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board games, therapeutic games, relationality, counterculture, domesticity, Group Therapy, Ungame

Gaming Families

Therapeutic Board Games and Interpersonal Communication

Reem Hilu (Washington University in St. Louis)


Board games have historically served as important tools to mediate interpersonal interactions in the home and have often engaged with changing ideals of intimacy and sociability circulating in US culture more broadly. This essay discusses the way that two therapeutic board games, Group Therapy (1969) and the Ungame (1972), translated emerging ideas about the importance of open and authentic communication arising in therapeutic culture and circulating in popular and countercultural settings at the time and adapted them for use by families and groups playing together in their homes. These games offered tools to facilitate less inhibited and more connected approaches to relating, but they did not extend beyond the goal of improved communication and interpersonal interactions, leaving larger social structures untouched. The therapeutic games analyzed in this essay demonstrate the potentials and limitations involved in attempts to utilize games to imagine better forms of relating.


In “The Games Bunkers Play,” a 1973 episode of the popular television program All in the Family (1971–79), the Bunkers gather with friends to play a board game called Group Therapy (Park Plastics, 1969). In this game, players draw cards prompting them to share intimate information with the group who then judge the authenticity of these confessions. Over the course of the episode, the game provokes a number of humorous disputes and disclosures about the nature of the long-standing relationships among family members and friends. This dynamic is not entirely out of the ordinary for this television program. The show is driven by generational family disputes, particularly between the conservative patriarch Archie Bunker and his daughter and son-in-law, who represent an unfamiliar youth culture. This episode disrupts this pattern by excluding Archie from most of the story after he refuses to play the game. With Archie gone, the Group Therapy board game becomes the tool through which new patterns of alliances and divisions surface in this group of family, friends, and neighbors. For example, the Bunkers’ neighbor Lionel pulls a card prompting him, “Choose a member of the group. Now standing back to back and pushing each other, tell him why it is hard for you to be direct with him.” Lionel chooses his friend Mike and confronts Mike for treating him differently because he is black. Mike, who thinks of himself as liberal and antiracist, refuses to accept the validity of this critique and resists the type of transformative knowledge and intimacy that the game aims to create. Mike continues to put up resistance over the course of the rest of the episode, and his protestations against the other players for not meeting his conception of what is honest and authentic then instigate multiple other humorous situations, jokes, and arguments.

Although Group Therapy might seem like a comic fiction created to drive the humor and drama of this television episode, this was in fact a real commercial board game published a few years earlier in 1969. Group Therapy is one example of a crop of therapeutic board games released in the late 1960s and early 1970s that drew on emerging ideas about the importance of open and authentic communication in order to model improved interpersonal interactions for their players. This essay will focus on two such games, Group Therapy and the Ungame (Au-Vid, 1972), in order to analyze how they translated ideas about authentic and functional communication, arising in therapeutic practice and popularized by association with countercultural and youth movements, to the interpersonal relationships in middle-class families and suburban homes. I argue that these games provided playful tools through which suburban, middle-class players could model the types of intensive group experiences encouraged in emergent therapeutic practices. These ideals of communication emphasized the importance of uninhibited expression, constant feedback, and acute awareness of how individuals fit into group dynamics. My analysis of Group Therapy and the Ungame offers two central contributions to the study of media and games. First, these games illuminate changing communication and interpersonal ideals in the late sixties and seventies as they originated in psychotherapy and spread into both countercultural settings and middle-class homes. This article also elucidates an understudied element of board game history by closely investigating how these particular therapeutic games fit into domestic life in this period. This analysis thus situates board games as media of interpersonal relationality.

