A Beautiful New Period-Themed Board Game Makes Menstruation Mentionable
While comprehensive sex ed is a wildly useful class, there are few situations more discomforting to a 12-year-old than being corralled into a room and forced to directly address the baffling effects of puberty on their bodies. But this new tactic from a young design duo may help transform the sex ed landscape from a necessity to a nicety.
The Period Game, a board game first created by Daniela Gilsanz and Ryan Murphy four years ago as part of a class project at the Rhode Island School of Design, uses gamification to make menstruation not only mentionable, but accessible, innocuous and fun. Literally.
“We’ve had the fortune of seeing boys and girls shout ‘I want my period’ at the top of their lungs,” Gilsanz told Inverse.
Tasked with building a game about the body for a “Design and Play” course in 2015, Gilsanz and Murphy immediately gravitated towards menstruation. They were drawn to the challenge of featuring a process that is both a cornerstone of human reproduction, and an experience often imbued with shame and stigma. When they pitched their idea for The Period Game, their peers were skeptical.
"“The overarching goal of the game is to make it all the way around the circular board, earning players the title of ‘Period Pro.’"
“When we first brought it up in class there was a fair amount of discomfort, which surprised us as we were all in our 20s at art school,” said Gilsanz. “But it also confirmed that there was still a lot of work to be done in how we talk about periods.”
How to Play The Period Game
The overarching goal of the game is to make it all the way around the circular board, earning players the title of “Period Pro.” Positioned around the perimeter of the board are four types of squares, representing the four weeks of a menstrual cycle: Just Hanging, Ovulation, PMS and Period. At the center of the board (and at the heart of a game) rests a giant, plastic pair of ovaries, inside of which are dropped specific numbers of clear, red and purple marbles. Players take turns rotating an ovary, which releases one marble at a time. Clear marble? You move forward one spot. Red? Oh yeah baybee, you got your period. Jump to the next period space, ahead of all your period-less peers. Purple means you’ve “leaked”; which means that not only do you have to report to the nurse’s office, you have to skip your next turn.
Though the idea of a board game designed specifically for the screen-reliant Gen Z may sound like wishful thinking, Gilsanz says the experience of collectively sitting around a board, playing with reproductive organs and period paraphernalia (“Who wouldn’t want to spin a plastic ovary?!”) builds a sense of community. And, as the game does ultimately have one winner, The Period Game uses competition as a trojan horse, capitalizing on the desire to win as a way of breaking through the stigma of joyfully shouting words like “period,” “tampon” and “menses.”
“We want the next generation to not feel that they have to hide tampons in their sleeves!” said Gilsanz.
After going viral in 2016, The Period Game has since been been tested with health educators, gynecologists, school psychologists, as well as more than 200 kids. And though the target audience, according to Gilsanz, is anybody curious about periods, she and Murphy have designed and marketed the game for kids on the edge of adolescence. In order to reach a national audience, the two are reliant on an upcoming Kickstarter campaign, which runs through Feb. 7.