Lillian Medville

#58 – Lillian Medville

Patrick Rauland: Hello everyone and welcome to the Indie Board Game Designers Podcast, price it down with a different independent game designer every single week and we talk about their experience in game design and the lessons they've learned along the way. My name is Patrick Rauland and today I'm going to be talking with Lillian Medville, who designed, Your Privilege Is Showing and she has a Ted Talk basically about her game and I will definitely include both links to both of those in the show notes. Lilian, welcome to the show.

Lillian Medville on TEDxBeaconStreet

Lillian Medville: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.


Patrick Rauland: So I like to start with just a little simple game basically to help the audience get to know you. So who is your favorite superhero?

Lillian Medville: Wonder Woman, but it's because wondering is my favorite. She's been my favorite since I was very little and I used to call her “woma woman” and just play actor when I was little. So forever she has my heart.

Patrick Rauland: Nice. And do you like the newest movie with Wonder Woman?

Lillian Medville: I do.

Patrick Rauland: Good. Cool.

Lillian Medville: I do. It's really fun to watch her just kick so much bum.

Patrick Rauland: She does. It's good. If you could only be on one social network, which one did you choose?

Lillian Medville: Twitter.

Patrick Rauland: Twitter. I assumed it could be Instagram or Facebook, why Twitter?

Lillian Medville: Well, so I have a lot of followers on Facebook which is cool and I have almost no followers on Twitter so I get to just learn from other people and retweet and like things and no one tries to talk to me. It's perfect.

Patrick Rauland: So you'd want to interact with other people's contents and not have that reflect on you almost?

Lillian Medville: I want to have the space to follow people who are smarter than I am because there are a lot of them and I want to just absorb and think about the question, absorb the stuff they know and think about the questions they ask and I think Twitter is a great way to do that. But it's harder when people want to talk to you. Like on Facebook, I have to have had to figure out how to interact with my Facebook page because I'm interacting not as Lillian, but as your privilege is showing, which is a really different thing and so I don't get to make jokes or be cheesy, I have to just be serious and sometimes if I have a post that goes viral than a bunch of white supremacist show up my page.

Lillian Medville: So it's a whole other thing to manage. I started getting a bunch of hate mail from antisemites, so now I basically don't really talk to people on my Facebook page. I mostly just ban people who are hateful or say terrible things or are threatening other people and so I don't really interact with people. So it's been a different … I mean it's like it's a big page. There's like 40,000 people on the page, which is amazing, but once it got to a certain size it's like I couldn't really be a person on it anymore.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah.

Lillian Medville: So.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I totally, literally hear you.

Lillian Medville: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Yeah. Cool. It's a shame that that happens, right? Yeah. I guess it's just a shame that I think as soon as you get to a certain level of popularity, a certain level of famousness that it seems anything you say will be offensive to someone.

Lillian Medville: Not so much that it's going to be offensive. It's just that people are not interacting with me like I'm a person interacting with me as if I'm a collective. People don't actually know that there's no other … I'm the only person who runs the page. I don't have any admin volunteers or anything. It's just me. So people don't know that and they will assume a page this size has a bunch of volunteers. So they will like if say a post is going viral or just a lot of people are sharing it and a bunch of people start saying, a bunch of turfs show up for instance. People will be like, “The admins need to take care of this.” And it's like I'm trying, I'm getting there. I'm so sorry. Sometimes I have to remind them like I'm just a person, just tag me and I'll go there and I'll bam them. I promise like, I ban tariffs, I ban SWERFs. I'm not interested in any of those people. They don't get to have space in my space, it's not that I'm worried about offending people, it's just that they don't interact with me like I'm a person.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Yeah. But wouldn't it happen on Twitter as well?

Lillian Medville: I think it would, the people don't talk to me and they don't follow me on Twitter.

Patrick Rauland: Got it.

Lillian Medville: So I think I have like 275 followers and people will follow me and then when I don't follow them back they'll unfollow me all the time on Twitter and I just don't care. I'm just on Twitter to learn. And then like Tumbler is just enjoyment. Tumblr is like relaxation. Twitter's fun learning and work, Tumbler is like memes and just like-

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, lots of memes.