The pursuit of new and better forms of communication was a widespread interest in the 1960s and 1970s, embraced both in clinical and more popular cultural settings—as were the practices and tools designed for reaching better communication and relationality.1 This period saw the rise and popularization of the related fields of gestalt therapy, humanistic psychology, and the human potential movement—and associated techniques of group therapy. Their various proponents encouraged a psychological perspective focused on human growth and development that situated the individual in a holistic perspective as part of complex systems.2 Not limited to academic psychology, these ideas developed into new forms of therapy that utilized group encounters and dynamics to facilitate individual growth and develop better group relations. The Esalen Institute, formed in California in 1962, played a major role in spreading the influence of these new methods, such as encounter groups and sensitivity training. According to historian Jessica Grogan, “Esalen groups were defined by the principle of ‘letting it all hang out.’ Openness and directness were the currency.”3 Esalen attracted participants both from countercultural and mainstream lifestyles and garnered the attention of the press and popular culture, which dispersed stories of these encounter groups widely in magazines and newspapers as well as on television.4

Group Therapy and the Ungame draw on emerging communication ideals that originated from psychological discourses and practices but that were often brought to national attention by their association with countercultural figures and their connotation of youthful or hip lifestyles. The games examined here regularly employ rhetoric we associate with the counterculture: letting it all hang out, telling it like it is, tuning in, and being with it. Yet, I do not mean to imply that these games were necessarily played by members of the counterculture defined strictly as hippies, communalists, or New Left activists. Rather, they make use of countercultural rhetoric in the more diffuse form that this took as it was broadly embraced in the sixties and seventies, primarily as a hip or loose rhetorical style that could be molded to many projects. This embrace of looseness found its way into sources as disparate as network television, men’s fashion, advertising, and even board games.5 In fact, as Thomas Frank has argued, the binary constructed in histories of the 1960s, between a grass-roots counterculture and a corporate mass culture, underplays the extent to which mass and popular culture texts embraced stylistic aspects of the counterculture.6 The games described in this essay are an example of this. They borrow turns of phrase associated with countercultural lifestyles, but they are more directly influenced by therapeutic practice in the methods they used to facilitate transformed communication.

My understanding of this rhetorical style is influenced by sociologist Sam Binkley’s conception of “getting loose.” Binkley argues that perhaps the most lasting influence of the countercultural movements of the 1960s can be found in the way they brought discourses of looseness into white, middle-class lifestyle practices that entered the mainstream. I share Binkley’s understanding of getting loose as a balance between a desire for authentic release and a process of constant monitoring of the self. According to Binkley, to be loose, “one had to plumb the depths of one’s authenticity, setting aside egoism and phoniness, avoiding cop-outs and put-ons, and release oneself into the unmediated immediacy of the other.”7 Looseness, as Binkley describes it, is a complex and even contradictory ideal toward which to strive because in encouraging individuals to let go and liberate themselves, it required an intense amount of self-monitoring and activity to assure that one had truly achieved the loose ideal.

Unlike Binkley, I use different objects to understand how this looseness associated with hip or countercultural lifestyles came to be embraced by middle-class, suburban families. This results in some significant departures from his account. My argument analyzes looseness as it circulated in therapeutic board games targeted to white, middle-class players. The vision of looseness in these games draws heavily on the way communication ideals were developing within clinical and group therapeutic circles, ideals also embraced by countercultural or hip figures. The communication ideals in Group Therapy, for example, were most directly influenced by encounter groups and gestalt therapy, which is evident in the way that this game conceives of group experience, emphasizes player feedback, and utilizes performance and gesture-based challenges.

Group Therapy and the Ungame share a faith in interventions in communication as the means through which familial and intimate relations could be improved. Like psychotherapeutic sources, their communication ideal is based on less inhibited expressions of emotion, emphasis on the importance of reflexivity and feedback, and increased focus on listening and group awareness, which were offered in contrast to the type of hung-up and inhibited modes of relating associated with middle-class, suburban families of the period. By focusing on remediating existing interpersonal relationships, these games stopped short of the more radical change espoused by some of the countercultural sources whose rhetoric they deployed. They were addressed largely to white, middle-class, suburban families and their effectiveness was interpreted within the bounds imposed by this imaginary of how family life and intimacy should be organized. These games did not advise players to abandon the family or the suburban home as a center of relationality or call for the creation of new communes or utopian communities—the type of radical changes advocated by some countercultural figures—nor did the accounts situating these games in popular discourse. Instead, these games were interpreted largely as a way to facilitate more functional and open communication between family members, couples, and other players who were already familiar and connected by existing bonds. Rather than attempting to bypass the family form, they relied on conventions of board gaming to achieve these ideals of communication within familial and intimate groups.

