Getting an Abortion, the Video Game

Photo: Photo: FRED PROUSER/Corbis

The twenty-week gestational limit and clinic-closing abortion restrictions protested by State Senator Wendy Davis and thousands of other Texans are going to make getting an abortion in Texas harder. But how hard? Myst hard? Metal Gear Solid hard? Ninja Gaiden hard? A new choose-your-own-abortion-adventure video game, now seeking funding on IndieGoGo, may soon show us. Called Choice: Texas, it’s the brain child of Carly Kocurek, a Texas native and assistant professor of the history and culture of video games at Illinois Tech, and Allyson Whipple, a Texas poet and the director of the Austin Feminist Poetry Festival.

There will be five female avatars to choose from, two of which you can preview on the pair’s Tumblr. Each woman represents a different level of difficulty, Whipple told Persephone magazine, based on personal obstacles. “None of them have it easy, because even if you have the privilege of money and paid sick days at work, there are still other obstacles to deal with,” she explained. “But certain characters will be much harder than others. The obstacles each character faces (geography, money, time, transportation) will influence what choices a player can make throughout the game.”

Here’s Kocurek on the relationship between abortion access and role-playing games:

I was playing a pen-and-paper RPG a while back, and I thought about how the character building process felt so much like a ranking of the kinds of privilege and access people have or don’t have in real life. In the games, there’s a cap on someone’s overall power, usually, but in real life there isn’t. That idea really stuck with me, and then in fall of 2012, the news cycle came around to abortion again, and the deep unfairness of who has access really upsets me. Somehow those two ideas got stuck together, and so I’d been thinking about an RPG about abortion for a long time.

And both women on what they hope will be the impact of the game, which they're aiming to complete by January:

C: Games always have this lure of being able to create sort of experiential knowledge — it’s why there are so many simulation games. And, my hope is that this game provides a means for people to maybe think through what it might be like to face some of these types of issues not as abstract news, but as a fact of daily life.

A: To me, this game is centered around two things: awareness and empathy. Many people, including privileged pro-choice people, do not realize the extent to which people with less privilege struggle with geography, time, and money to obtain abortions. It’s not necessarily willful ignorance, but if you’re lucky enough to have a well-paying job, your own car, and the ability to get time off, you might not realize just how bad other people have it. So one of the goals of this game is to make people aware of how difficult abortion is, and how certain communities and groups may have an undue burden put on them in an already-difficult situation. The other aspect is empathy. [...] I would hope that this game would put a more concrete, human face on the issue, that players would not see these women as evil or shameful, but understand the difficult (often impossible) situations they’re in, and the difficulties they faced in making and achieving their choice.