We live in a world where periods are seen as something to be ashamed of, even though women have had them since the dawn of time. Many blame the menstruation taboo on a lack of general education, but “Tampon Run” is gamifying periods in a bid to normalize the most normal thing to happen to women.
Created and built by teens Sophie Houser and Andrea Gonzalez during a Girls Who Code summer program in 2014, Tampon Run hopes to encourage discussion around the taboo in an accessible and approachable way.
Tampon Run looks like something from Super Mario in the ‘80s, but instead of mushrooms, it’s animated tampons used as weapons which are thrown at oncoming “menstrual haters”. The feminist video game aims to literally shoot down misconceptions surrounding menstruation. You play as Luna, who fights misogyny while simultaneously educating players, with lines like: “The taboo that surrounds it teaches women that a normal and natural bodily function is embarrassing and crude.”
The gameplay is simple. The game begins by pressing the “shift” key. Luna can jump by pressing the “up” key and throw her tampons at the “menstruation haters” by pressing the “space” key.
The trick is to stop her enemies from getting past her, as that means they’ve “confiscated your tampons.” Luna can collect more tampons throughout the game by jumping. If she runs out, it’s game over.
Instead of killing Luna’s enemies, players destroy the enemies’ misconceptions of periods and combat the embarrassment that comes with bleeding every month in a way that doesn’t rely on violence — something we see so often in video games, where misogyny regularly underlies the gameplay. We recently wrote about the prevalence of sexual assault in video games as a part of our series Code Word, an exploration into if — and how — technology can protect people against sexual assault and harassment, and how it can help and support survivors.
The creators of Tampon Run were invited to do a Ted Talk, where they explained what tampons have to do with tech:
Houser and Gonzalez highlighted how if there were more women in coding and tech, more projects like this game could help de-stigmatize periods. Houser explained: “I don’t think a guy would’ve made Tampon Run.”
But, there’s more period fun
Tampon Run isn’t the only game trying to remove the taboo surrounding menstruation. On Itch.co, there are multiple games including “Leakproof” which seem to have the same objective in mind: removing misconceptions about periods.
Another computer game called “Darshan Diversion” was inspired by events in India in 2016 whereby women who were menstruating were not permitted to enter temples of worship. Players of this game can play either as the priests fighting off menstruating women or a woman attempting to enter the temple. If a red light is blinking near the women, this indicates they are menstruating and can be stopped from entering.
Although it all seems like a bit of fun, these computer games are doing a lot more than just entertaining — they’re working towards normalizing periods, and this something we need more of.