The Oldest Game - Creating A Newsgame about Sex Work in Canada

Prototyping Session

by Sandra Gabriele

For example:

The game begins with you, the sex worker, having to raise a certain amount of money to pay a specific bill.

You roll the dice and find you have a low paying client. Do you get in the car? Walk away? Or try and negotiate?  In this decision, you can hold out for more money, but the probability of violence or being arrested may increase with more negotiation.

OR

You roll the dice and find you have a high-paying client.  However you don’t have a good feeling about this client, perhaps you heard something negative about him from your community or had a bad past experience.  You can decline but your probability of recruiting another high-paying client may decrease. If you accept, you roll the dice again to determine whether this client will be violent or not, as this is something you have no control over.  The dice determines whether the client will be pleasant, aggressive or violent.

We also decided to brainstorm a list of event cards that could affect our sex worker character: weather, health, violence, their community, the police and their client.

This experience was extremely productive in helping us think through our game! Using a Monopoly board allowed us to imagine how the game play could take place without needing to program anything. Any game would have worked as well: the key was to have some structure (the board, dice, cards), a mechanism for moving through the game (dice) and event cards which would determine how the game play would unfold. Ultimately, we asked: can the system generate probabilities that will allow us to mirror a typical day/night/shift of a sex worker?

Questions that arose from the session that will be resolved in the coming weeks:

  • how explicit should our game be? This game has the potential to be quite saucy, but there are also other strategies we can deploy that would limit the salaciousness. While the nature of the business we’re exploring is explicit, we don’t want that element to stand in the way of exploring the larger goal of understanding what’s at stake with the current laws governing sex work.
  • how violent should the game be?
  • should every sex worker have the same chances of “winning?” Or, should the game build in ways of ensuring better chances of success?
  • in what ways can we build in some form of agency for the sex-worker-player?
  • how many events should be built into the game? And of what variety? Some that were discussed: weather, police, violence, clients (high and low paying), health, interactions with other sex workers and/or community workers
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