‘Game On’ is a spin on a youth center, catering specifically for teenage boys. It is a ‘stealth health’ intervention where support from a youth worker is combined with access to a video game van located within a larger multi-agency network. Representatives from law enforcement, healthcare and education in a given community meet to share insights (perhaps stemming from data mining) to decide where the vans should go, and the information from the van informs preventative interventions. The ultimate goal is to create trusting relationships with teenage boys, signpost them to support, and combat toxic concepts of masculinity early.
‘Game On’ is a spin on a traditional youth center service, catering specifically for teenage boys who are not finding a sense of belonging in culturally normative ways (sports teams, academic achievement, stable nuclear family, etc.). Based on research and expert interviews, we believe these young men are particularly vulnerable to being both victims and perpetrators of CSE, and most are not currently utilizing services to get help. Many teenage boys spend much of their time online and behind screens, so rather than use the traditional youth centre (or even a youth center on wheels) model, we’ve tried a ‘stealth health’ intervention where support from a youth worker is just a side benefit of having access to a video gaming van with fast connection speeds, multiple games consoles and games, accessories that would be cost-prohibitive for an individual user, and free food. The ultimate goal here is for the youth workers on the van to create stable and trusting relationships with teenage boys, so that they can signpost boys to appropriate support and stimulate conversation around difficult issues such as sex and consent. Furthermore, we propose that this van sit within a larger multi-agency network, where representatives from law enforcement, the NHS and the school district for a community (for example) meet at regular intervals to share learning in a two-way manner. The representatives’ insights (perhaps stemming from data mining or personal experiences) can direct where the vans should go within the community, and the information from the van can be fed back into more preventative interventions upstream. Though a youth centre bus project has been implemented before, we think the angle of video games is particularly interesting for the following reasons:
1) It attracts a certain demographic of young people that current interventions aren’t appealing to;
2) It has interesting potential for financial/equipment partnerships with companies such as Nintendo, EA and Playstation to make the solution cost-effective;
3) It turns the often solo activity of gaming into a community activity, and
4) It increases the likelihood of productive conversations on violence, media and sex that are so common in video gaming, because of the presence of a youth worker while playing.