Re-Release Part 2: Decisions to be Made

This is Part 2 of our series about updating our game Marital Bliss. You can start at the beginning with Part 1 here or jump forward to Part 3 here.

A Problem of Our Own Design

Not long after our Kickstarter launched way back in 2013, we got requests to make a same-gender version of the game. There wasn’t much specific in the game that excluded same-gender couples, rather it was the result of a short-sighted initial design choice we made early on in development…

We modeled our illustrations after ourselves. It felt like great fun at the time. We’re making the game… why not indulge by putting our own caricatures in it?

That early design choice led down a path we’ve regretted for a while. We unintentionally left some potential customers disenfranchised and when you approach the game, unfamiliar with the content, it’s super easy to make some really unfavorable assumptions about the game:

Vintage-looking cartoons + Heterosexual white couple on the cover = *eye roll* This isn’t for us.

Help from a Fellow Gamer

About a year ago, I was at the Origins game conference where I attended a panel discussing diversity in board gaming. Afterwards, I shared our game with one of the presenters, and discussed our goal of updating it to be more diverse and inclusive.

We wanted to do these updates right, but I didn’t feel qualified or confident that we had the skill-set to make a version that would accurately and respectfully reflect the wide diversity of people’s intimate relationships. So many questions were running through our heads. Should we print multiple variants of Marital Bliss? How many different types of relationships and ethnicities should we represent in the artwork?

Charting a path forward

It seemed like a tricky problem to us, but thankfully, the presenter thought it was very solvable. She pointed out that one of the big challenges about diversifying a product is that people have a tendency to make the jump harder than it needs to be. She then articulated an excellent way of approaching updates that really paved the way for our re-release. She encouraged me to think about the game on a scale. 

  • At the bottom of the scale, say level 1, might be where Martial Bliss was currently at: It actively alienated some people.
  • Level 2, might be a version of our game that was more balanced. We could remove or rework content that might be offensive or alienating to some couples, as well as make some gestures of inclusion along the way, for example, reworking the pronoun usage or some inclusive messaging on the box.
  • A Level 3 game would be diverse enough that most anyone might say “I see myself actively represented in this game. It speaks to me, and people like me.” A notable game that she pointed out that has done an excellent job at “level 3” inclusion, is the game Fog of Love. The game comes with multiple variant covers depicting a variety of relationships, enabling the buyer choose which version they prefer.

Armed with those insights, we began the difficult work of charting a path to updating our game. After many discussions, and after looking at our limited budget and logistical capabilities to manage multiple variants (a la Fog of Love) it felt like elevating our game into the “Level 2” category was the best fit for our business size and plans going forward.

Next week, we’ll dive into exactly how those updates took shape, and share some more information about what the game is looking like now.

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