You’ll Never See Lara Croft Get Her Period, But Here’s Why You Should
You’ll never see Lara Croft get her period. Sure, bodily fluids are considered gross and disgusting — but there’s more to it than that. There are plenty of games featuring toilet-related activities like There’s Poop in My Soup, but there are almost no games about periods. What gives? It seems there’s still a lingering taboo.
There is the occasional mention of periods in games, like in Bioshock Infinite. Elizabeth’s menarche (or first period) is mentioned subtly in the background of a level. Some players were grossed out about it (after googling the word menarche). But on the whole, periods are generally nowhere to be seen.
I tried to find games about periods and didn’t have much luck. That’s probably because periods aren’t all that fun. So I searched for Serious Games (made for a purpose, rather than just entertainment) instead. On a subject matter experienced by nearly half the population, I found a total of four serious games about periods.
Bound by Blood
Australian indie game developer Jess Gates made Bound by Blood to explore what it’s like to manage your period when you’re homeless. It only takes 10-15 minutes to play through, and you can play it for free here.
“I wanted to create an interactive narrative where there wasn’t a ‘golden’ ending or a definitive set of choices you needed to do to win,” says Jess.
“People often see [homelessness and menstruation] as a choice, or as the result of a series of choices. We hear people (usually people who haven’t experienced homelessness or don’t get menstrual periods) saying to ‘hold the blood in’ or to ‘go get a job’, and it’s not as straightforward as that.”
Jess sees games as having the ability to “provoke empathy within players, as [games] give players ownership over their actions… in a tangible, meaningful way.” This is a growing area of interest for researchers who have found evidence certain video games can increase empathy in players.
Having to choose between eating or having menstrual products is not something I have faced before. Bound By Blood opened my eyes to the issue of period poverty, of not being able to afford pads and tampons.
“Menstrual hygiene products are still a thing people who menstruate need, and they’re still not free. People like Beth (the character in Bound By Blood) who are homeless and have little income are still going to need to make rough choices, and find alternatives to menstrual products when they need to,” says Jess.
Australia recently removed the 10% GST on menstrual products making them a bit more affordable. To put this into perspective condoms and lube have been exempt from GST since 2000. But at least Australia is ahead of Italy which recently reduced the tax on truffles (a food more expensive than avocados) to 5% while the tax on menstrual products remains at 22%. People who menstruate don’t buy pads and tampons because they want to, but because they have to.
If you want to help those in need you can donate money, pads, tampons and menstrual cups to your local homeless shelters or charities like Share the Dignity. If you run an event or venue, include a small supply of free menstrual products in the bathrooms.
Darshan Diversion is a small game made by an Indian team for the 2016 Global Game Jam. The game explores the incidents of priests preventing women from entering certain temples if there’s a chance they could be on their period (e.g. between the age of 10-50). The game’s creators wanted to highlight the “utter insanity of the situation”. The short story is women aren’t allowed to enter the Sabarimala Hindu temple because of religious beliefs they are impure while on their period.
In Dashan Diversion you play as either a priest trying to block menstruating women entering the temple or a woman trying to enter. The women avatars are outlined in yellow except for when they menstruate their outline turns red.
The game’s creators never thought their game made in 48 hours for a jam would be noticed by anybody. However, Darshan Diversion has been in the spotlight recently as the laws around the issue have changed. India’s Supreme Court ruled women can’t be banned from entering the Sabarimala temple as it’s discrimination. But priests at the temple are still barring women from entering leading to protests and riots.
For something a little lighter try Tampon Run, a cute pixel side-scrolling game. Instead of shooting a gun your avatar throws tampons to defeat enemies. Two high school students from New York made the game during a coding summer camp run by Girls Who Code.
Sophie and Andy saw video games normalising guns and violence, so thought why not use video games to normalise periods too.
If board games are more your style there’s the new Period Game which promises to help you “go with the flow”. The game was made to provide a fun, positive learning experience about periods instead of the usual awkward talk.
Daniela Gilsanz and Ryan Murphy designed the sleek looking game which is meant to get everyone (of all genders) talking about periods. If you don’t want to buy it for yourself you can also donate a copy to a school.
Earlier this year a documentary about periods won an Oscar and a new emoji for periods was released. Game developers, we need more games about periods and games that normalise periods, rather than making them a source of shame or the butt of a joke.
They saw video games normalising guns and violence, why not use video games to normalise periods?
As Jess says “Talk about menstruation. Talk about homelessness. Break the societal taboos that say we can’t talk about menstrual periods and what happens when you’re homeless. And break down the perception that these issues are caused by people making ‘wrong’ choices.”
Let’s face it, without menstruation you wouldn’t be here today. Period.
Megan Pusey is a PhD student, freelance writer and podcast host who enjoys puzzle games. She tweets at @scienceninjagal