Tell me very briefly your names, your ages and how you met.
Sophie: Sophie Houser, 17. We met at a Girls Who Code summer program last year, an intensive two-month program where 20 girls learned the basics of coding.
Andy: My name is Andrea Gonzales, and I'm 17 years old. I’m super glad we did!
Why did you want to go on a coding course and why did you choose that course in particular?
S: I didn’t know anything about coding, but my mom knew I liked math and anything creative. She saw coding as the intersection of the two, so she recommended I apply to Girls Who Code. I liked the sound of an all girls program (I had never done anything liked that before) and the program offered more than just learning to code. They introduced us to many powerful people in tech and taught us skills like public speaking.
A: I've done code programs before, and I thought this would be a cool change of pace. I knew GWC has a super strong network, and I wanted to tap into that.
What is tampon run and why did you make it?
S: Tampon Run is a side scrolling infinity running game to combat the menstrual taboo. The main character throws tampons at oncoming enemies who are trying to confiscate them from her. The goal of the game is to spark thought and discussion about the taboo.
A: It stemmed from my longstanding interest in video game development. I was really interested in the intersection of video game development and social activism, so I wanted to do that for my final project at Girls Who Code. Tampon Run came as a result of that!
A: They're very throwable! Haha. But also they're what people think of when they think of menstruation (other than all the blood). We wanted our game to remind people of menstruation without the confusion that might come with lesser-known feminine hygiene products.
S: The menstrual taboo is something that has affected both of us. The first time I got my period I was too embarrassed to go to the store and buy my own tampons – I didn’t want to look the cashier in the eye. Before Tampon Run, my guy friends never wanted to talk about menstruation. We also learned that the menstrual taboo can be much more serious. In places like Bangladesh and Nepal, women have to isolate themselves while they menstruate because it’s seen as unclean. Because the period taboo affects us personally and because of how it affects women elsewhere, Andy and I decided to focus our game on it..
The game itself isn't really bloody. Is that deliberate?
S: It was deliberate. It’s a small space between making something funny and making people uncomfortable. If people get too uncomfortable they’ll shut down and won’t listen to our message..
A: We wanted to make the game as approachable as possible, and throwing dirty tampons might have become a little too graphic for our audience. It seems really funny though and I would definitely consider it.
Why do you think we are so desensitised to the sight of all blood except the kind that is produced naturally through menstruation?
S: I don’t know! We asked ourselves the same question during our first conversations about Tampon Run.
A: Violence and guns are talked about all the time. But menstrual blood and anything to do with vaginas is taboo. It doesn’t make sense.
S: Once we thought about it that way we realized how ridiculous the menstrual taboo was and how important it was that we build Tampon Run.
Finally, what are you planning on doing after high school? Do you want to pursue coding? I definitely think you should make more feminist games!
S: I’m off to Brown University next year where I’m planning on studying Computer Science. I loved learning to code last summer. Coding is fun because it’s like solving connecting puzzles. I also loved coding because you get to build something from nothing. I want to code after college although I’m not sure if I’ll continue to make games or do something else in the tech space.
A: Right now I'm working with a non-profit to research and develop games that are intersected with social activism! It's super fun and really interesting to see how games can be used effectively to push people to take social action. I plan on going to university after high school, and maybe double majoring in CS and Women/Gender Studies. They're both things that I've become really passionate about. I'd love to go into video game development, but I'm not committing to it just yet.
Play Tampon Run at www.tamponrun.com
Words Sadhbh O'Sullivan