Women Are Coding Video Games To Raise Awareness About Menstruation
When you think about video games, you probably think of power-ups instead of periods. After all, only 21% of video game protagonists are women characters. But 45% of gamers are women, and some advocates use video games to educate players about menstrual health.1,2
While menstruation is sorely underrepresented in the gaming industry, it isn’t an entirely new idea to use video games as an awareness tool for health and wellness.
In Depression Quest, players make tough choices about how to go about their day when struggling with exhaustion, loneliness, and other symptoms of depression. In The Vale: Shadow of the Crown, gamers play as a protagonist who is blind and must use their sense of hearing to navigate quests.
Video games that address menstrual health
These four games are confronting period stigma, one tampon rocket at a time.
Two teens, Sophie Houser and Andrea Gonzalez coded Tampon Run in 2014 at a Girls Who Code program. In the game, you play as Luna. And Luna, like many other women, is sick of period shaming. As people approach Luna to mansplain menstruation, she shoots back: literally and metaphorically. Luna throws actual tampons as projectile weapons. Between tossing tampons, Luna shares empowering messages about how women should not feel gross when they’re on their periods because menstrual blood is a natural part of life.
I don't know about you, but launching virtual tampons at trolls gives me some much-needed catharsis to distract me from my period cramps.
Bound by Blood
Jessica Gates created Bound by Blood to educate players about the complicated reality of having your period when you’re homeless. You play as Beth, who wakes up in her sedan to realize that she’s started her period. Beth has $5.90 in her purse and two pads to last her through her cycle.
The player has to make a series of choices to try to be as hygienic as possible when Beth has few resources and restrooms to help keep her clean. The game is a sobering glimpse into everyday life for too many homeless women.
As of March 2022, the web hosting on this game has expired. The creators may update the game and its hosting, but readers can watch streamed content and play-through videos from Lulu Lab's YouTube page.
Players can ask the virtual Nurse Mary about sexual and reproductive health information in this game. The lessons are intended for teen girls and women in their twenties, but Nurse Mary provides helpful information that young women may not have been able to learn in their school sex ed programs.
Nurse Mary asks the player their age, if they’ve started their period yet, if they know how to put on a condom or insert a tampon, etc. Then, the game will customize the information Nurse Mary provides and the interactive activities in each lesson based on the player’s experiences.
This 2016 video game was created to protest temples that banned women from worshiping in public when those women were menstruating. You play as a woman on her period, and your goal is to dodge priests trying to block your character from entering the temple.
Darshan Diversion raises awareness about the everyday gender discrimination that women face when they are excluded from public places, like schools and temples, when they're on their periods.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever played one of these games?
Have you had any of the following surgeries for your endo?