Death—It’s at the center of both Gothic literature (as one of the primal fears driving the atmosphere of dread) and the gothic subculture (as inspiration for its music, art, fashion, and overall aesthetic). But outside of the goth world, death can be a difficult topic to broach. Death and dying are taboo, especially in American society, and no one seems to want to talk about the one fate that awaits us all. That’s why Kimberly Mead created the game Morbid Curiosity to get everyone talking about death.
Morbid Curiosity is a death-centric card game that was funded on Kickstarter and released to the initial backers this past March. Therapist Kimberly Mead got the idea after seeing how children at a grief center approached the topic of death with playfulness and curiosity. She enlisted historian James Young and illustrator Prem Krishnan to help her create a game that would get adults to approach mortality in a similar way. I backed the Kickstarter when it launched in October 2016. In just one month, Kimberly and her team were able to raise $23,539—over twice her original goal! My set arrived in early April, just in time for me to bring it on a road trip with my dad to visit my sister and some friends. After playing it just a couple times, I think I can already say that Kimberly was successful in her aims.
The game combines death-related trivia with thought-provoking conversation starters so that you can learn about yourself and your friends as well as about death in general. The black trivia cards are mostly multiple-choice or true/false, along with a few “All Play” cards, which generally involve all players using pen and paper to brainstorm a creative answer or a list. The “All Play” cards are my favorite, and include everything from “List as many supernatural beings associated with death as you can” to “Come up with the *worst* slogan you can think of for a mortuary.” For these rounds, the winner is whoever guesses the correct trivia answer first, or for an “All Play” card, whoever has an answer that the judge finds most unique or entertaining. The conversation cards in the white deck are more serious. These contain questions like “Who do you want beside you when you die?” and “Is wearing jewelry that contains the ashes or hair of the dead disturbing or touching? Would you wear such jewelry?” Players go around sharing their answers, and the winner of these rounds is again determined subjectively by the judge. As in Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, the winner of each round is awarded a card to keep track of their score.
That’s about it for the rules. Gameplay is exceedingly simple and easily adjustable. You can play with virtually any number of people (greater than one), though the website suggests four to seven players. I first played the game in a group of about six, which worked out perfectly, but my dad and I also had a great time playing a modified version with no score-keeping one-on-one during the car ride home.
Overall, I was surprised by how much everyone got out of the game. I never really thought that I would be having casual conversations about death with my college classmates, my dad, and my sister’s boyfriend. But this game was able to bring us together to have these conversations all while laughing and having fun. You don’t even have to be naturally morbid or already have an interest in the topic of death to enjoy Morbid Curiosity—though it certainly helps (especially with the death trivia)!
You can buy your own set of Morbid Curiosity cards online here. And keep an eye on the site for news about possible expansion packs that are already in the works. If you get the game, be sure to tell me your thoughts in the comments!