21 Sep 2018

NGEN Winners create world-first virtual mentoring world for deaf teenagers

The winners of last year’s MFA Awards NGEN category have brought their unique idea to life and built a world-first virtual mentoring world for deaf teenagers inside Minecraft. The world, titled League of Hearoes, held its first event at the weekend with over twenty deaf or hard of hearing teenagers participating.

League of Hearoes is a concept created by Max Learmont from Ikon and Nolan Yu from OMD for the 2017 MFA Awards NGEN category as a response to a brief by Hear For You, a charity partner of UnLtd, the media, marketing and creative industry’s social purpose organisation.

The concept is based on the insight that many deaf or hard of hearing teenagers do not want their disability to define them and they want opportunities where they can be just like everyone else. This has made it challenging for Hear For You, a charity dedicated to helping deaf or hard of hearing teenagers reach their full potential in life, to communicate with their target audience.

Nolan Yu commented: “Through our research, we identified that most deaf or hard of hearing teenagers had built an “invisible wall” around them, to block any communications that reinforce their disability, such as any communications from a charity or disability services provider.”

Max Learmont added: “We also found that 92% of deaf or hard of hearing teenagers are gamers. The anonymity and non-audio environment of most games make it an ideal platform for teenagers to not be limited by their disability. These insights lead us to the concept of creating a virtual world in Minecraft where deaf teenagers can safely connect with other deaf teenagers and it also provides a great platform for Hear For You to provide mentoring opportunities in a completely unique way that teenagers are open to.”

With the help of volunteers from the deaf and hard of hearing community, the League of Hearoes world has been built over the last six months through weekly monitored sessions. On Sunday 9 September, the first live event was held inside the world, attracting over twenty teenagers to participate.

David Brady, CEO of Hear For You commented: “We were blown away by the idea and are delighted to see it come to life. We are already seeing great results – over fifty teenagers have signed up to the world and we’ve held over fifteen mentoring sessions with many more to come. One of the best parts is seeing friendships being formed between teenagers across Australia.”

Jemma (username: JEMZ_00, Age: 18) said “It’s so cool how we can just play and meet new people, without worrying about my hearing.”

Chris Freel, CEO of UnLtd commented: “We are so excited to see this project come to life. It’s a great example of the positive impact our industry can generate by using our core skills. It’s fantastic to see talented young people like Nolan and Max not only come up with a great idea but to dedicate their own time to making it all happen for something they are both clearly so passionate about.”

League of Hearoes is open to any deaf or hard of hearing teenagers aged 12 and 18 through: Live events will be held weekly on Sundays at 7pm AEST with a different theme each week. Sunday 23 September will be dedicated to building a roller coaster up in the sky.

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