It’s an inevitable part of life: every once in awhile we have to tell another person something we know they don’t want to hear. Although there are products and services that aim to help people recognize and move through discomfort on an individual level, few support or facilitate group-based discussions of sensitive social or personal issues. Through research, we found that this is especially challenging for families that are grappling with a cancer diagnosis, due to the unpredictable and complex nature of the disease.
Through talking to families affected by cancer — especially those with children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer — we found that it is difficult for parents to find the best way to deliver unpleasant or stressful news to their kids, and even harder to continue such conversations if new issues arise during treatment.
To fill this gap, two teammates and I designed a board game called “rekindling.” It uses collaborative gameplay to empower families affected by cancer to have those difficult conversations, develop a greater understanding of one another by encouraging them to talk about the disease, and gather around the table for a fun moment of family connection. rekindling consists of 90 prompt cards with questions that fall into the categories from light-hearted, to thought-provoking, to cancer-related. Each family member is encouraged to answer all the questions on the cards they are dealt and share their answers with everyone. Since each family member usually answers any given question differently, playing rekindling builds understanding and empathy toward one another.
The game can:
Offer opportunities for creative participation: The game includes 9 identical magnetic shapes to provide a collaboratively tactile experience to the gameplay by encouraging everyone to participate in building an abstract structure
Normalize unpredictability: The order of the prompt cards is randomized during gameplay, reflecting the unpredictability of cancer, with the goal of helping families address difficult topics as they arise and realize it’s okay to not know what comes next
Physically unite families: The creative output from the game — a collectively designed abstract structure — helps gather and engage the family, and serves as a reminder to play the game again and continue the conversation. Since each time the structure the family builds is different, it resembles the fact that bringing people with diverse thoughts together will always have a different result.
Through the three gameplay features above, rekindling empowers families to navigate difficult times by holding meaningful and productive conversations while also enjoying an engaging user experience.