Is the world ready for a video game about menstruation? Two high-school girls think so. They have developed a tampon-themed video game, in the process challenging the strange way society treats menstruation.
Our world is full of sex, violence, obscene language and nudity. These have been incorporated into gaming experiences such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Mortal Kombat (MK), and so many others. In GTA for instance, it’s totally cool to run over prostitutes for fun, but women talking about their periods is still a cultural taboo. In this world too, girls are demanding more from the gaming industry and society at large—and they’re taking matters into their own hands.
Sophie Houser, 17 year old senior at Bard High School Early College in New York City, and Andrea Gonzales, 16-year-old junior at Hunter College High School, are the dream team behind the new girl-power game Tampon Run. Unlike most conventional video games, there aren’t any fireballs, guns or such other weaponry. The player is always a young lady, and her weapons are tampons. It’s fun and simple, with a powerful message that shows up in the opening frames: “Although the concept of the game might be strange,” Sophie and Andy write, “it’s stranger that our society has accepted and normalized guns and violence through video games, yet we still find tampons and menstruation unspeakable.”
“When girls are out of the house and need to change their tampon, they slip it into a sleeve or a back pocket, they hide it on the way to the bathroom. This is the menstrual taboo,” Sophie explained. “Yet most women menstruate for half their lives. Everyone’s mom, sister, girlfriend or even the lady sitting next to you on the train probably has menstruated (or maybe is right now!). It isn’t weird or strange or gross, or at least we don’t think it should be.”
The girls admit that Tampon Run started as a Joke. Its creators met this July while they were both students at Girls Who Code. Throughout the course, they worked on projects designed to use their creative and logic skills to make products and solve problems. “Tampon Run was a culmination of all the stuff we learned over the summer,” Andy explained. She wanted to create a video game with a social impact and a feminist twist as soon as the assignment came up, and Sophie immediately jumped on board. “We were brainstorming and we joked that maybe we could have a girl throw tampons in our game, because we have both personally experienced the menstrual taboo. As we researched, we realized what a serious and broad issue it is, and we wanted to make a difference.”
“The idea of making it funny and quirky kind of makes menstruation a lot more approachable and more comfortable,” says Gonzales. They took on the taboo surrounding girl’s periods by celebrating menses in their 8-bit game. Gonzales and Houser both enjoyed playing older video games that had a pixilated look, so their project pays homage to the games they loved. Their biggest technical challenge in the game was getting the character to jump—Andy spent many frustrating hours trying to get her to hit the right height mark, but eventually she cracked the code. (Now you can clear the bad guys who are trying to steal your tampons. Phew.) The player must collect tampons before the villains do. When the baddies approach the heroine, she shoots tampons at them. If she runs out of tampons, it’s game over.
“There’s a lot of emphasis right now on how few women there are in the tech industry,” Sophie says. “But I think it’s important to point out how welcoming the community of women in tech actually are. We need more women in tech because women have a unique perspective. I don’t think a guy would have made this game.”
IT in Kenya as well seems to be for the men. We do need more women in tech. One of the best ones was the late Regina Mutoko who was the head of the IT department in USIU. Ladies, comps and technology and machinery are not just for the man; that is just old cliché. Women should venture into this department as the world is moving into the digital era. Do not get left behind.
“I never thought that this small game the two of us made here in New York would literally reach people all over the world,” says Houser. “I think it is partly thanks to the game being so accessible … it is really funny.”
They’re proud of Tampon Run’s success, and Houser says that seeing friends and family react has been most rewarding. A guy friend played it and told her he realized he knew little about menstruation, and the game made him reflect on it. “That was so great I had affected someone I knew,” Houser says.
Feminist issues are best presented by women. In Kenya, women have a lot to share. Look at dead beat Kenya-invented by a man, for the women. There is also Computers for Schools Kenya, also developed by man, Ladies, what is your contribution to your own betterment?!
Tampon Run is a must-play, whether you’re interested in coding, curious about the awesome feminist message, or just looking to kill a few minutes between classes. Be warned though, it is quite an addictive little game.