Sometimes taking a medication to fix a problem creates more problems, which require more medication. In life, this is a living nightmare, but as a game, it could be an interesting mechanic.
The concept of the game Side Effects is to treat all of your diseases before the other players treat theirs. The catch is that every time you treat a disease, you become vulnerable to receiving other diseases from your opponents.
I had never seen this done before in a game and I was very intrigued to make something of it. In developing Side Effects, I wanted to make something that people could play at a bar, at a game night, with friends, enemies, or in-betweens.
For a while, a favorite was Cards Against Humanity, and while I still love playing that game, I started to crave something with a bit more strategy. I’m a huge fan of the French card game Mille Bornes, and wanted something akin to that but with a more cynical and less family-friend tone.
In order to keep the mechanics and instructions super simple, I drew a hard line about adding additional cards and kept the whole game to just four card types: diseases, drugs, therapy, and episodes.
Behind the scenes filming the video for the Side Effects Kickstarter launch.
The decision to use real drugs was always a no-brainer. I think it would have been strange and borderline offensive to include the names of real diseases and yet fake medicines—so all of the drugs in the game are real and actually cause the side effects listed. And although we’re planning on releasing a more family-friendly version of the game called Side Effects of the Amateur Sorcerer, which will include magic spells instead of drugs, I wanted the original Side Effects—and most of Pillbox Games’s work—to be dark, wry, and on the verge of social satire.
Still, in no way do I ever claim this game is about attacking the users of these drugs or even the pharmaceutical companies that make them. Anyone who knows my personal history knows that I’m a huge advocate for therapy and life-saving medication. I want to point out a dark truth in a funny way. I think that’s actually the best method to get people thinking that perhaps we need to work harder to properly treat this problem.
The final card designs we developed.
And that’s how I’d like to move forward with our company, Pillbox Games. We’re working on games about global warming, election rigging, and murdering Santa Claus. I grew up on Garbage Pail Kids, grunge, and South Park—I guess this is just how my mind works.
So, if you have a sick sense of humor and want to play a strategic card game that’s super easy to learn, I highly encourage you to check out Side Effects. Even darker expansion packs are in the works!
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Guest blogger Jade Shames is a writer living in Brooklyn.
Pillbox Games is comprised of Jade Shames, Ben Bronstein, Jen Igartua, and Kat Thek.