Students ‘board’ with life: new game tackles sex stigma

In the traditional board game, The Game of Life, players follow a predictable path: meandering colourful little tokens through school, work, marriage, kids and amassing money to win.

But in Life Happens – a new board game developed by University of Wollongong researchers to help young people navigate tricky topics like sex, health and relationships – play is anything but predictable.

Players might be served cards telling them they’re moving overseas, facing homelessness, or even saying “oops, the condom broke”

The game has been developed by researchers in the university’s School of Health and Society, led by medical anthropologist Associate Professor Kate Senior. The idea came from her research in remote Australia, and the need to provide a safe place for vulnerable young people to talk about sex and relationships.

This is designed to take that awkwardness away from talking to young people about sex and relationships. - Assoc Prof Kate Senior

“This is designed to take that awkwardness away from talking to young people, and put the conversation back in their hands,” she said.

“Groups work around a life-sized body on a piece of paper, to develop a story and character. They decide things like what clothes the character is wearing, eye colour and then as the character goes through the story, they get a series of life cards that they have to incorporate.”

They also get a “lemon” card at the end of the game, which throws them a final, unknown challenge.

“All these surprises come up and you’ve got to be prepared to respond to them,” Prof Senior said.

“It’s not only negatively framed, there’s lots of positive stuff and you could have a story about a young couple meeting, falling in love, deciding to have safe consensual sex and everything is wonderful.

“But there’s all sorts of different cards, so someone might get a job somewhere else or have to go overseas or deal with homelessness, or there might be a card that says ‘found a rash’ or ‘oops, the condom broke’.”

The brightly-coloured game was developed with NSW  Health and designed by UOW graphic design students, who were set the task of bring in the game to life as part of their major end of year assessment.

It’s aimed at people aged between 15 and 25, and will be used in schools and youth centres around Australia.

Tackling stigma: UOW Associate Professor Kate Senior (far left) with researcher Laura Grozdanovski and the team that developed the new board game Life Happens. Picture: Supplied.

Tackling stigma: UOW Associate Professor Kate Senior (far left) with researcher Laura Grozdanovski and the team that developed the new board game Life Happens. Picture: Supplied.

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