Death can be a tricky subject to discuss, even for those of us more morbidly-minded than most. It’s also endlessly, irresistibly fascinating and affects every single one of us. As our beloved Caitlin Doughty often reminds us, ignoring topics that frighten or make us uncomfortable only makes them scarier, whereas openly talking about them brings about understanding, which dispels fear and helps us connect with and support each other.
Since it’s important for us to talk about death, both as individual mortals and to further the death-positive movement, why not make a game of it to help facilitate the conversation? That’s precisely what Kimberley Mead and James Young have done by creating Morbid Curiosity, a card game that turns this inherently dark topic into a party game.
“Morbid Curiosity is not a harsh look at your own mortality, or some delicate, awkward conversation about the end of life. Rather, it is a unique, well crafted game that lets people look at death while having a good time. So kick off your shoes, sit down, and get to know Death a little better.”
In contrast to its complex and varied topic, the Morbid Curiosity game is simple to play. It consists of two decks of cards, one black and one white, both featuring a beautiful illustration of a death’s-head hawkmoth by Prem Krishnan on the back.
The black deck is comprised of two sorts of questions. There’s death-related trivia, with questions drawing from history, science, mythology, folklore, language, pop culture, and more. The correct answer to each question is provided on its respective card, so no one is left guessing. And then there are all-play cards, which have players work together to create a list of creative responses to a question and then chose the most unique or entertaining response as the winner.
The white deck consists of conversation cards. These cards pose questions about players’ personal experiences with death and death culture, postmortem wishes, thoughts about death-related activities or phenomena, and a variety of thought-provoking hypotheticals.
This is easily my favorite part of the game. Questions vary from lighthearted to deadly serious (pun very much intended) and the responses to either sort of question can be as sincere or irreverent as you like. Drawing again from Caitlin Doughty’s ongoing “Ask A Mortician” web series, using humor to broach death-related topics helps put people at ease. So even absurd responses given to some of the game’s more serious questions still encourage further conversation between players.
While playing Morbid Curiosity with our very own S. Elizabeth and Sonya Vatomsky they were posed with the question “What is the one thing you want people to do, or one thing you desperately do not want people to do, at your memorial/funeral?” S. Elizabeth responded:
“I want my remains to be cooked up brisket style and shared among my loved ones with delicious dipping sauces. Unfortunately I cannot get anyone to commit to this on my behalf.”
And Sonya said,
“I’ll be dead, so I’m not that fussed about what people do at my funeral. I mean, get my pronouns right and don’t dress me up in something I’d never wear while alive, but barring those bare minimum respect sort of things I’d like people to do whatever feels meaningful and healing to them.”
Later in the game, when asked “Which psychopomp do you want to escort you to the afterlife?” S. Elizabeth’s reply was,
“I think the aurora is considered a psychopomp of a sort. Or a cute, non-threatening corgi!”
And Sonya answered,
“Can I be evasive and say I don’t much want to be guided to the afterlife because I don’t want there to be an afterlife? I’m one of those cheery “death is death and that’s it” people, and honestly the finality of death has always been soothing to me. If there is an afterlife (ugh) I’ll take Nick Cave as a psychopomp, though. He could row me across the river singing ‘Little Empty Boat.’”
As the game is played, cards are awarded to players who first provide the correct answers to trivia questions or the most interesting, unique, or entertaining responses to conversation and all-play questions. But I found that keeping track of who’s winning quickly takes a backseat to getting caught up in the conversations sparked by game play, which is precisely what I love about the Morbid Curiosity game. It’s all about the individual personalities of the players and what they each bring to the table.
Morbid Curiosity is now available to order via the Morbid Curiosity store. I recommend playing with your favorite people and a batch of death-themed cocktails, say the Corpse Reviver #2 or Death in the Afternoon, and exploring the depths of each other’s morbid knowledge and experience.