV video games are seen by the group as an effective tool to help tackle the shortfall.

“Abusive dating behaviour is a nuanced and sensitive subject,” Drew Crecente, founder and executive director of Jennifer Ann’s Group explains. “What the research has shown is that traditional learning methods alone aren’t sufficient to address it. Adolescents often don’t feel comfortable discussing dating – especially dating abuse – with their parents, let alone with teachers; if we can’t get the conversation started then raising awareness and promoting prevention is incredibly difficult.”

Lack of Awareness is a Critical Problem

Lack of awareness around the problem is a key issue, with one parental survey finding that 81% of participants either didn’t believe TDV was an issue, or admitting that they didn’t know it was an issue (Women’s Health, 2004). This is despite another study concluding that over 40% of U.S. students have been in an abusive relationship by the time they graduate from college, with nearly 1.5 million high school students physically abused by a dating partner every year (Forke, et al., 2008).

The challenges with tackling abusive dating behaviours unfortunately don’t stop there. Another study found that among teens who had been in an abusive relationship, only 32% confided in a parent. Of those that confided, 78% then went on to stay in the relationship despite the advice of their parent (Liz Claiborne Inc., 2009).

If you play Grace’s Diary, be aware that there are three possible endings.

For Educators

As for addressing the issue in a traditional educational setting, fewer than half of state schools in the U.S. are either required or encouraged to include TDV in their curriculum. In addition, even in those states where legislation has been passed requiring the development of safety plans, enforcement of protective orders, and education of students, a lack of funding has proved an issue for some school districts with implementation of these measures hindered as a result.

Even in school systems which have been able to implement TDV programs the results have been disappointing, with a recent review concluding that they were not affecting “to a significant extent” TDV perpetration and victimisation behaviours (De La Rue, et al. 2016).

This is where video games come in. By championing games that explore and dissect abusive dating behaviours, and making them free and readily available, Jennifer Ann’s Group works to draw on some of the powerful features of gaming to turn them to their advantage.

“Gaming plays a significant role in many teenagers’ lives,” says Drew, “and we’ve found that by tapping into that we can effectively help guide and nurture prosocial behaviour. Video games are engaging, they enable players to explore and progress at their own pace, and they present scenarios in a way that is contextually interesting and highly relatable. These are qualities that any educational resource should aspire to and is an objective we thought worth pursuing. The research around TDV video games validates this stance and by providing these as free resources for schools and classrooms we can help encourage TDV programs where there previously weren’t any, as well as strengthen those that already exist.”

Studies investigating the results of TDV video games on educational development have confirmed that compared to control groups TDV game players show a significant improvement in attitude relating to relationship abuse and gender norms, with one study concluding that TDV players were “less accepting of angry behaviours” in relationships compared to control players (Jacobs, 2017).

For Parents Too

The benefits of TDV video games aren’t just limited to the classroom either. Part of the concept that Jennifer Ann’s Group promotes is the ability to nurture and encourage conversations in the home as well.

Grace’s Diary challenges game players to “make the call” in this award winning game

“As a parent it can be very awkward trying to start conversations about abusive dating behaviour; even harder than some of the other more well-known ‘difficult talks’ like alcohol, drugs, and sex,” says Drew. “To have that kind of conversation, and at the young ages that we’re now finding it’s required, it can be tough for a parent to even know where to begin.

“With TDV games, parents can first play through a game themselves, get their own education around the subject, then introduce their child to the same game. The dynamic of the conversation subsequently changes. For the child, it doesn’t feel like it’s a talk focused on them and their behavior but instead a talk about the characters and actions in the game; that change in perspective removes a lot of the pressure. This makes it easier for parents and their kids to focus on the problematic issues we are addressing through these games and from there we can encourage a real, constructive dialogue.”

Even if parents aren’t yet ready to engage, if a child is going through their own personal experience of TDV or abuse the games are still beneficial. By demonstrating that what they’re facing is not an isolated issue affecting them and them alone, and that the behaviour is neither healthy nor acceptable, it can help them to understand that they are not powerless in the face of it.

And for Teens

For teenagers who have not experienced TDV or other abusive dating behaviours (equal opportunity problems which affect adolescents regardless of gender, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, or sexuality) it also helps reduce the chance they ever will.

A poster in Grace’s Diary includes ten warning signs of an abusive relationship

Play nowDownload for Windowsjag.itch.io/graces-diary
DevelopmentGP Touch@himatako (Twitter)
Produced byJennifer Ann’s Group@stopTDV (Mastodon)
Published byLife Love Publishing@LifeLovePublish (Mastodon)
RightRating™EveryoneNo ads. No in-app purchases. No loot boxes. No privacy tracking.

* If you or anyone you know is a victim of abusive dating behaviour, at any time, it is urged you seek help at the earliest opportunity. In the U.S., those needing assistance can contact the National Dating Violence Helpline at 1-866-331-9474. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Support this work by donating online: 

Apple Pay

Or by texting STOPTDV to 707070 

Gaming Against Violence is an award-winning program presented by Jennifer Ann's Group, a 501(c)3 charity [EIN: 20-4618499].