It all started with a group of children. Strange for a game about death, but, it did. I was working at a grief center, facilitating a children’s group. I was struck with the remarkable difference with which the kids approached a subject most adults see as grim and taboo. They drew pictures, sang about decomposition, had mock funerals where they acted out the roles, from the priest to the deceased, and asked all sorts of questions that would make most adults squirm. They encouraged and supported each other with ease. The kids were simply… curious.
One night after work, I had a realization: Adults need something to help them to regain their wonder with death. And that’s when this all started.
The first thing I decided was that whatever “it” was needed to be fun and have a broad appeal. A game. And, though it could be a useful tool for facing grief and our mortality, it needed to be about ALL aspects of death: the strange, fascinating, and even the irreverent. Something for those who wanted to take a closer look at death… or at least had a morbid streak and wanted a fun party game.
I began to gather information, immerse myself in the world of death. I drew in James, who is skilled at writing test questions, a vessel of history, culture, and arcane knowledge, and has a dark sense of humor. He also understands punctuation. Very helpful.
We brainstormed numerous ideas: a board game where you moved round the Ouroboros answering questions, “Have You Ever” questions, competition vs. group play, a job interview to become Death. None of that worked.
In the end, we created a card game of trivia and discussion. We designed the game to allow players to move between conversation and playfulness. We spent almost two years trying out rules, refining questions, developing the look, and play testing until we felt we got it right. Numerous friends (game designers, game players, writers, scholars, therapists, artists, and business folk) became our sounding board and test players. Now, when people play, we see all the elements we envisioned: laughter, storytelling, wonder, maybe a tear or two, and yes, curiosity.