Breakaway

 

A game to end violence against women.
Developed by The Emergent Media Center in partnership with the United Nations.
Play the game at http://breakawaygame.com/
Download Scripts and Narrative Documentation

Demo Reel

Official Trailer

Concept 

Breakaway is a game created by the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College and funded by the United Nations Population Fund, in partnership with the Population Media Center. Breakaway is an episodic sports-RPG addressing the global issue of gender violence through a branching, morality-centric narrative and is based on the Sabido Methodology. Soccer was chosen as the theme as, internationally, it is one of most universal languages.

I was one of three writers during the late stages of preproduction, and the lead writer through most of the production cycle. My roles included content creation, scriptwriting, copy-editing, and project management. The browser-based version can be found at BreakawayGame.com, with a mobile conversion currently in development.

Development Video

My Role

Breakaway is a sports-RPG broken up into thirteen (13) episodes across five (5) chapters.  I joined the team as a writer in the late stages of preproduction, designing all of the secondary characters and helping flesh out the overarching narrative. Early in production, I took the reigns as the lead game writer, thoroughly refining the main characters and narrative, and working as the link between the clients, the Emergent Media Center, and the rest of the writing team.

Additionally, I individually wrote nine (9) of the episode scripts, designed the gameplay flow in accordance to the narrative progression, and worked as the editor-in-chief for the rest of the scripts and supplementary documents. For writing dialogue, I learned and adhered to an industry standard format for game script-writing that I taught to the rest of the team. An example can be found here.

The narrative is a core part of the gameplay. Each dialogue choice has a value that is either positive, negative, or neutral. As the player, your dialogue choices determine how your teammates treat you (for instance, a character that dislikes you is less inclined to pass to you during a soccer match), what skills you can unlock (skills learned through positive actions are generally more beneficial than those earned through negative behavior), and the ending, which is dependent on the cumulative value of the choices made throughout the game. Some choices are more heavily weighted than others. If the cumulative value is above 0, the “good” ending is achieved, but if the value is negative, the “bad” ending is received instead.

Challenges during development included: creating an engaging and replayable, yet scoped, branching narrative; writing dialogue that didn’t rely heavily on slang, colloquialisms, or figures of speech, so as to not bog down localization; and working within the constraints of the Sabido Methodology and editing pipeline.

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Aftermath

The game was originally designed for boys, ages 8-15 in South Africa, but since its release in 2010, Breakaway has been played by thousands of kids from over 120 countries. And in summer of 2012, Breakaway sessions were facilitated at youth summer camps in Hebron, Palestine, positively impacting over 300 children, creating an environment of respect despite any differences and societal norms.

The West Bank City of Hebron became the first city in the Arab world to implement Breakaway to raise awareness of the issue of violence against women.

2016 Update: Two more summer camps have been held, this time in the country of El Salvador (2013 and 2015), with resounding success. Research from the University of Buffalo has shown that Breakaway, in conjunction with facilitated camps, has had a significant impact on helping youth become more accepting of others, regardless of gender. (Learn more here: Meaningful Play Research)

Breakaway is currently in the process of being converted to mobile, with its gameplay and mechanics getting an overhaul for a new generation.

Find out more:

Featured above: A UN meeting discussing the messages and themes of the game. (January 2010, photo by Stephen Mease)