Australian game developer creates a friend in need.
A South Australian developer is using her own experience around domestic violence to create a new mobile game to support those in need.
Susannah Emery, who heads a new game design and digital media course at the University of South Australia, has based “Hannah: A Friend in Need” on her own personal domestic violence experience and the importance of supportive friends and family.
“My background is in games for educational and social change and how we can use them to make life better,” Emery said.
“I actually decided to make Hannah when I experienced domestic violence myself and I was trying to describe what I was feeling to friends and family through Messenger and they were having trouble understanding.”
Emery has spent several years working with a team to develop the game using the fictional character Hannah, and will test the game on her own family and friends before making it available on Android by the end of this year.
Her goal is to have domestic violence support services provide the game freely to those affected.
The game works by allowing people to chat with Hannah about the non-physical, coercive domestic violence situation she is experiencing, allowing players to understand the effects, particularly on self esteem.
“In the end what helped me was having a supportive friend who came in and said ‘No, that’s not OK’,” Emery said.
“Players do that for Hanna, they are helping her on her journey.”
Emery has developed other social change games, including the Stronger Together video game designed to promote cross-cultural learning for children in remote Indigenous communities.
This too came from her personal experience teaching students in a remote indigenous community in Australia’s Northern Territory.
In 2016, she made a chatbot style narrative called Breathe that was designed to raise awareness of anxiety and panic attacks.
Emery is also designing and producing Ares, an interactive urban exploration based on the experiences of women and minority groups.
She is also now advocating for more women to be involved in the male-dominated world of game development and said the new game design course at the University of South Australia included nine women among its 24 students.
“I think in the games industry diversity is always going to be important when it tells people’s stories,” Emery said.
“You can’t do that when you are only telling one side.”