Scafander Games
Interactive story about bride kidnapping
Delivery included
Discovery, Concept, User Experience Design
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Project Description

“Spring in Bishkek” is an interactive story based on real-life experiences of abducted women in Kyrgyzstan. Geared toward young women living in Central Asia, the project aims to teach women how to stand against kidnappings, abuse, and other social injustices. The story is presented as a serialized, interactive narrative that girls can download onto most smartphones, including low-cost devices with slow internet. 

Illustration from “Spring in Bishkek”

Ala-kachuu, meaning “to take and run away,” is a long-standing tradition that has been outlawed in Kyrgyzstan for over a century. Yet every year thousands of girls are kidnapped. Many of them are raped, as grooms seek to shame girls into marrying. Their families, fearing social pressure and shame, push the girls to stay with their kidnappers. 

Developed in close cooperation with human rights defenders, social workers, and psychologists, “Spring in Bishkek” is crafted to engage and empower young women. The plot is based on real stories of girls and women from different cities and villages in Kyrgyzstan. 

The app is the first of its kind in this social sector and topic. It addresses girls who are not reached by government educational programs and NGO initiatives.

Key Experience Features

The interactive story is akin to a choose-your-own-adventure game, which guides users through scenes in which their choices shape the outcome of the story. 

In-app screens. In the left screen, a young woman tells her friend that she has been kidnapped into marriage, and the player must decide how to react.

Throughout the story, educational content and “notes” written by psychologists, journalists, and activists, provide practical information for women, including emergency contact numbers. The content touches upon topics of women’s rights, physical security, online safety, Islam, psychology, and more. Players can gain points for passing knowledge tests throughout the story which can be used to unlock premium plot twists and game features.

Social Impact 

The app provides young girls with practical and legal information that helps protect their rights and understand the consequences of their actions. It also seeks to change attitudes around harmful practices. Topics are presented in an engaging and relatable way to this audience group, presenting a balanced mix of fun and serious content. 

The game has received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. Perhaps the most potent example came soon after its release. The team received a message of gratitude from a Kyrgyz woman who said that the practical content in the game helped her rescue her sister from a forced marriage. In another example, a girl from Kazakhstan wrote the team asking for advice because she knew a family preparing to abduct a bride.

Research and external assessment (done by the University of York) showed a significant impact on players’ opinions and judgment. Over 76% of readers engage with the educational content. The app has been downloaded by users of all ages from across Central Asia and Russia. Some 20 percent of players are men, a surprise for our team. 

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