Winning Online Game Promotes Safe Sex

A trio of game developers took home the top prize during the 10th annual Games for Change Festival’s first public design competition in New York City for their idea of a game that would promote safe sex among young adults.

Safe Sex with Friends, conceived by New York City-based Kaho Abe, Ramsey Nasser, and Sarah Schoemann, beat out two other competitors and won $35,000 from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation and a chance to develop their concept into a prototype. The game will be developed for and in collaboration with Answer, a progressive, tech-savvy non-profit organization that has more than 30 years of experience providing and promoting sexual awareness to young people.

The competition was sponsored in part by the sex education site Sexetc.org, and consisted of presentations from the three finalists – Safe Sex with Friends, SexEd Super Task Force, and Check/Mate – to a panel of jurors that included Matt Parker, Lana Dakan, Lucinda Holt, and Naomi Clark. Safe Sex with Friends ultimately won because of its potential to engage teenagers in a unique way.

“We really wanted a fun and compelling game because we wanted an experience that teenagers would engage with willingly,” said Parker. “This is not your traditional educational game.”

“The problem we have with these educational games is that they are content heavy and not a lot of fun,” explained Nasser. “It was all about creating a game that teenagers actually want to play.”

The concept of the game is based on Scrabble or Words with Friends. Players will be given a number of tiles representing sexual organs and barriers and will have to put them in an order that would promote safe sex to gain points. In an interview with The NonProfit Times, Nasser said that the organs would be represented in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to be as “inclusive as possible.”

He also added that they chose to base their game on a familiar concept so that players could jump right in without much of a learning curve. “You look at it and you already know how to play,” he explained.

Abe and Nasser both accepted the award, though Schoemann was not able to attend due to a family matter. “We are really excited, and so grateful for this,” Kaho and Nasser said after they were announced as the winning game designers. “We really wish that Sarah were here to accept this honor on stage with us.”

“I hope the community at large keeps putting their weight behind games that are educational but built for the gamer,” said Nasser.

There is no timeframe for Safe Sex with Friends to be released, as Nasser said he and his co-developers are still working with Sexetc.org on various issues, such as whether the game will be single-player or multi-player. He did say, however, that it will be playable on both web browsers and mobile devices.

The Games for Change Festival is the largest gaming event in New York City and the leading international event uniting game creators with others interested in accessing and furthering the positive social impact of games. It ran from June 17-June 19. You can find more information on the festival at http://gamesforchange.org/festival2013/games