If someone told you, “I played the game with my Dad and saw him cry for the third time in my life as a 25 year old. This was a beautiful way to be emotional and vulnerable with him. Conversations of similar nature have flowed with ease ever since,” how would you feel? Would you be intrigued to find out what game this person played? Would you think about the recent conversations you’ve had with the people in your life and wonder if you felt connected to them?
You might be familiar with the red card game called “We’re Not Really Strangers” that on the side of the box reads “Come Curious,” and “Leave Connected.” WNRS was created in November 2018, at a time in the world where it feels like many of us are strangers to each other—even those who we live with or spend a lot of time with. There are various excuses we could make for why people appear less engaged, friendly and charismatic nowadays. I mean, life is busy, people are rushed and seeking out community is just too vulnerable. I’ve made all of these excuses and more, but I believe the real reason we see one another as strangers is not that we don’t have the time, but that we don’t make the time to truly listen.
My first experience playing WNRS was with my family during quarantine. My family was a bit hesitant at first, I mean, does anybody want to play a game where you’re forced to share your emotions? However, within 10 minutes of the game, I was learning things about my family that I had never known before and heard about the memories my parents cherished from their childhood. The game has three levels, which are meant to be played in order.The first level is titled perception, the second level is connection and the third level is titled reflection. An example of a level one question is: “Would plants thrive or die in my care,” an example of a level 2 question is “What is a lesson you should’ve learned by now,” and an example of a level 3 question is “What about me surprised you most.” All of the levels are intended to build intimacy and connection with the people you are playing with.
One of the most important things I have learned in my life is that humans are complex. Nowadays, it’s so common for others to shut down or disregard one another once they realize that they have a different opinion on something big or small. However, the reason why I love this game is because it allows people to “dig deeper” with one another–past everything that often makes others shut each other out. In WNRS, differences of opinion surrounding politics, religion or morals wouldn’t be uncommon to come up. However, I believe that what makes this game so special is that despite differences, the conversation will continue, which is something that doesn’t often happen anymore in real life.
Similar to the creator of WNRS, I also believe in the power of vulnerability and connection. In my experiences, it has been the time where I’ve been the most raw and vulnerable and I’ve left feeling the most connected and alive. After reading other people’s experiences playing the WNRS game, it feels silly to try and hold in emotions or how we feel about one another. A couple of stories seen on WNRS Instagram that have really resonated with me are: “I played WNRS on one of my first dates with my now fiance… a similar card to this came up and we both agreed to call someone and tell them we love them. I called my brother, but he didn’t pick up. However, my brother texted me a few hours later and we had a fantastic conversation all because I called to say I love him. He passed away a few weeks later… Having that text conversation is one of the very few things that brings me peace around his passing. Tell people you love them often, you never know when it could be the last time.”
Another experience reads “I played with my best friend last Friday and one question was something like: ‘What do you admire most about me?’ We ended up crying loads because of all the things we physically admire about each other were all the things we hated about ourselves. It’s hard to be a teenage girl and love your body. But I woke up the next morning, and it was the first time I ever really felt beautiful. I even wrote a poem about it, it was such a new feeling.”
These stories reveal the incredible part about the game, building connections and strengthening relationships. Sometimes when I am having a bad day or feel disconnected from the world, I find myself wandering the WNRS instagram page to look for stories like these that reveal the complexity and wonder of the human experience and remember how intertwined I am with it all.
We’re Not Really Strangers gives me hope for a better world and a world where strangers view each other as allies rather than enemies. I can’t guarantee that this game can be played without tears, but what I can guarantee is, if you give this game a chance, it could very well change the relationship you have with others or yourself.