Level Up

Visual Design / Front-End

Level Up

Level Up: An Epic Swiping Adventure

Reducing teen birth rates in the United States

  • Creative Director: Shane Santiago
  • Developers: Jeff Will, Julian Bravard, Husani Oakley
  • Illustrations & Animations: Sam Gilbert

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy created a program dubbed StayTeen with ongoing resources, communications and games designed to make sex education and birth control awareness fun and engaging.

In 2017, StayTeen dedicated an entire month to focus communications around the issue, and SJ&P led the development of its flagship element, a mobile-focused game called Level Up: An Epic Swiping Adventure. The immersive game allows players to create a customized character to represent themselves throughout the experience in which the levels mimic the cadence of a school year, along with customizing their school crush.

With today’s advancements in contraceptive methods, we now have many different ways to help practice sex safely. These methods differ in many ways, including condoms, prescription pills, implants, shots and more. But they all have one common goal — to prevent pregnancy. Through personification, we can identify the differences and advantages of each contraception, as they join forces and fight against the disruptive impact of teen pregnancy. By treating these unique methods as ragtag members of a team of heroes, we can highlight each character and their unique qualities in the fight against unplanned pregnancy.

Game flow

This responsive browser-based game pits the player against the pressures of being a teen. In the guise of a classic vertical shooter (1942, Galaga), the player uses gesture input, by touch or mouse, to defeat encroaching pressures. Customizable player avatars team up with their trusty birth control sidekicks as they progress through “worlds” focused on learning more about each type (á la Megaman), and how and in what situations to employ them, unlocking them for future use. Successfully progressing through the “condom world,” for example, unlocks the use of the “condom shield,” which gives the player more hit points, as well as a shareable info card detailing its special abilities and stats. Knowing when and how to use your sidekicks is important as the levels get more difficult. When players reach the final level – prom night, they’re required to use all of their previously acquired tactics and unlocks.

Level Up scenes
Level Up game play

The gameplay is designed to pit players against all of the pressures and challenges teens face today that could sway their judgment and knowledge about relationships and sex, including drugs and alcohol, peer influence and pressure to have sex. As the pressures advance, users vanquish them by swiping in the appropriate shape on their screen, earning special powers along the way — represented by personified birth control “heroes,” each with educational tips and methods of defeating enemies.

Level Up character creator
Level Up unlock hats
Level Up heroes sketch
Level Up heroes
Level Up logo sketch
Level Up logo comps

While the game is optimized for mobile devices, it’s also playable on desktops to ensure maximum reach and engagement among its audience.

Mobile and desktop view

And while the idea of teens fending off liquored advances by the objects of their affection may give adult users a twinge of sadness, or quite possibly bring back memories, the point is fairly made: teens will face these situations in high school or later on, and need to know how to protect themselves sooner rather than later.

Janet Burns, Forbes
Level Up in NYC
Level Up in NYC

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