New game packs a serious message

Release Date: 06-Jun-2008
We've launched an innovative mobile phone game that helps young people think about the challenges of independent living.
“InLiving” – the first game of its kind in the country – is a joint project between Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing and Huddersfield-based company, Creative North, a world leader in mobile phone game development.

Young people often have a difficult time when they move into their first home on their own, and many abandon their tenancies because they can’t cope with the challenges of independent living.

To tackle this problem, KNH’s Young People’s Team have been developing new ways to help these vulnerable tenants have more successful tenancies, particularly by providing information in innovative formats about the responsibilities of independent living.

The team knew that most young people had an unrealistic idea of what it was like to live independently and that they wouldn’t change their perceptions easily. They also knew that traditional training and workshops didn’t interest the majority of the young people they worked with. They therefore looked for a more up-to-date, accessible and engaging way to deliver a very serious message.

Most young people have mobile phones and most are also very familiar with computer and other electronic games, so this was thought to be an excellent way to get information out to the target audience.

KNH provided the scripts for the games and highlighted the key messages we wanted to get across. Creative North provided the technical expertise.

Similar to the “SIMS” computer game, InLiving involves players creating their own characters and navigating through a variety of locations and situations associated with independent living.

The character has to negotiate various life choices in an animated virtual world that includes their own flat, shops, college, job centre, hairdressers and bars to name but a few.

They have to make choices about getting a job or staying on benefits, paying bills or going clubbing, and they have to take care of their own health and wellbeing.

Poor choices have repercussions and ‘good’ choices are rewarded – all in a safe and entertaining environment.

Central to the game’s success so far has been the involvement of young people themselves in its development. Tenants from our young people’s forum have helped determine the content and a broad cross section of teenagers from across the borough have also tested the game.

The game will be free to all young people on the housing register in Kirklees and will also be distributed via KNH’s partner agencies, such as Connexions, local colleges, and Kirklees Council’s Leaving Care and Youth Offending Teams.

Susan Greenwood, KNH’s Young People’s Services Manager, said: “The targeted work we do with young people is already making a difference – their tenancies are lasting longer and when they do end, they’re moving on in more positive ways. The game is also a great way for young people to be involved in the work that we do, which is something that’s really important to KNH.

“This is a long-term project and we won’t see instant results. But we’re absolutely committed to helping prepare young people for the challenges they may face when they move into their first home, whenever that may be.”

Cllr Liz Smaje, Kirklees cabinet member for housing, said: “For any young person, taking the step to live independently is probably one of the most stressful situations they will face. It is something they have never experienced, and therefore they need the best help and support they can get.

“The systems in place to help them on a face-to-face basis are clearly the most effective way to give them reassurance, help and advice. If that can be complemented by other techniques, such as the InLiving initiative, it all helps to get them on a proper footing and give them the confidence to take this big step to live independently and make their own way in life.”