A small red box held the key to a new kind of closeness in my apartment. It was in the form of a card game, one that changed my perception of people I knew for years. The game is called We’re Not Really Strangers.
I first saw an advertisement for the game on TikTok, it was an emotionally packed 30-second video that played somber music but had an inspirational message. Despite viewing it so long ago, it left a strange impact. I forget exactly what it said or when the video was made, but it always stayed in the back of my mind, having me wonder why this video was so emotional and how it could be a card game.
Then one day, I saw it on sale at Target a few weeks before the semester started so it was a fun random purchase, it fit right in with the week’s groceries.
Opening the game, it didn’t seem like much, just labels of the three levels on the little red and white box, some instructions, a notepad, pencils and the final card. If I were to describe its overall look, it almost looks like a friendlier version of Cards Against Humanity. We’re Not Really Strangers is less intimidating because rules are spelled out, yet more interesting because the ambiguity of the cards are not niche, and you can somehow think of an answer for every card at every level, but only if you’re willing to open up.
And that’s what the game is about, reading these simple, plain cards with statements and questions and making the most out of it. You can go as far into the questions as you feel comfortable, or uncomfortable, but that might be the point.
As I first played with my friends, we had trouble figuring out how many cards each of us should pull, let alone answer, since it said to pick a certain number of cards per level of the game. But we made it through the first level called “Perception,” despite our counting troubles. It was interesting that the game started off cautious with, “what does it look like my job is,” because I already knew all of my roommates’ majors and their career interests.
Level Two, or “Connection,” then jumps into how your experiences fit with one another, asking questions like “when was the last time you surprised yourself?” What an interesting progression, it was daring for a card game to advertise itself as appealing to play with strangers to get to know them, but also expect the players to open up as the cards told them to. But once again, it’s a choice to open up, and it’s telling if you shut down.
Then “what do you think I should know about myself that perhaps I’m unaware of” pops up on the third level of the game “Reflection.” Do you dare be perceived by others, is it possible to take things at surface value or do you shut down and decide to quit the game after you have invested so much time into it just because you feel uncomfortable? It’s a mind game disguised as a card game. It can also be so long or surprisingly short, depending on how you perceive it. There are even random fun questions and prompts mixed in, like talk in an accent until your next turn, but overall, this game is not for those who fear opening up.
I had thoughts while playing the game, listening to others’ answers, like whether I should be quiet, if I should ask to skip a card, to give short answers, but that didn’t seem like the point. This game is about learning more about yourself and about the people you play with, the people you surround yourself on a daily basis. It makes you think about how people see you, what connections you have with each other that you don’t normally think of.
I went into this game thinking it would be a short, fun, kind-hearted prompt game to connect with others. I left with a new dynamic to my friend group, with feelings revealed, sentiments spilled right out in the open and we were all so accepting of each issue and each other. It was fun. For $25, your life just might change in one night.