The Department of Justice spent nearly $800,000 to develop a computer game to "limit the aggression" of middle school boys.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) paid for researchers at Rhode Island Hospital to team up with a multimedia company in Colorado to create the game, which seeks to prevent dating violence among eighth graders in Providence, Rhode Island.
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"The aim of the proposed study is to develop and refine a web-based intervention that reduces the risk of dating violence among middle-school aged males," the NIJ grant states. "The final intervention, to be used by parents and adolescents together, is based on the empirical literature linking emotion regulation deficits to violent behavior as well as studies showing that parental involvement is crucial to offset dating violence risk."
The proposal argued that since teenage boys like to play video games, they would also like to play one about "partner violence."
"Research has also shown that game playing is the most popular internet activity for early adolescent boys; thus interactive, web-based games and videos are ideal to engage young males in dating violence programming," the grant said.
The grant said the game would have "important implications" across the country.
The project cost taxpayers $791,846, which was secured by Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse through the latest reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
The project also intends to study the "effectiveness of Web-based games and videos to limit aggression in eighth-grade boys."
"I am happy to see federal funding coming to Rhode Island to research this serious problem," Whitehouse said.
The funding provided for the development of the game and testing on 146 eighth-grade boys and their parents in the Providence area.
Dr. Christine Rizzo, a psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital, led the research and worked with Klein Buendel, Inc., to build the game. The company specializes in building "sustainable health programs and products" in its mission to "facilitate behavior change, prevent chronic disease, and make a difference in people's lives."
The project, which began last fall, is listed as closed, though it is unclear whether the development and research have been completed. Request for comment from the NIJ, Dr. Rizzo, and Klein Buendel were not returned before press time.
Rizzo told the Providence Business News last year that her previous research studied dating violence prevention for teenage girls.
"One of the things I’ve recognized is that there’s not enough out there for adolescent boys," Rizzo said. "We need to create more for adolescent boys, from anger management to general relationship skills to how you manage jealousy in a relationship."
"The big thing is that we’re trying to engage teenage boys," Rizzo said. "There’s a lot of curricula that’s face-to-face, and they’re not interested. This is teaching them how to deal with jealousy and modern technology."
The federal government has poured millions of dollars into the development of video games for various behavioral interventions.
A National Institutes of Health (NIH) invested more than $10 million to develop and promote a video game about a teen trying to escape a fat town, which was designed to prevent obesity.
Another recent NIJ project spent $579,301 on a video game to teach college-aged males about rape.