Lillian Medville: Just lots of like kind of cinnamon roll enjoyment and but like, Twitter is just, it's just, I learn a lot there. So that's why.

Patrick Rauland: Cool. Love it. Okay. So last question, in part of this little intro game, how do you like to travel?

Lillian Medville: If I can get there under my own power. I like to do that the best. My favorite way to travel is by bike, so whenever I have to run errands, I bike everywhere. I hate having to drive. I hate … I don't actually own a car. I've never owned a car which is very lucky that I've lived in urban environments. But biking is like, it's enjoyable. Its exercise, you get to breathe fresh air, you get to get out some aggression because biking through the streets it's very dangerous. So there's like stretches of road where if I don't bike really hard and really fast, I might die. So I do and it's fun to take that risk and so far so good. I'm still alive so yeah, biking.

Why Did You Make a Game?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. All right. So normally I do ask people how did you get to board games or board game design. In your case though, I think I want to ask, so you made this game about privilege and you're trying to help educate people on privilege and social justice issues. Did you make this game for the sole purpose of teaching other people about social justice? Is the game just a means to an end?

Lillian Medville: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah.

Lillian Medville: Yeah. It is. It's really, it's less about teaching people about social justice is more about teaching them skills for authentic communication and how to have direct and personal conversations and grounded conversations about these topics and I made it really because I needed to learn how to have better conversations and in order to do that, I was such like an anxious white liberal. I was so worried about saying the wrong thing and outing myself as a racist. So I needed to create a container for myself in order to practice getting better. And that's really what the game is. It's like a space for people to practice the kinds of skills that we honestly don't get to practice in our regular lives. There is no real culturally sanctioned place for talking about what you think about these issues as opposed to talking about, figuring out what the right thing to say is because you can learn all the language that you want about oppression and white supremacy.

Lillian Medville: You can learn the terms, you maybe you know what the word hierarchy means, but maybe you also don't know what you really think because we all grew up just like absorbing white supremacy and so we all have a lot of internalized stuff that we don't deal with. Because also there's no chance to say like, “Oh well, I believe this and why and where did that come from?” And that's not true. There's no way to really check yourself and that's one of the things I wanted to get better at doing and that's what the game does.

Why Is It Important To Be Able to Fail

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. One of the things you say in your Ted talk that I really sort of, I've dug into I guess is I think you said something like, there isn't really an opportunity to fail. We were talking about this, like if I say something that's super insensitive, I'm probably gonna, I might say I'm sorry if I realize it or I might be defensive because I regret making the mistake but don't want to admit that I'm actually made the mistake. And there's something so cool about a game where you're allowed to fail, right? It's like how offensive is this and you like these different cards that kind of let people sort of gauge how offensive something is. And I just thought that was a really cool insight that games are good for things where we want to practice and we want to have space to fail. Was that something … How about this? Let me turn this into a question rather than just talk at you.

Patrick Rauland: Is that something that you knew from the start, you're like, “I want to have something where people can fail and it's okay to fail?” Or was that something sort of discovered as you're making the game?

Lillian Medville: I knew I needed that because that's in a lot of ways, the reason why I created the game at all, so I knew I needed that. I didn't know how to create that initially or, but I knew that I had a lot of attachment to and a lot of people do. I had this like part of my identity was that I'm a good white person and part of being a good white person is not being a sexist, classist, ableist, racist, piece of [inaudible 00:09:30], but like there are a lot of ways in which I am sexist, classist, ableist and racist and a piece of [inaudible 00:09:37] so how do I deal with those parts of myself in a way that is kinder and allows me to see them with less shame and less judgment, see them for what they are, which is incorrect and then learn and move on? I thought it was really important to have a structure that holds people together and that's really what games do is they hold community, they create community and that's why I thought a game is the way in.

How Did you Playtest?

Patrick Rauland: I really like that. I guess I was thinking like, so I go to a lot of [inaudible 00:10:13] which are these game protesting events and it's really easy for me to like pull out a game and say, “Hey, you wanna play it?” It's a resource game or it's at this game and it's a that game and people jump in and it's fine. I imagine with your case, maybe it requires like a special group of players, was it hard to play test a game that, I mean, you're basically trying to teach people how to communicate about some of these really tough issues, was it hard to play test it?

