Serious Video Games Helping to Tackle Serious Issues

Grace’s Diary is an example of how serious video games are 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

* 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.

Consent Game ADRIFT Teaches Consent on itchio

ADRIFT is a sci-fi adventure about consent for kids of all ages.

Consent game ADRIFT makes learning consent easy.

ADRIFT is a sci-fi adventure about consent that engages and entertains kids of all ages. The ADRIFT lessons are presented in an easy-to-understand way. People from all age groups can learn about consent through ADRIFT. ADRIFT is rated for ages 4+ on the App Store. This short, but educational, game is great for a class project about consent.

This award winning consent game is even appropriate for elementary school children because ADRIFT never talks about sex! Let’s talk about some ways ADRIFT makes learning about consent easy in your browser or on iOS devices.

Logo for the consent game ADRIFT
ADRIFT is a prosocial consent game

Listening to Your Partner

An important lesson taught in ADRIFT is the value of listening and communicating with your partner. Many times in this consent game the in-game computer will let the player know what actions to take. And if you want to escape the abandoned space station you will need to have permission for your actions!

Part of the ADRIFT experience is to learn about trust.

As the player, it is up to you whether you listen to your computer “partner” or not. As in real-life, if you decide to listen to your partner then you might have a happier outcome. If you don’t listen to your partner then the ending is not going to be as happy.

Part of the ADRIFT experience is to trust the computer to correctly show you how to proceed without causing harm. For example, if you ignore the computer’s instructions and power the wrong part of the ship then the computer will open the door – but will also experience power surges. These power surges cause the computer “pain.” This harms the computer and also makes it harder for the player to proceed. The computer loses the ability to make the last part of your escape easier by lighting the player’s path through a dark room.

Consent also Applies to Friendships

In the real world you are unlikely to be trapped in a space station with a talking computer! Instead though, you might be in a project with a friend who has needs that are different from yours. By learning to understand each other’s needs and to respect each other’s boundaries children will be better prepared for the future. They will learn how to handle some of the trials and temptations that often appear in adolescence. They will build skills to help deal with problems like peer pressure, romantic relationships, and other common situations.

ADRIFT is not just for young kids, it is also a great way to easily and gradually introduce older students to the topic of consent.

It is important to listen to your partner — this applies to friendships also, not just romantic relationships. ADRIFT helps teach children to respect their peers. While children are learning to respect others they are also learning how to effectively communicate their own needs to others.

ADRIFT is not just for young kids, it is also a great way to easily and gradually introduce older students to the topic of consent. By focusing on consent without any discussions of sex, students will be building a foundation for future learning. They will gradually and organically work their way up to learning about more complex aspects of abusive relationships in the future.

Can you successfully navigate the puzzles in ADRIFT?

Applying the Consent Game ADRIFT to Real Life

This clever consent game is easily accessible to parents who want to start teaching their child about consent. ADRIFT is a free download in the iOS App Store making it very easy for anyone who wants to try ADRIFT out. The game doesn’t take much space either, making it perfect to fit on iOS devices with less storage space.

ADRIFT can also be played in your browser on itchio. This makes it easy for a parent to test play the game before having their child download ADRIFT at the App Store.

We do recommend that your child have basic reading skills to really enjoy the game as the current version of this story does not have voice-overs, it is text-based. According to the game’s publisher future versions of ADRIFT will offer voice-over acting.

New: Parent Guide for Teaching Consent with ADRIFT

ADRIFT also offers a guide for parents who want to teach their children about consent. The parent guide for ADRIFT provides easy to follow tips and suggestions. In addition to providing helpful ways to use this prosocial game with their child, it also tells parents how the lessons in ADRIFT align with the state standards’ learning goals. The ADRIFT parent guide is designed to download and print at home or work.

Parent Guide for the consent game ADRIFT

We think ADRIFT is the easiest way to teach consent to children we have ever seen! This award winning video game can be played online in your browser at jag.itch.io/adrift. ADRIFT can also be downloaded on the App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/adrift/id1426208859.

About ADRIFT

ADRIFT was developed by Quinn Crossley and Andrew Connell. It is an award-winning consent video game from the Gaming Against Violence program. ADRIFT was produced by Jennifer Ann’s Group and is published by Life Love Publishing. ADRIFT is rated for ages 4+ on the App Store.

More information about ADRIFT and its origins is available at jag.itch.io/adrift.