£4.3m research centre to develop anti-violence games

Professor Adele Jones
Professor Adele Jones
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A MULTI-MILLION pound research centre at a Yorkshire university 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.

The games created by the University of Huddersfield’s £4.6m ‘pro-social’ computer games project will be rolled out on a global scale with projects in China, Jamaica, Pakistan and Uganda as well as the UK.

The None in Three (Ni3) project, the name of which is derived from a finding that one in three women and girls experience violence in their lives, was officially inaugurated at the University last week, with representatives from all the participating countries present.

Ni3 brings together specialists from a range of disciplines, from the social sciences to computer technology, who will collaborate on the research and development of a ‘pro-social’ computer game tailored to the differing priorities of the participating countries.

Researchers from the project are currently taking part in a fortnight of workshops and discussions to lay the groundwork for the scheme, which was awarded £4.3m from the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The University of Huddersfield’s own research fund has contributed an extra £287,720.

Head of the Ni3 research centre at the University of Huddersfield, Prof Adele Jones said: “Our focus for the UK will be violence in adolescent relationships. But each country will determine its own focus.

“In each country we will be doing both qualitative and quantitative research.

“The purpose of 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.”

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 Prof Jones.

It is anticipated 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, with the intention of creating a permanent research centre, where new future overseas collaborations could be formed, added Prof Jones.

Last month The Yorkshire Post revealed that councils across the region have cut their spending on domestic violence refuges by around 40 per cent since 2010 - and hundreds of women and children are being turned away from full refuges.

The investigation, made in partnership with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, found that Bradford Council reduced spending on refuges by 55 per cent, a £440,000 cut, while Wakefield and York cut spending in this area by 41 per cent and 36 per cent respectively. Leeds Council cut spending by 49 per cent from £462,879 in 2011/12 to £234,351 in 2016/17, with Sheffield Council spending falling from £657,140 in 2011/12 to £373,000 last year.

Councils insisted that spending changes were a result of greater efficiencies and changes to contracts rather than cuts to frontline services.