The Guardian dedicates a paper to our recently award-winning Smokescreen game: Smokescreen game guides teenagers through dangers of social networking.
In recent weeks, moral panic over the safety of social networks has been everywhere in the media, sparked by the Daily Mail's account of a man posing as a girl of 14 on a "well known social networking site" and being approached by sexually interested males within minutes. Smokescreen is a far cry from that kind of frenzy. Yet what it represents might just be a lot more significant; both in terms of understanding young people's behaviour online and – most importantly – changing it. [...] Its success – not to mention the experiences and reactions of its tens of thousands of players – paints a rather different picture of the realm of online social networking than is usually seen in the mainstream media.
"Young people," [Adrian] argues, "don't make the same distinctions between different media and devices that older users do. They play games, watch videos and surf the web on every device they can get their hands on. But they are also comfortable with entertainment that doesn't fit into easy categories." He's happy for people to think of Smokescreen as a highly interactive multimedia story – or as a lightly interactive game with a great story. Either way, it represents an important shift in the ground on which educators are attempting to engage with teens and students: and a recognition that new media can best be debated from the inside, through engagement rather than demonisation. Fire can be fought with fire: if it's fun and engaging, so much the better.
If the experience of Smokescreen tells us anything, it's that this means meeting teens on a common ground – and listening to, as well as telling, stories about the digital world as they are living it.
Find Tom Chatfield's full article here