Lillian Medville: I mean, yes and no. I mean I thought it was going to be a lot harder than it is than it has been to play test. I was really worried that it wouldn't be fun, that it wouldn't really be enjoyable. I was worried it would be like just another humorless activity that's here to teach, but what I've found is that by just making my parameters, are you interested in these topics and would you like to play? There really was no problem finding people. I did play tests at an MIT frat house. I did play test for the live game I ran. One of the initial play was at the MIT game lab. I did play tests at the Harvard Graduate School of Ed, people are interested and they want to do it, but they're also very nervous so they would show up and then they would get very anxious.

Lillian Medville: So I'd have to help them get through that. I also have just been play testing a new version of the game which is like a retail versions and I just did play test, just add a couple of just regular game nights. I was invited, the person organizing knew I was coming but it wasn't like a special event and I was very nervous about them. So it was like, “I don't know if this is really a gamer game kind of thing, it's process oriented. It's not really goal oriented. I make it pretty clear that the point system is sort of arbitrary, how will this go?” And it was really joyful, it was really fun and people were down, they were really down to do it, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Patrick Rauland: That's so good.

Lillian Medville: Yeah.

How Did You Remove The Facilitator?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. I guess I was seriously wondering, if people who like playing these two to three hour eurogame would be interested in playing your type of game. I'm glad you found the right audience. So just to give a little context, you said you're coming off the retail game, but you originally came out with basically a facilitated game or, so correct me if I'm wrong, but there was a facilitator who brings in current events, current topics and they help the gay move along and now you're making, I guess we'll call it like a play on your own game. Yeah. You can buy at the store and take it home and play it. How did that process go? Taking it from this facilitated thing that was more of like a guided activity game into like a game game?

Lillian Medville: Well, I actually originally wanted it to be a game game, but then after play testing the facilitated game I realized that it was way too combustible for that. So figuring out how to have mechanisms in place for what I'm calling the at home game, your Privilege's showing at home, so it is called. It's adorable, so how to have mechanisms in place that would kind of be standing a stand in for a facilitator and also it's a really pared down version. So the facilitated version is like a real deep dive. There are three rounds. Each round is really different, ask you to use different parts of your brain, whereas the at home game is really one round, one type of play so it still is fun and intense and but it's not as personally confronting which is the part of it that you really need a facilitator for.

Lillian Medville: And also because when I'm running games I generally facilitate games in within organizations and so I'm also navigating hierarchies. So the at home game is really made to be for at home, personal use with family and with friends when there's not a strict hierarchy because it's really about minimizing the kind of harm that can get done. So if so your boss was like, let's play Your Privilege Is Showing at home saying no, that's a bad idea. It really needs to be in an environment that people feel like they can be themselves.

When Do You See Changes In Your Players?

Patrick Rauland: Oh, okay. That makes sense. So in your Ted Talk, you mentioned at one point that you play tested with a specific group four times over I think it was a semester and it seems like they learned a lot. I think you talked about, they thought they were pretty good with this stuff and It seems like they learned a lot by the end, just your game like sort of require you to play multiple times to get the benefit or do people see a benefit immediately?

Lillian Medville: People see a benefit immediately but playing it multiple times … I talk about the game is as, it's a practice space. So just like with any other soccer practice or band practice like you get better the more you practice and your people are when they're playing, they're practicing thinking about things differently, noticing different things, thinking about themselves in different ways, talking about themselves differently, giving names to things they didn't have names for, thinking through nuance and detail in a new way. And nor to really develop those skills, you have to practice those skills. And I noticed with the pilot program, because I had them fill out pre assessment and post assessments before and after each game. And then I did a six month follow up with them to see like what held, what didn't hold and the things I was asking them, like their knowledge, their comfort level, talking about these things and calling out things stayed the same.

Lillian Medville: But their comfort level with choosing to talk to people who they knew would disagree with them went right back down to baseline. And I think that's really because if you don't use it, you lose it sort of thing, we need to have regular spaces set up for people to practice conversations about these things with people who maybe are not totally on your same side.

