Another brilliant DIY game design from Reed Games, proud creators of Transition: The Board Game, and a subsidiary of Reed Blogs Inc. (“if it says Reed, it’s a good read!”)… Oppression Olympics: The Card Game! For Oppression Olympics, you need to construct a special deck. You’ll need two decks of playing cards, some paper, pens, coloured pencils, and a glue stick.
You take the first deck, and divide it into four suits: “Race and Ethnicity”, “Gender and Sexuality”, “Socio-Economics” and “Health And Ability”. Each of those suits has thirteen cards. The main twelve go in descending value from King, Queen, Jack, and then 10 down to 2. The King has the highest value, and is comparable to the most privileged possible identity in that category, as you reckon it. For instance the King for Race and Ethnicity might be “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant American Who Can Trace Lineage Back To The Mayflower”, and for Health And Ability it might be “Absolute Pinnacle Of Normative Physical And Mental Health… Poses As A Model For Medical And Anatomy Texts”. The 2 is comparable to the most marginalized and discriminated against identity in that category, as you figure. Such as for “Gender and Sexuality”, the two might be “MtF Spectrum And Visibly Gender-Variant And Non-Conforming Kinky Pansexual Genderqueer Considered Unattractive Under All Cultural Conventions”, and for “Socio-Economics” it might be “Homeless Low-Track Sex-Worker With Multiple IV Drug Addictions And Visible Bruises And Track Marks”.
Each suit also has an ace, which can be played as any value, though that value must be declared when playing it. Examples: “Extremely Sexy Androgyne”, “Vaguely and attractively ‘ethnic’ in an impossible to pin-down way”, “Gutterpunk With A Trust Fund”, “Rare, Fascinating, Undiagnosable Medical Condition That Doctors Compete To Write Papers On”.
Using your paper, pens, coloured pencils and gluesticks, you add these names (and, if you wish, illustrations) to each of the cards.
From the second deck you pull out an additional 10 Cards. These are to be made into “Wild Cards” that can be played at any time, as a substitute for playing a usual card, and modify the rules in some way. Example: “Well who are YOU to question MY identity?” (order of turns reverses, such as from clockwise to counter-clockwise), or “At The Country Club” (for the duration of this trick, you must play a card of equal or HIGHER value than the previous card, rather than vice versa).
So now that you’ve made your deck, here’s the rules!
The game requires at least three players, but the more the merrier (for really big games, you can increase the number of cards in the deck, such as having 20 cards in each suit, using the extra deck from which you made the wild cards to add the extra cards).
The dealer deals out all of the cards in the deck evenly to all the players. The player to the left of the dealer lays down a card. The player to hir left must lay down a card of the same suit but lower value, or a different suit but equal value. The player to hir left must then do the same. If any player is unable to lay down any card, they have to take all the cards presently layed down (the “trick”) into their hand. They then lay down another card to begin another round / trick.
The goal is to eliminate all the cards from your hand. The first player to do so is named The Other and is the victor for that hand. The next player to eliminate all their cards is named Ze Who Comprehends Intersectionality and is in second place. The last player left holding cards is deemed The Privileged Oppressor and loses, earning your scorn, derision and mockery.
To make it into a more social game, or a drinking game if you’d like, The Other gets to have all their friends bring them, and open, their drinks (because ze can’t be expected to do it for hirself, what with being a poor, helpless marginalized minority! ) The Other also gets to boss everyone else around, and tell them when to drink (since we need to address the social inequities and legacy of discrimination!) . Ze Who Comprehends Intersectionality gets to boss everyone around EXCEPT for The Other, and tell everyone but hir when to drink. The Privileged Oppressor has to do whatever anyone else tells them to do.
Anyway… hopefully it should go without saying that the intent of this game is not to mock or belittle the very serious issues involved, or what people’s identities mean to them. It’s just a way of laughing so we don’t cry, a chance to temporarily take the harsh realities of discrimination and oppression we have to live with and turn them into something we can laugh at and about, and for a little while feel like we’re the ones with the power over the meaning of our identities and the hierarchies our society has structured around them.
If anyone finds the game more triggering or hurtful than it is empowering, then of course you don’t need to play, nor is there anything wrong with feeling that way about it. What it means to you is up to you, and that deserves to be respected.
That said, I hope that some people can find this to be a bit of a fun and empowering way to forget for just a little while how shitty this stuff is to live with, and can find a bit of strength in the laughter.