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Love in the Dumpster: a game about toxic relationships

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Love in the Dumpster took first place in the 2013 Life.Love.Game Design Challenge presented by Jennifer Ann’s Group, an American charitable organisation that works towards educating teens about abusive relationships.

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Having been in an emotionally abusive relationship myself, I think that it is very important that young people learn how to identify when their personal interaction with their significant other is toxic and destructive. The perpetrators of this sort of abuse are often very subtle and stealthy in the way that they slowly drain you of your self-esteem. Separating you from your friends and family through manipulation, you begin to feel as though the only person you have left is your abuser. I managed to escape from my situation after 3 years, but it took 2 years of therapy and much self-analysis in order to convince myself that I was not the disgusting and insignificant person my ex had made me out to be.

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It’s difficult to make a game that deals with this sensitive topic in a tactful and respectful manner. However, Jean Hehn, the developer behind Love in the Dumpster, has managed to illustrate the scenario of being trapped in a toxic relationship with a large amount of empathy.

Taking part in 7 acts, the game tells the stories of Lily and Tomas, two teenagers who have found themselves tangled in the snarling web of warped emotions that abusive people present as “love”.

We follow these two young people through the familiar patterns of emotional abuse: “I would love you more if…”; “You need to prove how much you love me by…”

Lily and Tomas manage to find a happy ending, but there are many of us who are not so lucky. It’s not easy to admit to yourself that the person you love so much would deliberately go out of their way to take everything from you; chipping away at your sense of self worth until you have almost nothing left, filling you up with their own thoughts and desires. Sometimes it’s so skilfully done that you don’t even realise it’s happening. A game like Love in the Dumpster provides a rather eloquent method of outlining significant phrases and behaviours that will help one to identify an abusive relationship.

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If you see any of these qualities in your current relationship but have no idea how to escape, remember this:

It’s terrifying, but you are not alone. No matter what you have been told or programmed to believe, there will always be someone for you to talk to, even in the form of a counsellor. Take the leap and regain ownership of your own life; because no one, under any circumstances, has the right to destroy another human being.

You are not the guilty one.

You can play the game for free here.

 

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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