November 13, 2019

Guest Contributor

STRIKE! How a Board Game Can Influence Organizing

By: Brian Van Slyke, TESA Collective

The time is ripe for STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion, a board where you mobilize workers around your city to defeat a nefarious megacorporation. With workers joining together and taking action around the country – from teachers to tech workers, hotel employees, nurses, gig economy contractors, and so many more – we haven’t seen this kind of display of labor power since the 1980s

So, that’s great and all – but why a board game? Aren’t they kind of old school?

The fact is that we are actually living in the golden age of board games – more people are playing board games now than ever. Thousands of new board games are released every year. Board games are played by millions of people, and it’s one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the world. And in fact, on some crowdfunding platforms, a primary source of sales for the game market, board games have been outperforming video games.

Like all forms of art and entertainment, board games are often a reflection of our values as a society, and they can also influence how we act and what we think about. After all: those who control our imagination, control our future. That’s why we at The TESA Collective create games that are about fighting for a better future and envisioning the world we want to see. Our previous titles have includes Rise Up: The Game of People & Power, Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives, and Space Cats Fight Fascism.

So when the opportunity came for us to collaborate with Jobs with Justice to make a game by and for the labor movement, we were ecstatic. While it’s not well known, there’s actually a vibrant and powerful history of games being used to fight for a better world, stretching back over 100 years. But today, we’re all used to the overwhelming number of games that are about war and exploitation. That’s why we thought it was high time for a game that was about building the power of working people; an unabashedly a pro-labor game.

When we began the design process for STRIKE! with Jobs with Justice, it was obvious that we wanted this to be a culture change initiative. It needed to be something that appealed to both people who are well-versed in the labor movement as well as for those who are only peripherally aware. 

As a result, we decided to give the game a bit of a futuristic, and somewhat comedic feel to attract a wider audience. In the game, every player is working together to take on the megacorporation known as HappyCorp, who is attempting to take over your city. HappyCorp can be a stand-in for a number of real-world faceless behemoth corporate entities, who try to position themselves as friendly, helpful forces that are in reality just trying to squeeze as much profit out of us and our communities as possible.

In STRIKE!, HappyCorp is trying to turn your city into a privatized metropolis. If they succeed, there will be no more unions, no more minimum wage, and no more protections for working people. Everything will be owned by HappyCorp, from the schools to the sidewalks, and everyone will be a Happy Employee. Players must work collaboratively to lead a city-wide rebellion against HappyCorp’s attempt to take over their city. To do so, they have to grow their ranks, mobilize their workers, and organize strikes. As the Strike Council scores victories for workers, they will gain the support of more allies, from the dockworkers to the teachers, and build new bases of support from the manufacturing district to the university. Each player also takes on a working-class character with a unique power – like Valentina the factory worker and Jake the landscaper. Each of these characters has a unique way they can help challenge the power of HappyCorp.

To date, TESA’s other games have been played by tens of thousands of people all over the United States and in over thirty other countries. They’ve been played by families, friends, organizers, and students – in homes, community centers, classrooms, and beyond. People are coming together and not only having a great time playing our games, but their engaging in their shared values. Whether they are organizing for a movement they believe in while playing Rise Up, or stopping the rise of the Rat Pack in Space Cats Fight Fascism, or building a cooperative economy in Co-opoly, these players are seeing themselves as active changemakers while exploring concepts rooted in social justice. 

And that’s the power of games: they can reach people in an interactive way that even books, articles, documentaries, lectures, trainings, and presentations cannot. People learn best by doing. They become invested and interested in concepts when they are active participants. And games allow people to engage in concepts through play and excitement while generating moments that won’t be forgotten. 

By creating STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion, we’ve created a way for people to see themselves as well as leaders in the fight to build worker power in the face of corporate opposition. We cannot wait for you to get your hands on this game and organize to defeat HappyCorp!

Reserve your copy of STRIKE! The Game of Worker Rebellion TODAY!

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