Last night, I had the opportunity to attend Queer Game Night, led by Patrick. During this time, we were each thrown a crumpled up piece of paper, which, when unfolded, addressed a detailed prompt. These prompts were special, however. Tied to the theme of Queer Game Night, each prompt had an underlying action. My group had “Coming Out”, and this was the motion that had to be activated during the game. With four paragraphs explaining the ins and outs of coming out, our goal was to design a game that would cause a player to play out this “coming out” action.
Without any other direction, we had to be creative and brainstorm how to effectively cause this game mechanic to work. Our group decided on creating an action based card game. As we only had 2 hours to design this game, the possible situations were limited. We kept it to an ideal number of 3 for the cards. The premise of the game consisted of players receiving 5 cards in their hand, and each player starts off with 12 points, which they may distribute however they like to the following attributes: courage, charisma, and connectedness. The cards in their hands, and the cards which they’d draw from the deck, are “boost” cards which have either +1 or +2 of one of the attributes. There were 3 “event” cards which was the “draw” deck in a typical card game. These events were tier leveled and consisted of scenarios in which the player’s character has to “come out.” The first tier was coming out to the doctor when he prompts the player with the question, “Are you sexually active?” The second event was the nosy aunt at Thanksgiving pestering the player, “When are you going to bring home a GF/BF (player should choose the typical heterosexual complementing partner to complete the aunt’s dialogue)?” The third event, which requires the highest amount of attributes, was asking your crush to prom, a very big event for teenagers, and a very big way of coming out to a large social network. With all of these elements, we were able to figure out a way to get everyone involved by creating a collaborative environment. The goal of the game for the players is to obtain 5 body parts, which they can get from completing events or assisting other people with their events by donating their boost cards. The first one to build their body essentially wins first place, but must keep playing because it is possible to lose body parts. If more than 1/3 of the body is taken away, then everyone loses. This aspect of the game encourages teamwork and for the players to keep playing until everyone is able to accomplish coming out during the game. Like I said, with the limited amount of time we had, the number of cards we had for each card deck was limited. Some examples of the boost cards were: courage – crushing a bug, charisma – got a new shirt, connectedness – spent 1-on-1 time with my mom.
During the brainstorming process of creating a game, I had to immerse myself as a potential player and think what elements of a game I would appreciate. It kind of felt like I took on the role of a player and was working backwards from an unknown finished game to reach the beginning phases of creating a game in order to think of each part that would be necessary to actually construct my ideal game. Looking back on other card games I’ve applied that involve a drawing mechanism, such as Exploding Kittens or Unstable Unicorns, it was easy to imagine needing boost cards to trigger an event to occur. When we talked about game design fundamentals during week 4, specifically Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop, and social experiments during week 6, specifically Jane McGonigal’s This is Not a Game, I realized that these are aspects that were part of our subconscious thoughts when designing the game.
Game Design Workshop mentions playtesters, but due to the structure of the game night, we took on all encompassing roles of game designer and testers, as with each step of the way, we had to envision how the game would play out and whether it would make sense. We also had to think about any repercussions along the way from each mechanic of the game. We continuously kept the player experience in mind and wanted to create a game that would have an emphasis on the queer community. As game designers, we want to create a safe environment for our players so that they can enjoy the game to their fullest desires. With such a sensitive topic like coming out, especially when it’s known to be a special, built up moment for many people, we had to think of a game where it wouldn’t create any homophobic/unsafe situations for the players. Although each player is participating in “coming out,” the event cards we created are all real life situations that are common for many young adults struggling with the right words. When McGonigal talks about immersive and pervasive play, we really had to think about how the game would align with their lives pre- and post-game. With the immersive play of the game, players who don’t identify as part of the queer community get a chance to see how difficult it is to come out by having to gather the necessary amount of points for each attribute. For the players who are part of the queer community, they get to either relive the moments or practice for the future. The best part of the game is that all of the players’ sexual orientation is hidden so no one is openly exposed if they don’t want to be. The pervasive aspect comes from what the players choose to do with their experience from playing the game. Players can bring the courage they gathered from the game and apply it to their real lives.