Huddersfield Uni launch anti-violence computer games project

The £4.3m ‘pro-social’ project is aiming to reduce violence against women and children, and is being rolled out on a global scale

A new £4.6 million research centre that may be the first in the world to explore the potential of computer games as an educational tool to reduce levels of violence against women and children has been established at the University of Huddersfield. It is working on a global scale, having forged close links with experts and campaigners in China, Jamaica, Pakistan and Uganda as well as the UK.

All of the participating countries were represented when the project was officially inaugurated at the university. The ceremony was followed by a fortnight of workshops and discussions that laid the groundwork for None in Three (Ni3), as it is named – derived from a finding that one-in-three women and girls experience violence in their lives.

Ni3 has been awarded £4.3 million from the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The University of Huddersfield’s own research fund has contributed an extra £287,720.

Specialists from a range of disciplines, from the social sciences to computer technology, will collaborate on the research and development of a “pro-social” computer game tailored to the priorities of the participating countries.

“Our focus for the UK will be violence in adolescent relationships. But each country will determine its own focus,” said Professor Adele Jones, who heads the Ni3 research centre at the University of Huddersfield. Its core team is in place, but there are new posts for postgraduate researchers and games developers. The Ni3 collaborators in China, Jamaica, Pakistan and Uganda will recruit their own teams.

Our focus for the UK will be violence in adolescent relationships. But each country will determine its own focus. – Professor Adele Jones, Ni3 research centre, University of Huddersfield

The official launch event for Ni3 featured a keynote address by the EU’s former ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, Mikael Barford, who has taken a close interest in the issue of gender-based violence and the work of Professor Jones. Dr Agata Debowska, a psychology lecturer at the University of Sheffield, also spoke. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, Professor Bob Cryan made closing remarks and declared the centre open.

The two-week programme of workshops that followed discussed the research that now needs to be done, said Professor Jones.

“In each country, we will be doing both qualitative and quantitative research. The purpose of this will be to try to understand some of the social and cultural drivers of gender-based violence in the five countries, because that is going to inform the development of a computer game for each country,” she added.

There will be a systematic review of studies into gender-based violence in each country and this will enable the development of a survey designed to assess the attitudes of children and young people to violence. It will also be used to measure the effectiveness of children’s exposure to computer game intervention.

“We have to make sure that each computer game is culturally and socially appropriate and that it addresses the range of issues that have been identified in our research,” said Professor Jones.

She anticipates that a trial version of the Ni3 pro-social game will be available within 18 months. The project has been funded for its first four years, but the intention is that it will be a permanent research centre, and new overseas collaborations could be formed, said Professor Jones.