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Bridging Divides through Fun and Games

people divided on issues can talk and actively listen to come to a better understanding

If you listen or watch anything other than sports talk radio and entertainment columnists, it’s hard to avoid the emphasis on how divided communities have become in the United States.

In a study published February of this year, the Pew Research Center found, “Twenty years ago, and even as recently as 2014, the top priorities of Democrats and Republicans were much more aligned than they are today. In 1999, improving the educational system topped the list of priorities for both Republicans and Democrats, and four of the top five issues for Republicans were listed among the Democrats’ top five issues as well.” So what’s happened? At the end of 2016, 75% of Americans said this problem has reached a crisis level, and 56% said they believe it will only get worse.

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us. - Jo Cox

But you also see call from all sides for more bi-partisan discussions and work towards finding common ground. And a lot of discussion of when is finding common ground possible or even appropriate. So how do we decide? When can we leave a topic as something we don’t talk about with certain people, and when should we refuse to compromise on our beliefs? The answer may be: do both.

To accomplish all of these very complex goals, one group decided that they wanted to create a program to foster open and honest discussions in communities around the country. The National Conversation Project started the National Week of Conversation to do just that. Starting in April of 2018, with discussions taking place in 32 states, the NWOC has spread their message by partnering with over 175 organizations around the country who are interested in the same thing: creating positive discourse.

Coming at the same problem from a different direction, Mixed Company began with the idea of bringing people from different backgrounds and with different opinions together using a simple card game to facilitate bridging gaps and learning more about people in their own communities. When we were developing the idea that would become Mixed Company, I was discussing the concept with a colleague. “It’s not like I can walk up to someone and say, ‘Will you be my black friend?’” he said when I asked why he wasn’t talking with people from different backgrounds about a political topic he wanted new perspectives on. And as I’ve met with people in all kinds of different settings, he’s not alone. Sometimes the difficulty isn’t the desire to learn more about why someone else has a differing opinion, it’s finding a way to sit down and have a discussion about it with them that leads to real conversation.

When we found the NWOC soon after getting started, it seemed like a perfect fit. So for the National Week of Conversation in April 2019, we’ve created a special Mixed Company expansion pack of questions. Aligning perfectly with the core of our mission, we elected to focus on “Bridging Divides”. The questions focus on how players see division in their communities, how they experience it themselves, and how they want to find ways to bridge those gaps. These questions are designed to give room for players from all views to explore how they’re the same or different.

Hosting a local event in the Oklahoma City metro area where we’re based, the Mixed Company team of creators and volunteers is bringing together members of the community to discuss what divisions they experience day to day and what they can do to bridge those spaces through creative conversation and game play.

But, since everyone can’t join in at the same time, we’ve also decided to share the questions we’ve created to pair up with our Print and Play version of Mixed Company so that any group of three to six players can also join in the NWOC as well! We hope this makes it even easier for you or someone else to host your own event to join in through NWOC. When you do, please come and share your discussions and games with us at Mixed Company on Facebook so we can expand the #ListenFirst experience even farther.

All images, artwork, content, and game materials are Copyright ©2018-2023 Mixed Company Games