Introducing Choice: Texas, A Very Serious Game

About a year ago, I became dissatisfied with the lack of political presence in my art. Although a feminist, I rarely enjoy engaging with political issues when creating art. Politics frequently exhausts me, and writing poetry was a way to disconnect from whatever current events were currently distressing me.

But over time, it felt disingenuous to claim the title of “feminist poet” and not have a political component to my work at least some of the time. It didn’t help that my activist life had waned. When I first moved to Austin, I spent several months as a volunteer for the Lilith Fund. I worked the hotline and helped low-income women get funding to help pay for their abortions. I threw myself into the work, but a few months after being named volunteer of the month, I burned out and quit. Listening to stories of women with abusive partners, or who already had 3 kids and couldn’t possibly afford another baby, or who had lost their jobs, or who had life-threatening medical complications, drained me. I wasn’t able to put up a barrier; I empathized with every woman I talked to, and regretted that the Fund’s limited resources meant that I could only do so much.

I went on hiatus from activism, but unfortunately, I let that hiatus go on way too long. Last fall, I launched the Austin Feminist Poetry Festival and committed myself to more active, external engagement both with my art and my volunteer work.

A few months after making this commitment, my friend Carly Kocurek contacted me about collaborating with her on a game she wanted to make about the obstacles facing women seeking abortion in Texas. I was honored that she wanted to work with me, and jumped on board right away. Inspired by serious, educational games like Depression Quest (which shows users what life is like when dealing with clinical depression), we developed the prototype for an interactive fiction game called Choice: Texas, A Very Serious Game, and today is the hard launch of our IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds to finish the project.

Choice: Texas tackles issues that are common to women seeking abortion, but also addresses they ways that certain groups have less access than others. Cost is not the only struggle women have to deal with. Those who can’t take much time off work, or who have to care for children, struggle with making time for mandatory counseling and clinic visits. Those who live in rural areas may have to travel far and take several days out from their normal lives — and this is made especially difficult if they don’t have cars. In addition, recent Texas legislative changes that will cause clinic closures will require these women to travel even farther. Carly and I created a cast of characters that cover a swath of ages, races, economic levels, and geographic locations. Choice: Texas is a game that shows that while women in Texas ostensibly have freedom of choice, some women have less choice than others.

In addition, Choice: Texas is about empathy. From a high school student not ready to be a parent, to an excited mother-to-be facing life-threatening medical complications, these characters are not just avatars used to play a game. They have lives, families, friends, and jobs. They have hopes, dreams, and fears. They are representative of real women in Texas, and they have been created to show not just the difficulties in obtaining an abortion, but also the reasons why women make the choice they do. This is a game about access, but also about understanding.

Choice: Texas has been accepted to the F.R.O.G. (Future and Reality of Gaming) 2013 Conference in Vienna. We will have our working prototype finished by the end of September, and plan to launch the game in early 2014. If you can contribute to our fundraising campaign, you can learn more here. And if you don’t have spare cash but you still want to help, please spread the word on social media. We appreciate your support.