Killing Me Softly: A Game of Microaggressions

It’s been quiet around here lately as all of the CUNY Games Network folks have been working on summer projects (or perhaps wandering the streets of NYC playing Pokemon Go?). I haven’t had as much time to game as I’d like, but a terrific serious game came my way the other day that I wanted to share.

Librarian Fobazi M. Ettarh just released her game Killing Me Softly: A game demonstrating how it feels to suffer microaggressions and acculturative stress day after day. Full disclosure: I playtested this game while Fobazi was developing it, and the final version is even better than the beta.

Killing Me Softly is a web-based text game that uses the Choose Your Own Adventure format to allow players to navigate through the lives of a character as they experience microaggressions, which are “commonly defined as brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults.” Players can choose one of two characters: Alex, a white, able-bodied, gay man with a large social circle; or Leslie, a Black, straight, disabled, woman who has a partner. As you move through Alex’s or Leslie’s days — including interactions with friends, coworkers, and strangers — you make choices that affect subsequent experiences and choices, choices that narrow as the microaggressions mount.

Like many serious games, Killing Me Softly does not have a happy ending — a happy ending isn’t the goal. This game does a fantastic job of showing how microaggressions are experienced and accumulate over the course of days, weeks, and months for many including people of color, LGBT+ folks, and disabled folks. It would be great as a teaching game — a single playthrough takes about 15 minutes, and playing through both characters multiple times effectively demonstrates that, while making choices about each character’s response leads to different outcomes initially, microaggressions are persistent. I highly recommend this game, why not head over to Killing Me Softly and give it a try?