Online games are normally fun. Perhaps thrilling. But that’s not at all how you would describe a new interactive game that aims to put players in the shoes of powerless, pregnant women and asks them to contemplate their limited options.
“Choice: Texas” was inspired by the increasing number of obstacles that women considering an abortion face in many parts of the world, and especially in Texas, where politicians have pushed through new abortion restrictions that could shut down all but five of the state’s clinics.
“The point of this game is to really raise awareness and empathy, and to really sort of illustrate what drives women to make this decision and how,” says Carly Kocurek, one of the two designers of the game. She isn’t naive enough to think roleplaying will convince an ardent abortion foe, but she hopes it moves passive pro-choice supporters to fight more actively in the cause.
“I’m pretty middle class. … I’ve always had a certain kind of safety net,” says Kocurek, a Texas native now based in Chicago. “I know my sense of urgency for abortion access might be different than others who have fewer resources.”
The game, currently in development and being crowdfunded on Indiegogo, includes five female characters who each face different socioeconomic, geographic, and demographic challenges to accessing abortion services. The situations they face as the player weaves through a “choose-your-own-adventure” style storyline reflect the creators’ deep research into real statistics and scenarios. One character is a high school student, while another is a 35-year-old woman who never wanted children. At any point during the game, players have the option to keep the child or offer it for adoption.
Choice:Texas builds upon a number of recent online games that have had some success in getting players to think through tough scenarios. SPENT is about surviving homelessness and poverty, and Depression Quest asks people to embody a character who is living with depression.
Right now, Kocurek and her project partner Allyson Whipple are at the end of their $10,000 fundraising campaign and are preparing for a major game conference they’ll attend this fall. They hope to release Choice: Texas for free on the web next year.
There is some urgency to any kind of awareness-raising in Texas. Already, after Texas lawmakers approved more restrictive abortion regulations in July, Planned Parenthood has announced the closure of one of its facilities because, like many clinics, it can not meet the new rules.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that what really should be a health care issue is being framed and talked about as a political issue. I don’t think people, when they are making their individual choices, they are not taking a political stance,” says Kocurek. She hopes her game can help make a few more people take note.