Patrick Rauland: Totally. So my next question actually, which I think ties in very nicely or are there other issues you want to tackle? And I just want to amend that with to me the way you just said that, being willing to talk with people who you think might disagree with you, that seems like just a whole genre right there of just practicing talking in a fun way.

Lillian Medville: Yeah. I mean what I want to do is I want to get more and more specific. So the game right now has racism card, sexism cards and privileged cards that are broken into three levels of severity. So there are nine of those cards and I would like to at some point have more specific games. I would love to have maybe a game that talks specifically about colorism or ableism kind of dig deeper into more specific issues. So I think that would be really interesting. This initial pack is really like the basic pack.

Patrick Rauland: Sure.

Lillian Medville: I think this is a really helpful format and also there's something really powerful about having the cards right in front of you because when you have a card that is literally called a racism microaggression, it's much harder to try to pretend that those things aren't real. So it gives it, it's like a visual confirmation that the things that you've been feeling that you've been experiencing, that they're real and they're valid. So I want to use this tool and this format to help people talk about a lot of other different things.

Patrick Rauland: [inaudible 00:17:48].

Lillian Medville: Yeah. I would love to do like country specific packs, have like a Canadian pack really get into first nations issues, I mean I would obviously need to work with someone who has more experience with that to make that content actually impactful. I want to do so many things. I really think that if we could see ourselves more clearly and talk about it with less shame, I think particularly for people with more privilege for white people, if we could talk about our role in these systems without feeling the need to shut them down, I think we could make so much change happen.

How Much Research Did You Do?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. Did you have to do research before you started making this game or did you just have-

Lillian Medville: Of course.

Patrick Rauland: … All this stuff [inaudible 00:18:37] memorized?

Lillian Medville: Initially is what happened is I realized that I needed this game to exist and then I had to learn how to make it because I have no game design experience. I don't have a degree in social justice. I really needed to teach myself a lot. I mean I didn't need to become an anti-oppression expert. I just needed to learn enough so I could start asking the kinds of questions that would be helpful. So, and talked to my gamer friends, I spoke to game designers and I learned a lot with doing the play tests, I mean I made a lot of mistakes during the play test experience. I ran sessions with too many people, the directions. I mean I gave people way too much information and then I gave them way too little information.

Lillian Medville: I took a class on systemic oppression. I started reading books and following activists and educators on Twitter and Facebook and following BLM and black is beautiful pages on Tumbler and I just wanted to learn as much as I could and so that I could make something that would help … I started out making this for people like me, but it's actually now become for a much wider group of people, now I would say not really just for like white privilege, northeastern women, which is what I am, but it's really for anyone who wants to get better at having these conversations, which is really exciting. I didn't know that's where it would go.

How Long Was the Process of Designing A Game?

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. So I'd love to know, okay, so you have the idea of you want to teach people the stuff, you have some of the backgrounds and then you say, okay a game is the best way to do this. How long did that take you? So you decide two years ago or whatever that game is the right way to do this. How long did it take you and I would love to know like what resources did you pick up along the way that helped you learn game design?

Lillian Medville: Well, there were a couple of different phases. So initially a friend of mine helped me kind of make a rough version of the cards in Illustrator and then I printed up a couple of decks and cut them myself and that's what I use for my initial play tests. And then I found companies that do short run card printing and then did that. I just think so much of it is trial and error and I also found that like I'd ask when I would talk to actual game designers, they would give me information, they were trying to be so helpful and I really appreciated their time, but this game is different than what they were doing. So I think if I was going to tell someone else like this is what you should do. I would say keep your overhead as low as possible for as long as possible.

Lillian Medville: Do your own stuff as much as you can and listen to other people, but don't take their advice if it doesn't sound right. I think that if I had come from the world of game design or if I had come from an academic social justice background, I don't think I would've been able to make this game.

Patrick Rauland: Why not?

Lillian Medville: Because A, it's a game but it's really a trick. I mean, it's a game, but it's like it's basically a tool to get people to sit down and have honest conversations. So the game aspect, when I'm running live games with people, the game aspect of it holds people together, but nobody ever looks at how many points they have. The point system starts to be irrelevant and starts to just be a way to tell people that they're doing well as opposed to a competition. So I think that would have been different if I had known more about game design and I think if I had come from a more formal academic background of social justice, I think I wouldn't have come from this point of view where like, when I'm running games, I don't tell people like I'm the authority and I know stuff and you don't. My stance is we're all in this together and we're all struggling with this together and here's a tool I've created to help us struggle with it less.

