At just 24 years old, Elize Diop is already a budding entrepreneur who is creating buzz with a new game some may deem controversial. Black Blocks is an unconventional card game she developed as a tool to “change the way we talk about race in the U.S.”
An Ethnic Studies graduate from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Diop first created the game as her final project for one of her last ethnic studies classes. Now, she is trying to mass produce the game so that more people can experience the game and understand the micro-aggressions African-Americans face while navigating their way through everyday life in America.
“I was able to translate a lot of the micro aggressions that black women face into a game that’s approachable and fun, but [where] you’re still learning at the same time,” Diop said.
The game uses black women and black men scenario cards. The goal is to discuss the scenarios and “what would you do questions” and, in the end, be the player to get rid of all of their blocks first. The game also includes a “Black Fact Booklet” to give players more information about some of the situations or material on some of the cards. Topics that the game also addresses are ethnicity, skin color, gender, class, sexuality and religion.
While she has received some flak about the game from some individuals, Diop is not overly concerned with the game being considered too much or too little for the serious topic.
“Everyone who has a problem with the game because maybe it’s too serious, or maybe because they think it’s too light, needs to play the game,” Diop said. She believes that will help them to get a better understanding and really appreciate the game.
Diop is currently trying to raise $18,000 on Kickstarter to produce the first 1,200 copies of Black Blocks, since currently she only has a few prototypes.
“It would mean Black Blocks could become a reality,” she said.
“What I’ve noticed is that people succeed more on Kickstarter when there’s already a buzz around their product…they already have a fan base,” Diop explained. If the money is not raised on Kickstarter, Diop plans to pursue other marketing options in order to spread the word about the game before giving crowdfunding another go.
The feedback that she has received has greatly helped her to develop the game into what it is now. Initially, it was a board game, and then there was a stage where players would just draw a card and either pick up or discard a block – there was not a lot of interaction. Noticing how people reacted to some of her cards is what made her change the game’s play.
“I [had] to find a way to incorporate people’s personal opinions on race,” she said, which is what allowed her to create a game with a strong foundation around heated discussion.
Testing the game on different audiences, including her class and a church group amongst others, also helped Diop to learn more about the dynamic that the game creates amongst groups, and allowed her to see the awareness that the game could raise.
Diop hopes to eventually expand her game by adding different subcategories to appeal to different crowds, such as students or professionals and creating a children’s version as well.
Steph Elizondo is an intern at Lioness. The 21-year-old Western New England University (WNEU) junior is an English-Literature major. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine at WNEU, as well as a staff writer for the school’s newspaper. She enjoys writing stories and poetry creatively, as well as essays and articles professionally. She hopes to become a professional writer and editor.