Can an online game engage its players and teach healthy relationship skills? The answer, according to Sojourner House, a Rhode Island domestic violence advocacy and resource center, is a resounding “Yes!”
The four-year development process resulted in a game designed for students ages 11 to 14 that has players earn and strategically apply relationship tools—such as communication, status and positive influence—to help solve social problems and build a culture of respect while ending abuse in relationships.
The story of The Real Robots takes place in the hallways of Robot High, the setting for Robot Land’s most popular and controversial reality show, with characters like Jette and Bro, Emo, Napcom, Perfect, and Dish. The school is overwhelmed by drama that is made even worse by an explosive relationship between Jette and Bro, the show’s main cast members. The Real Robots of Robot High leverages a blended learning model of classroom instruction with engaging animation and video games that were designed by students like Rudy Reyes at Highlander Charter School and tested in seven schools and youth programs across the country.
“I helped create my favorite character, Napcom,” Rudy explained. “He has glasses just like me and sometimes deals with drama and rumors in school. I like ‘The Real Robots’ because it’s fun to create and share my own games about my own experiences.”
The game also utilizes an innovative mechanic that few other games have: students can use the game creation tool in The Real Robots to make their own video games about relationship situations and share them in The Real Robots’ secure, moderated social network. There, students can play and comment on each other’s social systems games. This feature of The Real Robots experience is based on research showing that game creation is a powerful way for kids to build systems-thinking skills.
“We are so proud to showcase this fresh approach to teaching violence prevention using cutting-edge technology,” said Vanessa Volz, Sojourner House’s executive director. “The Real Robots positively engages youth where they increasingly spend their free time—on the Internet. We believe that through building more partnerships with Rhode Island schools and afterschool educational programs, our efforts can reduce interpersonal violence among Rhode Island youth.”
The Real Robots teaching modules engage students in both game play and creation and align to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Health Educational Standards, making them a valuable resource for schools. Sojourner House plans to scale The Real Robots through continuing its innovative partnership with E-Line Media. The Real Robots of Robot High will be available in beta until December 31st and released in early 2013. Educators who wish to use Real Robots in their classroom or learning program can join the beta for free by signing up at www.realrobothigh.com.