Lillian Medville: And that's it. I'm not trying to tell people what to think or how to think or really what to say. I'm there to give feedback and I'm there to teach some, but it's more of like we're in this together and let's just muddle through and let's try to feel less ashamed while we do it.

What Does Success Look Like?

Patrick Rauland: Love it. So I think I have an idea of this, what does success look like to you? Where's the bar for success?

Lillian Medville: Well, the first bar for success I think for launching the at home game I think would be to sell all of the first run of the cards when after I buy them, when after I have them printed, that will be amazing to sell all 500 decks. But after that I think I just want this continue to grow and I want it to help more people and I want it to be a tool that is in more and more people's hands because I think that having this be a … This would be a great tool to have with people who are experts in anti-oppression. I mean it's so cheesy, but I just want to make the world better. Like what a dumpster fire and I look at the math of it's like so much of, I mean, so much of American history is … Well I've been reading Stamped from the Beginning, which is a book that I highly recommend by Ibram X. Kendi.

Lillian Medville: And he talks about like during slavery there were people who were anti racists and at that time the numbers have been roughly the same. So I look at, we have the people who are pro racism and there are people who are anti-racism and then there are people who are, he calls them assimilationist and they're like the moderates. They're like, they kind of go wherever. If we could get just a few more like moderates to come under the anti-racist, anti-oppression side, I just think we could make so much of a difference. So that's what I want.

Patrick Rauland: I love it. No, I love it. It's a pretty good goal

Lillian Medville: And it's a big goal. But I think I just, I want to do something that matters and I want to help other people do something that matters.

Overrated / Underrated Game

Patrick Rauland: Love it. So I've learned a lot already. I like to end this with a little game called overrated, underrated. Have you heard of it before?

Lillian Medville: No.

Patrick Rauland: Excellent. So basically I'm going to say a word or phrase and then I'm going to force you to pick either overrated or underrated. So you need to think if other people think it's overrated or underrated. So I could say Denver. And you gonna say obviously underrated, Patrick lived there, it's a very cool place.

Lillian Medville: Of course. Yes.

Patrick Rauland: Okay, great. So first one, prints and play files, meaning you can print the game out at home, using your printer and sleeve and all that stuff. Are those overrated or underrated?

Lillian Medville: Overrated.

Patrick Rauland: Overrated. Why is that?

Lillian Medville: Because printing is, well it depends on what you're doing, but I think it's just a lot of … I think it cuts so many cards. I have cut. And also if there are color cards, the ink is so expensive, it actually was cheaper to have someone else just print them for me.

Patrick Rauland: Oh, that's fascinating.

Lillian Medville: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: So relevant question, will you offer print and play files when you put your game on either Kickstarter or Indiegogo or will you not offer that?

Lillian Medville: I will not.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. All right. Good to know, South by Southwest, which now I know you know it, but is a technology, music and film conference. Is that overrated or underrated?

Lillian Medville: It is rated. I mean there's a lot of hype around South by Southwest.

Patrick Rauland: There's a lot.

Lillian Medville: But in my experience I've presented at South by Southwest EDU, two years in a row, this year in presenting at South by Interactive and south by EDU really started my business. I got my first big job through presenting there. It's been so pivotal for me, so I would say is exactly hyped at the exact rate it should be.

Patrick Rauland: All right. Because it is pretty highly rated, so it's good to know.

Lillian Medville: Yeah.

Patrick Rauland: So I'm going to go with something simple here. A weekly, like a regular weekly gaming group. Overrated or underrated?

Lillian Medville: Underrated.

Patrick Rauland: Okay. Why is that?

Lillian Medville: Because getting together with friends to play a game or just hang out, have an experience together like we need that.

Patrick Rauland: Love it. Last one. I think you'll like this one. YouTube comments. Overrated or underrated?

Lillian Medville: Oh, sorry. Overrated. What a piece of [inaudible 00:27:31] I have so many on my Ted Talk.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, you do.

