Using Video Games to Break Menstruation Stigmas



Tampon Run 2Two high-school students, Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, created their own game that combats the stigma surrounding feminine hygiene. The pair met in the summer of 2014 when participating in a Girls Who Code summer program.

For their final project, they developed Tampon Run.

The goal of the game is simple: to normalize the use of tampons and other female hygiene products.

The majority of females menstruate for an average of five days per month, but in many countries around the world, it is an extremely taboo subject. The stigma surrounding periods is worse in some countries than others. Throughout many Global South countries, such as Nepal and Venezuela, women and girls are isolated from their communities during menstruation.


Gamification Breaks Taboos


Tampon Run aims to break the stigma surrounding periods, and help give females around the world the confidence that they need when it comes to feminine hygiene. If it’s normal to play video games that have players running around shooting off guns, why is it not normal to use tampons?

The game opens by stating a simple fact: “Most women menstruate for a large portion of their lives. It is, by all means, normal.”

“Yet most people, women and men alike, feel uncomfortable talking about anything having to do with menstruation,” the game’s introduction continues. “The taboo that surrounds it teaches women that a normal and natural bodily function is embarrassing and crude.”

The game has the player collect tampons, which they then use to throw at enemies. The goal of the enemies in the game is to steal all of your tampons. While this may seem strange, it is no stranger than using machetes or guns to run down zombies. The game play is simple, and has a retro feel to it thanks to the 8-bit graphics.


More Than Just A Game


Tampon Run 1Tampon Run is also innovative because it was designed by two young girls. Technology sectors around the world are often male-dominated, so the fact that this popular, online game was designed by females helps push through even more boundaries.

Gonzales and Houser have presented a TEDx Talk on Tampon Run, which you can watch here.

The pair discuss their own experiences in dealing with menstrual taboos while growing up, and explain why they believe the stigmas around periods need to be broken. They also share stories about the game’s success, and how they envision Tampon Run as becoming a stepping stone into the much larger field of women in S.T.E.M. programs.

Exposing women and girls to S.T.E.M. education opens countless doors that are often overlooked, or altogether ignored. Tampon Run was made by girls, for girls, and also encourages players to branch out and experiment with coding themselves.

Gonzales and Houser recently partnered with Pivotal Labs to enhance Tampon Run and relaunch the game on a larger scale. An iOS version is now available in the App Store, and is more difficult than the online version.

You can play Tampon Run online here, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.


Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth is a writer currently based in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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