We partnered with Tender to design and develop a game to help young people understand and practice healthy relationships. Relationship Goals has a particular focus on supporting young people with mild to moderate special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

An accompanying web application enables schools to set up workshops, personalise the game to learners' individual needs and track students' knowledge and understanding as they progress through different levels of the game.

The challenge

To enable young people with special educational needs (SEND) to engage with sensitive topics from a safe distance, develop empathy and to “rehearse” for real-life scenarios, exploring their rights, expectations and choices in relationships in a fun and age-appropriate way.

Co-design workshops

We co-designed every aspect of the game (including its characters, gameplay and narrative) in partnership with 15 young people with SEND, their schools and caregivers. When we asked, young people told us emphatically that they wanted a fun and engaging role playing game to help them navigate the complexities of relationships and to help build their confidence.

Some of the designs created by young people during the UX and co-design sessions that were conducted  as part of the development of the Relationship Goals Game and App.
A series of co-design workshops with young people helped determine the narrative, gameplay and characters.

Game progression, themes and levels

The game has five levels and three mini-levels, each of which explores a different topic about relationships. These topics increase in their complexity and maturity as the game progresses. They cover:

  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Personal space
  • Online safety
  • Peer pressure
  • Consent
  • Trust and secrets
  • Identifying unhealthy relationships
  • Dealing with jealousy
  • Navigating conflict
  • Ending relationships
  • Building self-esteem

An image shows the different chapters available in the game, including the mini levels that allows players to ask someone out on a date, go on a date and break up.
Players progress through chapters and can date other characters along the way.

Storyline

We worked with a talented team of scriptwriters to develop the characters and create a narrative that enables the players to “rehearse” for real-life scenarios. The script was written in such a way that the game can be configured for primary and secondary schools - the themes and language adapting to ensure that the levels are age appropriate.

  • Fresh Start: The player has arrived at a new school and wants to get to know their classmates. But, with so many different personalities in one place, can everyone get on and respect each other?
  • The Photo: Embarrassing photos of someone known to the player are being sent around the school against their will. Their friend confides in them that they are also being pressured to send a photo by someone in your class. Can the player help them work out what to do?
  • Cupcakes: It’s the school bake sale and the player is starting to get to know their classmates really well. Some of their friends want to play a prank on another friend in their group: what should they do?
  • Red Flags: As friendships get closer, navigating everyone’s feelings can get tricky and people can feel left out or get jealous. How does the player deal with this? Also, two of their classmates are now in a relationship! But something doesn’t seem quite right... Can the player work out if their relationship is healthy and support their friends?
  • Moving On: Every relationship goes through difficulties and resolving conflict is hard. Two of the players friends are a couple, but one of them wants to end the relationship. Can the player support them to do this in a healthy way and feel positive and confident about their next steps?

An image showing one of the chapters called Cupcakes from the Relationship Goals game
Each chapter in the game presents challenging scenarios for players to explore in a safe and supportive environment.

Player choices

The players choices determine the health of the Relationship and Romance score that they have with each character.

Choices are linked to one of the learning outcomes for each level. This means that adults supporting them can see what topics they are picking up particularly fast, or finding challenging and may need additional support with.  

Image showing a menu of decisions available to the user whilst playing the Relationship Goals roleplaying game.
Players make choices in the game that help them navigate real-life social interactions.

Dating

The dating mini levels focus on building young people's understanding of romantic or intimate relationships and include:

  • Asking someone out on a date
  • Going on a date
  • Breaking up with someone

Whether a character will go on a date is dependant on how healthy the Relationship and Romance score is with the player. The Relationship and Romance scores are balanced to reflect the outcome of the choices that the player has made during the game.

Avatar builder

Students can create their own character using a highly customisable Avatar Builder that enables them to choose from a wide range of facial features, skin tones, hair styles and outfits. The avatar is displayed next to the choices that the player is making.

Onboarding and in-game support

Throughout the game players are supported by Shay and Mr Hill - friendly and supportive grown-ups who explain how to play the game and highlight important concepts, such as consent. Shay checks-in with players to ensure that they are comfortable when taking next steps with other characters in the game, such as dating or ending relationships.

An image showing Shay, one the supportive adult characters in the Relationship Goals game
Shay supports players by offering advice on dating and explaining key features of the game.

Character profiles

The player can read background information about each character to find out more about their personality, values, likes and dislikes and help them make informed choices whilst playing the game.

An image showing a character profile from the Relationship Goals game
Players can find out about the personality of the in-game characters by reading their profiles.

Tournaments

At the end of each level the player participates in a tournament round where their knowledge and understanding of the learning outcomes are consolidated through a series of fun interactive activities.

An image showing the Tournament from the Relationship Goals game
At the end of each level a tournament consolidates the players knowledge and understanding of the learning outcomes.

Accessibility

The game characters were all voiced by professional actors, which not only brings the game to life for players, but also helps students with visual impairments or low levels of literacy to play the game. The game pauses as each dialogue or action is presented. This gives the opportunity for players to move at their own pace and take as much time as required to comprehend/re-read/re-listen to dialogue before making choices.

A settings panels enables players to configure the game to meet their individual needs and they can decide whether to include SFX or Voice Over audio.

An image showing the settings panel from the Relationship Goals game
Voice over audio was recorded with professional actors to support young people with low levels of literacy

Game engine

The game is supported by a highly customisable online game engine that enables non-technical teams to script, set up and publish new game levels without assistance from the development team. This includes:

  • Scenes: Setting up scenes by adding backgrounds, configuring character emotions, positioning UI and characters in the scene
  • Dialogue: Adding dialogue script and linking sequences together
  • Player choices: Adding player choices, linking choices to game outcomes and balancing the scores for Relationship and Romance health
  • Tournaments: Creating interactive activities from a library of interaction types and linking them to learning outcomes
  • Dating: Creating the conditions for dating each character
  • Onboarding: Creating help files and in-game onboarding sequences for explaining key features
  • Profiles: Creating profiles for each of the in-game characters
  • Media management: Uploading voice over audio files and linking them to dialogue and player choices

The game engine was built using Strapi, an open-source headless content management system (CMS).

An image showing a panel from the game engine CMS that depicts how non technical users are able to set up scenes in the Relationship Goals game.
The game engine enables non technical users to set up scenes and configure the Relationship Goals game via an online CMS.

Schools platform

The game, workshops and students reports are all managed via an easy to use web app designed specifically for teachers. Teachers can set up workshop groups and create game accounts for students, they can configure the chapters available within the game and decide whether students can progress at their own pace or with support from those leading the workshops. The language used in the game can be tailored to meet the needs of different age groups. The schools platform includes:

  • School and user account management
  • Training resources for teachers
  • Workshop setup
  • Game configuration
  • Reports for students, workshops and schools

An image showing the schools web application for the Relationship Goals game that enables teachers to set up and run student workshops. Teachers can configure the game to meet the needs of their students.
The Relationship Goals schools web application enables teachers to configure the game to meet the individual needs of their students.

Positive impact

This resource aims to create a lasting, positive impact on how players approach real-life social interactions: empowering them to have healthy, equal relationships that enrich their lives.

By educating young people to recognise the early warning signs of unhealthy relationships, we prevent them from becoming victims or perpetrators and empower them to have healthy relationships based on equality and respect.

Roadmap

Tender is currently piloting the game and platform in schools with the aim to scale nationally during 2022-23.

The game is available to play online in the browser and on iOS and Android devices. To find out how to access the game please visit the Relationship Goals website or contact Tender.

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