The plan for this game was to get a group of friends together and give each player a pack of post-it notes. Each player would get their own color, and be told to explore a traditional Supermarket and seek out items that would seem vegetarian to them. They would then check the ingredients of the product to see whether or not their instinct was correct. If the product they selected has meat in it, like a Twinkie, then they would need to write the meat product on their top post-it and place it on the product before moving on. Once a player has placed five post-it notes, they report to the game master, a third party with no real stake in the outcome of the game. If someone were seeking to make this into a competitive game, these times would be the competing factor determining who winner and losers were.
The goal of this was to make people that are unfamiliar with vegetarian dining see how difficult it is to deal with being vegetarian in America.
Additionally, the idea was to also leave big post-its with an explicit statement about the meat contained in each of these products, most of which are bought without much thought. This adds an extra element to the intervention, one that persists after the intervention takes place.
The unfortunate thing about being Vegetarian is that most of your friends are aware of your limits, and are therefore more educated about what to look for in a vegetarian product. This foreknowledge ended up ruining the “raw experience” I originally intended to create. That said, it did result in a few surprises.
For instance- chewy chocolate chip cookies are often back with Egg involved. Like cake, these cookies need a pliable bonding agent, which made this image all the more entertaining:
Chips ahoy Chewy Cookies do not actually have egg in them. Does this make the product an healthier? HIGHLY doubt it. But this does make them conducive to a vegetarian diet.
Another issue with this idea was that having too large a group would attract too much attention. Our third playtest had five players, and that got management involved, claiming that we were marking up products in a manner that the management approved. This may have also been instigated by one of the previous playtests, during which I tried to use Sharpies on the products themselves.
I WAS FORCED TO BUY COOKIES.
Our second playthrough, we tried using Sharpies on Post-it notes. We stuck with the post-it notes ideas, but ditched the Sharpies because the markers kept bleeding through the Sticky Notes we purchased.
Finding volunteers for this intervention was also a major factor. Scheduling kept on messing up our plans to test out the game. Additionally, after the first playthrough elicited a negative response, most of my friends got a bit camera shy.
Most of them did not want to play again anyways, as these playtests were performed during times when the Grocery store we used was extremely busy. The crowd became a much bigger factor in the intervention than I had expected, as the human traffic often ground the gameplay to a halt. Most of the players often ended up shopping on the side as well, but that was because most of them actually had shopping to do. This made the times difficult to gauge.
Another huge factor involved with the success of this project is the fact that people have different ideas of what is vegetarian. Vegans, Ovavegetarians, those Vegetarians-to-whom-fish-isn’t-meat- there are a lot of different definitions of what is really ok for Vegetarians to eat. Unfortunately, the group I managed to assemble seemed to share similar views on vegetarianism, even though I made it a point not to define the term in any way before starting each game.
The game I ended up properly recording was a smaller game, with three players around lunch time, when the store was reasonably empty. The players all went ahead and went about tagging faux-veg items.