Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017 and in light of the importance of all stakeholders working together to create a more inclusive world where all women have equal opportunities by 2030, the Youth Flash interviewed José Gioscia, the creator of the social impact game, Public Space.
Question: Can you tell us about your work and the Public Space project? What stimulated your interest in working with technology and gaming to address social issues?
José Gioscia: Can you imagine a tool that can educate children and youth to respect woman? Can you think of a medium that allows you to understand the daily reality of millions of women walking down the street? Can you imagine a system that shows you how to deal with street harassment...? That’s Public Space.
Public Space is a social impact game for PC and mobile platforms where the player experiences the reality of street harassment towards women. At the same time, the game aims to teach children and youth the most powerful weapon that we possess to stop this problem and create a supportive community: our voice.
The project began when what was first meant to be my undergraduate thesis kept growing and growing. I have to thank my tutor Gonzalo Frasca for expanding my understanding about the possibilities of game development as a medium to question the status quo in society. At the time, I was wondering why so many of my female friends were posting on social media about what happened to them on the street, while none of my male friends (or myself) had anything to complain about regarding what happens when we leave home. And that problem was not just happening in Uruguay. Reading shocking stories from Argentina on a Facebook page for the Argentinian organization called “Accion Respeto!” (Action Respect!) motivated me to dig deeper into this worldwide phenomenon.
Something as simple as having the right to have the freedom to walk in public spaces is not possible for millions of women around the globe. How can we accept this as normal? How can we keep overlooking this situation as men? Why not create something that does not just raise awareness, but one that can also offer a solution through play?
I love playing games but thought that they were fast becoming something that only offer shallow entertainment. What if we go beyond entertainment and use it as a medium to address social issues? Not many games do that, but the ones that do it- Papers Please, That Dragon Cancer, and This War of Mine -are commercially successful, and gave me hope that these kinds of games exist and can be made.
Question: Can you tell us about why it is important for young men to help stop street harassment?
José Gioscia: Unfortunately men tend to listen to other men and look for their approval more than to women. For this reason, as men, we have a key role to end this problem which is caused primarily by men. We can be male allies if we lead by example through spreading the message that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and through showing how we should behave. We cannot turn a blind eye when we witness harassment; we have the responsibility to intervene and assist the victim. If we want gender equality, we need everyone involved.
There is also a toxic notion of masculinity and peer pressure that perpetuates the problem of street harassment. As a fitness enthusiast, I want to share that I think a man is not defined by the size of his muscles, but rather by what he can do for others. If you want to show me how strong you are, show it to me by helping other people.
Question: What kind of effect can social impact games have for young people?
José Gioscia: Videogames have a tremendous effect on young people by helping them learn new ideas and systems. Social impact games do the same; they allow players to reflect upon a certain topic. The situations and ideas that you face in a game can be brought back to society for good. Gaming can be used to question our attitudes in society and at the same time they can offer solutions. Street harassment is often a distressing topic, but when presented in a videogame platform, it is something that young people are willing to listen to. In Public Space, we want the player to take action and stand up against violence towards women.
Question: What are some of your accomplishments in your work to date and what would be your goal for the Public Space initiative?
José Gioscia: Right now I am proud to say that we are a team comprised of Juan Rodriguez (a developer) Bruno Arce (a game designer) and myself (an artist). We are making this game possible with our free time and on our own budget. Our dream is that women can walk with the same freedom as men do. We want to make this game widely available so that people can stop being indifferent to this situation.
So far we have the support of some of the most influential organizations that fight street assessment- (Stop Street Harassment (USA), Hollaback! (USA), OCAC Latin America, Accion Respeto! (Argentina) and Womenability (France)). We won the “National Videogame Contest of Uruguay” in 2015 in the category of educational and social inclusion games, organized by Antel, Ingenio and ORT. In 2016, we also won a regional contest for social impact ideas called “Comprometidos” (Committed) hosted by Socialab, Koga, Ashoka and UNESCO.
Question: How do you think other young people can start, as well as support social initiatives, especially using technology and social media?
José Gioscia: Today, it is much easier than ever to get involved. There is no acceptable excuse for not making any commitments because we have all kinds of tools at our disposal. But the way to help is not just donating money; instead what is really worth something is the time you are committing to a cause. Liking and sharing posts on social media is awesome to spread the word about causes; however, it is not enough. We should empathize with the victims and devote our time to understanding them in real life. Young people have the power to create an app or a game that can make people's life easier. Instead of staying silent, I invite all young people to stand up and report injustices.
About José Gioscia:
José Pedro Gioscia, aged 24, is an artist and has a degree on Animation and Game Development (4 year) from ORT University Uruguay. He is the creator of the videogame Public Space and is currently working at Unicorn Toys & Games as a Project Manager and a 3D Animator. He and his team continue to work on Public Space to make their vision a reality. Learn more about Public Space (#PublicSpaceGame) on Facebook and Twitter.