rainbow quest board game -teen suicide

Rainbow Quest! Board Game Combats Teen Suicide

Innovative Educational Resource is a Game-Changer

Studies have long shown the highest rate of youth suicide is among teens who identify as LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Tran-sexual, Intersexed, Queer, Asexual, and variations). Cyberbullying, physical and psychological abuse, social stigma and shame, hurtful labels and stereotyping, religious condemnation, risk of family and community abandonment are but a few of the threats facing teens who are only just beginning to understand their budding sexual identity. Who would choose to be a lightning rod to such universal rejection unless there was simply no other truth to tell? Where can a child who knows they are ‘different’ hope to find any kind of positive role model or safe place in the world?

The fact is, gay people have played pivotal roles in the development of civilization, community, and culture throughout history – but who would know? Unfortunately, school history books, news agencies, and most churches have rejected, ignored, and obliterated the fact of LGBT existence without comment. However, that dismissive approach is slowly folding under pressure to create a safer world for our kids. When the spectrum of sexuality is part of the conversation, individuals do not feel so isolated.

Curriculum is Changing with Inclusive Information

Colorado, New Jersey, California, Illinois, and Oregon have legislated that LGBTQIA contributions to world history must be acknowledged in the middle and high school social studies syllabus. More states are poised to follow in this age of information and inclusiveness. However, curriculum developers are only beginning to create an action plan for including the information in a meaningful way.

This is where Rainbow Quest! comes into play. The innovative board game developed by Psychologist Dr. Brian Kaufman and arts educator Martin Swinger is intentionally simple to play. Often compared to the children’s game ‘Candy Land’ by contemporary board game enthusiasts, Rainbow Quest! depends on the simple mechanics of rolling dice and moving pawns around a path from start to finish, but that is where the comparison to the elementary game ends. Each space along the path represents a different activity (trivia, multiple-choice, famous quotes, drawing pictures, charades). It includes such novel challenges such as:

  • Telling ‘Coming Out’ stories
  • Sharing personal experiences
  • Considering proper response to hypothetical but very real human interactions
  • Or simply reacting to circumstances as the game presents.

However, ALL of the prompt cards are related to the LGBTQIA experience. Players do not have to be gay to play or succeed – this is a social and educational tool for all teens and adults.

Face-to-Face Interactive Play

Rainbow Quest! is designed not to be a competitive pursuit but relies on players’ cooperation rather than conflict. All players are constantly engaged in the face-to-face interactive play and the overall goals of building trust, understanding, empathy, and exchanging information – while having fun. No role-playing or complicated rules are involved. Participants must only be present as their authentic selves. All players begin in a black-and-white ‘Bleak World,’ and the game continues until all players reach a colorful ‘Better World.’ No one person wins. EVERYONE wins! The designers have effectively adapted the game to be successful in a Zoom format until schools are safe to re-open.

Experienced Players Offer Their Perspectives

Christian Fuscarino, Chair of Garden State Equality, offers, “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with LGBTQ organizations and look at their resources. This is one of the first games I’ve come across that really reflects a comprehensive understanding of what it means to be LGBTQ and the journey that has taken us to the place we are now with equality.”

Shanee Stepakoff, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist & Adjunct Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, proclaims, “Attempting and failing to answer trivia questions on every turn can be tedious and frustrating. Rainbow Quest! solves that problem by presenting a variety of ‘whole-brain’ activities, keeping it lively, engaging, and fun. The level of deep, honest, and meaningful dialogue is unmatched by any other game or diversity training tool. It is gratifying to see the transformation as players quickly develop a level of comfort in discussing topics of importance to them in ways they have not experienced previously.”

Rainbow Quest! is available through the website https://rainbowquest.org just in time to offer this innovative solution to the new challenge of presenting LGBTQIA history thoughtfully and engagingly for schools, families, and community groups.
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