Lillian Medville: Oh man. There's a lot of people who want me to kill myself. So it's a lot of really fun misspellings of Ju. Yeah. So or like a lot of people have accused me of stealing my concept from Amy Schumer, which is, amazing. So overrated, people are [inaudible 00:27:55]. Productive people will be, “She's so angry.” It's like, okay. If that's what you think anger is, interesting.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah.

Lillian Medville: It's a-

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, I'd say heard of polarized topics like this, they're really hard to have constructive comments. I totally, totally agree. If I just have a video on how to paint a wall inside my house, that's just like a useful thing. It's not [inaudible 00:28:28] and I think they're probably useful, but as soon as it gets to be something controversial, those YouTube comments go right down the drain.

Lillian Medville: Yeah. I mean. And also like, there's also though, there's like people who are like, “We hate you and you should kill yourself.” So there's that. And then there's the hate speech. And then there's also people who are like, “I think this idea is …” But then they're just kind of writing. They're saying nothing. Yeah, there's a lot of nothing on there.

Patrick Rauland: Not a lot of value. Yeah.

Lillian Medville: No a lot of value. I don't care. I mean, and I do keep reporting the people who told me to kill myself and fun fact YouTube refuses to take them down. So, that's some information for everyone.

Patrick Rauland: And to brighten your day.

Lillian Medville: If you want to tell me to kill myself, I will be unable to get YouTube to remove it so.

Patrick Rauland: You can delete the comments, but you can't [crosstalk 00:29:27].

Lillian Medville: No. I can't delete the comments because it's not my own. Because it's the Ted.

Patrick Rauland: So if it was you own video you could [crosstalk 00:29:36].

Lillian Medville: Yeah. But it's not my own. So I can't get them to do anything.

Patrick Rauland: Well, on that [crosstalk 00:29:44].

Lillian Medville: Note.

Wrap Up

Patrick Rauland: Passing notes. Thank you for being on the show Lillian. Where can people find you online?

Lillian Medville: Well, my Facebook page, Your Privilege is Showing is out there. I'm most active there. If you want to watch me lurk on Twitter, you can. I don't want to talk to you there, but you can follow me if you want at Lillian Medville on Twitter and I have my website, And then also, it's not up yet, but it will be soon. for the retail game. Please check it out. Please support the Indiegogo. That it will be posted the hopefully middle of February. I am very nervous.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah. Oh, I bet. So. Okay. Yeah. Do you have a date? By middle February, do you mean like the 15th or Is this like earlier? Yeah, just-

Lillian Medville: I don't know. There's no hard date. I'm just like, I'm not going to put that much pressure on myself. I'm just trying to get the box design done now. So I just want this to look friendly and also like a game but not like a game for children because it's not.

Patrick Rauland: Yes, love it, no, that's very helpful. What I'm going to try to do, listeners, is I'm going to try to hold this episode back until her Kickstarter or Indiegogo starts. I can't always do that if I run out of episodes, but I'll try to hold it back until your Kickstarter starts and then I'll release the episodes. So if you're listening to this, it should be live or, or it's far in the future and it's already over and you've become a millionaire already. So both of-

Lillian Medville: Yeah. That sounds like a real problem that I'm going to have.

Patrick Rauland: So listeners, if you like this podcast, please leave a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to this, if you leave a review, Lillian said that she will declare you a perfectly decent human in her next game of Your Privilege is Showing.

Lillian Medville: Yeah, perfectly adequate. That's what it is.

Patrick Rauland: Yeah, it's perfectly adequate, not decent. Perfectly adequate. There we go.

Lillian Medville: Descent. Adequate. Yes.

Patrick Rauland: So if this comes out at the middle or end of February [inaudible 00:31:30], which is a game I've been working on for a year. I think my game will be on there until February 20th. So theoretically this episode might overlap a little bit. You might have a few more weeks to go, or a few more days to go check it out on Kickstarter and back it if you want, you can visit the site I will have all the show notes up there. You can follow me on Twitter. I'm @bftrick that's Bs and board games [inaudible 00:31:49] and fun and trick as in trick taking game. That's all I got. So until next time everyone. Happy designing. Bye, Bye.

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