Can conversations be a game?

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The thought of me playing a board game has always initially started with a disgusting feeling of dread. I can recall the feeling of my stomach dropping and my breath suddenly rapidly increasing. Don’t get me wrong with this – I actually love games. When I am actually playing I am so excited and don’t want to stop. I can never tell if my fear stems from my deep-down intense competitive personality, or if it is the fear of the unknown if it is something I have never played before. However, this game that I am analysing was especially interesting to me because I had no fear of playing it. Maybe it was because I was comfortable with the participant involved or maybe because this is a different kind of ‘game’ that I had never consider to be under the game category before.

The game I would like to share my experience on was created by Lillian Ahenkan or ‘Flex Mami’ which is her DJ/Creator name. She is a TV host, author, DJ and podcaster who is also the owner of Flex Factory Store. Their game ReFlex is a conversation card game that was made to show people everywhere the power of intimacy and deep connection through conversation. The game consists of a deck of cards. Each card has a different question on it that you would ask the other player – for example – “would you rather waste your time or money?.” From there, if you choose, you can have a deep conversation surrounding the card where you share your different perspectives with the other player.  

According to Cailloi’s 4 categories to describe a game, I would put ReFlex under the category of Alea (chance). The reason for this is because you don’t know what kind of question you will receive until you pick up the card. It is also a Paidic game according to Caillois as it is not bound by rules. You can answer the questions in the way that you want to play the game. For example, you could be at a birthday party and there is a group of people answering the questions. There may be a host asking the questions and participants are throwing answers at you. In another setting, you could be with a close friend and use the cards to think deep and to have a meaningful conversation with one another. Additionally, this game is a perfect form of Gregory Baterson’s frame of meta-communication, as communication is at the forefront of playing this game by engaging in theoretical ideas and answering your opinions based on these ideas. For example with the question; “How would you feel if you found out life had no purpose.” It is little dark, but is also a reflection of the reality that we could possibly live in, or not.

I chose this game to play as it is not your typical board game. It is considered a game as it requires time, a space to play, materials (the cards itself and speech) and it affects our psychology by instigating conversation on things we may not have understood about the person we are playing with. This whole game is based upon good communication and making us behave in a different way. I say this because you can play this game upon multiple spaces, for example, on a date. If you were playing this game on a date you would be removing the small talk and instead replacing it with critical thought as you answer the questions on the cards.

Although the game is said to not be played by the rules, there were still some that we could abide by if we chose:

  1. STEP ONE: Pick a card at random. Answer the question quickly, honestly and on reflex (see what we did there).
  2. STEP TWO: Analyse WHY you’ve answered the way you have. Take your time and dig deep.
  3. STEP THREE: Interrogate what has informed this opinion? Did you adopt it from close friends and family? Has social media or pop culture influenced you? Have you ever thought about this at length?
  4. STEP FOUR: Read the question again and pick it apart. What is the phrasing suggesting? Is there a way to answer the question more objectively or with a different perspective?

Onto the game:

For this game, I felt nothing but excitement when looking at the packaging which is bright and colourful and incredibly is inviting to me. I sat down with a friend of mine on the floor with a glass of wine. Because I have been friends with this person for a while, I knew I could feel comfortable asking her questions that allow you to think critically as I already thought I knew her very well. I thought about what this would feel like in a different setting if I did not know the person I was playing the game with. I personally struggle with opening up to strangers and so perhaps this game would be useful for this. I felt at ease when I remembered that the space I was in was safe and inviting. We open the box. As you open it, a message is on the front says “open the box, then your mind.” On the side of the box it reads “I’d rather not talk about the weather.” These messages got me prepared for the questions that were inside, as I knew then what I was getting myself into. On the bottom of the box reads “no wrong answers no right answers.” The thought of absolutely no rules had me feeling hesitant but I was excited to see the kinds of questions I would be asked. There was no need to shuffle the cards as each card would have something different on it. My first question: “in your opinion, what will the apocalypse look like?” My mind immediately thought of a scene from the Walking Dead, or better yet I Am Legend. Would I be alive? Would I be able to survive a world undone? This is such an interesting for of gameplay because your mind just wanders as if you are in another reality. Once a few more questions were asked we both equally felt incredibly comfortable and felt as if this was a safe space.

This game is incredibly effective in its purpose as its game mechanics allows you to sit down relax and enjoy conversation with the person you are participating with. Even if you play by the rules or not, the game takes you on a journey to discover not only yourself but the perspectives of others around you, as if you were in a different reality your mind created. Not only do the cards set a story for us by asking us these questions, they give us the opportunity to turn that question into an existential one where you discover different points of views and therefore different realities.

I enjoyed this game and hope to discover more like it soon.

Check out Reflex conversation cards here: https://flexfactory.store/collections/reflex/products/reflex-conversation-card-game#how-do-i-play

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