No Shame In Our Game: Creating a Card Game to Shift Stigma

Let’s make a game!

How do you make conversations about sex, relationships, or parenting fun?

For some time, Sea Change wondered: how can we make conversations about sex and reproduction fun? With all the silence and stigma surrounding experiences like abortion, adoption, infertility, and miscarriage, making these intimate discussions fun is no easy task. But we were ready for the challenge, and we set out to make a game. It took our team over a year of trial and error, but we are now very proud to offer Untold Stories: The Game as our newest stigma-busting innovation!

Where do we begin?

We pondered the idea of a how to design a fun conversation-starter and eventually settled on the idea of an Untold Stories card game. We came up with a list of questions about sex, sexuality, health, relationships, and more that we found to be interesting and open-ended. Then we printed the list of questions, went to a bar, and went around in a circle answering them. In the words of Sea Change staff member Madeline, “It was fascinating but not yet a game. My friends and I want game nights, not ‘reproductive health discussion deck nights.’ “ This was a great insight, but we weren’t quite sure how to make the transition. We decided to take the card deck beyond our small staff and ask for insights from strangers across the country. At the end of 2015, we printed the questions on cards and forged ahead.

Uh-oh, it’s not fun!

First design proved to be too clinical, wordy, and not as fun as we hoped.

We decided to try out what we had so far by prototyping the card deck. We put together some basic rules and recruited 15 prototypers from across the United States using Craigslist, asking them to try out the game with a few groups of friends. By Spring of 2016, we received feedback from our game testers and wrote a report on what we learned. Almost all the prototypers agreed that the cards were too “wordy” or “clinical,” and many prototypers wanted “lighter” questions. Prototypers also pointed out that for the card deck to be a game, there needed to be a way to win. Still, though many people shared that the game was “very serious,” they also noted that the game provided the space for them to talk about things they typically kept to themselves, and that they got to learn more about each other as a result.

Time to roll up our sleeves…

The feedback was pretty clear — we were on the right track but needed to make sure the cards resonated with players, especially people who are outside of the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement, and aren’t used to talking about sex on a daily basis. In Spring of 2016, we went back to our original question list. We started by removing the words “reproduction” and “reproductive,” because really, who talks like that? We made the questions more lighthearted and included more questions about sex, relationships, and love. To test out the new questions, we playtested the game with two different audiences: one group of Sea Change staff and their friends, and the other of attendees at a game design event in Oakland, CA. This testing gave us more valuable feedback, which we used to finalize the questions and rules. We also worked with graphic designer Rosanna Dixon to develop the game’s visual design, going for an energetic and warm vibe by using emojis and bright colors.

Introducing the game!

Our final design!

In August of 2016, we ordered the first copy of Untold Stories: The Game. We designed a short survey to capture players’ experiences, which Sea Change will use to track the impact of the game. After over a year of prototyping, redesign, playtesting, and more redesign, we were so excited to launch the game in November of 2016. The reaction so far has been fantastic. We’ve been contacted by sex educators, abortion providers, student groups, and individuals who are buying the game to launch this conversation in their own communities. Playing the game now is a way to bust stigma, explore your own and others’ experiences, and have FUN doing it!

So how do I play?

The first step is to buy the game! It’s available here. Next, you’ll want to watch this short video tutorial to learn more about how the game works. Then, gather some friends and prepare for a night of laughter and learning! Once you’ve played, you can share your thoughts here.

Enjoy!

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