By Emily Zhang
Two girls have just made one of the coolest games ever. It’s anti-gun violence, pro-talking about periods, and pro-women in STEM. I never thought these three topics could be cohesively connected, and yet Tampon Run is so stunningly simple. With nostalgic arcade-game vibes, Tampon Run was created as a final project for Girls Who Code, and allows players to get enemies out of the way with tampons. Here, I ask Sophie and Andy some questions about their game:
EMILY: I love how this game points out that society has accepted violence in entertainment, but a lot of people still don’t like to talk about periods. Did you guys always plan to create a game like Tampon Run, or was the idea more of a whim? What were peoples’ general reactions? How do you think discussing menstruation could be made more accessible?
SOPHIE: Andy and I made Tampon Run as our final project for Girls Who Code. Andy wanted to make a video game that created some sort of social change. I liked the idea of using coding to make a social difference, so I joined her. While brainstorming, Ijokingly suggested that we could make a game where a girl threw tampons. As soon as I said it, we realized there was something there. Through our own experience and research, we know there truly is a menstrual taboo, and we were excited by the prospect of confronting it through the game. People, both men and women, all around the world have been so supportive and positive about Tampon Run. It’s incredible that this seemingly simple game has resonated with so many people. The game combines a serious subject with humor, which is why I think it’s so accessible.
ANDY: I didn’t really think of Tampon Run per se, but while I was at Girls Who Code I definitely brought up the idea of creating a video game with a social message and/or feminist twist. I was actually thinking more along the lines of hypersexualization of women in video games (which is a very legitimate issue and should still be addressed). I had made a game as an English project about the Odyssey, which pointed out how all the women in the epic just slept with Odysseus. Or were evil. Or both. I really had a great time doing it, and I wanted to go all out with another video game. Sophie joked about being able to throw tampons in our game, but as soon as she said it we knew that was the game we wanted to develop. People all over the world have been so supportive of the game! There’s been the occasional hate mail or hate post, but it’s completely overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback we’ve gotten. I think our game helps menstruation become more accessible, but we also hope to generate discussion about menstruation, and have people look into organizations which help women all over the world deal with menstruating.
EMILY: I noticed that this game was created for a Girls Who Code project. How did you feel about the program in regards to getting more girls involved in STEM? Was it a mix of empowerment and coding lessons?
SOPHIE: Girls Who Code is an incredible program. I learned not only how to code, but I also became more confident, a better team player and a better public speaker. It was through learning to code that I learned those essential soft skills. It was empowering to build something from the ground up, and witness your code work (whether that meant watch the fish you programmed swim across the screen or playing a few rounds of Tampon Run). I also had to get up and present my code to the other girls in the program even when it didn’t work, even when I had “failed”. However, I learned that “failing” was not a bad thing in the least; instead it was an opportunity to learn and try again. I encourage every girl to learn to code, whether that be via a class at school, an online resource or a Girls Who Code club or summer program.
ANDY: Yes, it was a mix of the two! I’ve been coding for a while–I attended SummerTech Computer Camps for two years before applying to Girls Who Code. I was a bit skeptical and nervous about spending 7 weeks with 19 other girls, but it really has paid off. I primarily wanted to go to GWC for the networking opportunities, as there are incredible people who come into our class to speak, but I got so much more out of that. Especially in terms of developing my soft skills–my ability to market myself, my products, and become a lot more articulate and concise. Recently, all over the world, there’s been a big emphasis on the lack of girls in tech. I think this definitely needs to be addressed, in order to add more diversity and better the industry. But I also think we need to advertise how supportive and welcoming the existing community of women in tech is; maybe it will help encourage girls to take that first step.