Consenting Voices is card game in which you and another person assume the role of two characters entering into a sexual scenario, and you must work together to determine how the night unfolds. As part of our internship at the Game Changer Chicago Design Lab, Peter Forberg, Nikhil Patel, Andrew Brander and I created Consenting Voices to explore the intricacies of consent negotiation. There is rarely an opportunity for anyone, but especially adolescents, to practice recognizing and giving consent before they are in their first sexual encounter, which is often a vulnerable and high-pressure situation. Many times people don’t know how to properly read the body language of their partner(s), or are unsure how to communicate their own feelings and desires without feeling selfish, prudish, or guilty. Consenting Voices clarifies what everyone’s goal in sexual encounters should be: namely, comfort, security, and satisfaction in what is happening. To achieve this, each player can place down a variety of actions and reactions, building off of each other’s plays to signal, either blatantly or covertly, how their character feels and what, if anything, they want to do next. Each character has their own likes, dislikes, and goals for the evening, allowing for players to consider perspectives potentially different from their own and to see what a night could look like when the involved parties have clashing interests.
In designing Consenting Voices, we researched consent, sexual health in adolescents, consent negotiation tactics, and efficacy of various intervention and curricula techniques in order to best design a game that would provide the safe space for its players to learn about and engage in giving, reading, and revoking consent. Our main focus was translating the definition of consent (read: that which is being freely given and is ongoing, reversible, enthusiastic, and informed) into systems of play. The act of playing cards embodies the freely given, ongoing, and reversible aspects of consent, as players can stop and reverse actions at any point throughout the game as part of their turns, and always have the option to not act at all. The enthusiastic and informed components of consent become relevant in the enthusiasm and information levels that each player’s character has, which are affected by the actions and reactions played. In addition to the game itself, we also created guides with questions and prompts for both students and teachers to use in order to facilitate discussion. With these, Consenting Voices creates a larger opportunity for dialogue and learning, whether inside the classroom or outside it.