Board games hold an uncertain place in the study of video games and games more generally. For example, in their article, “Hegemony of Play,” Fron et al. contrast board games with the video game industry, suggesting that the board game industry has historically been more inclusive of different types of players. They point to the involvement of women in board game design and playtesting as well as the tendency in box-cover design to depict players of different ages and genders.8 They suggest video games might “follow in the footsteps of George Parker [the board game industry leader] to return game playing to a more inclusive activity that embraces diverse interests and embraces the whole family.”9 On the other hand, in their call for queering human-game relations, Naomi Clark and merritt k briefly note that board games—in addition to digital games rather than in contrast to them—have been tied up with gendered and sexualized oppression that young people are often forced to experience when playing games with their families growing up.10 As both these accounts suggest, board games have a historical association with family life that embeds them in intimate forms of play and that ties them to larger cultural ideologies and unequal relations associated with the family. But rather than understand board games as either more inclusive or more normative because of this association, a closer attention to the particular ways that board games have fit into family life is a necessary step toward understanding how these games, and the conventions of gaming more generally, have been used, and can be used in the future, as tools to remediate patterns of relating.

It is in pursuit of this goal of exploring the way that games can facilitate modes of relating that a closer attention to the history of board games is needed. Board games have appeared only occasionally as subjects of media and game studies. Most of the existing work on board games concerns their role in military and educational simulations, approaches them as media for role-playing, or considers them as fragments of larger transmedia texts.11 In my own approach, rather than consider how board games simulate complex systems, foster role-play experiences, or offer extensions of narrative world building, I am interested in the way they work on their players by modeling alternative interpersonal dynamics. This is a different accounting of the way that games work on players and shape game culture. Group Therapy and the Ungame present examples in which board games functioned as tools to intervene in what was perceived as dysfunctional modes of communication associated with suburban family life. These games addressed players as part of intimate familial groups but sought to model what were imagined as more authentic and equitable forms of relating within this setting.

“Where You’re At”: Situating Therapeutic Games in Board Game History

It might seem unusual for commercial games in the late 1960s and early 1970s to engage with such topical and possibly alienating cultural elements as group therapy, encounter groups, and hip forms of talk. In fact, the board game industry has had a long history of drawing on current events and fads as well as modeling novel forms of communication in the home. The early games industry did not shy away from contemporary issues of political and social importance as the basis for game content. In her survey of American board games, Margaret Hofer suggests that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, games relied on references to current events and rapid social change to enliven family play. She notes for example the many board games that quickly took up the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a game theme, such as Uncle Sam at War with Spain (1898) and Schley at Santiago Bay (1899). Hofer also notes games that depicted emerging technologies, such as automobiles (The Horseless Carriage Race, 1900), telephones (The Sociable Telephone, 1902), and radio (Radio Questionaire [sic], 1928).12 As these examples show, board games were understood as an appropriate medium through which to explore cultural change within the family circle.

In addition to this tendency to draw on contemporary events and cultural crazes, Group Therapy and the Ungame are also in line with a common interest in the board game industry to offer games that engaged with changing norms of sociability and conversation.13 As the American board game industry developed in late nineteenth century, game makers were sensitive to the role that games would play in the home and how they would be incorporated into family life.14 In later decades, as public amusements were often blamed for drawing families apart by inducing them out of the home and into a threatening working-class culture, reformers and experts in family and child-rearing responded by promoting play in the home as a key to family togetherness. Describing these changes at the turn of the century, Lisa Jacobson argues that, at this time, “play itself became essential to stabilizing and buttressing the emerging companionate family ideal” in response to perceptions of the “crisis” of the family.15 As she explains, play and games in the home were part of “efforts to revitalize the domestic sphere and modernize family relations.” This included the promotion of a family ideal in which relations between family members were to be based on companionship and affection rather than on strict discipline and control. Play was an ideal instrument in this transformation because it allowed for informal interactions and could “combat the allures of mass recreation” by incorporating the excitement associated with consumer culture into the safe and supervised spaces of the home.16 As Jacobson’s analysis helps us see, games and play have held a complex role within changing family structures. Games worked to reinforce the white, middle-class, companionate family ideal but did so by helping to facilitate more democratic and affectionate relationships within the home.

In fact, many games in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century worked specifically to foster playful conversations between family members that may not have otherwise been a familiar form of interaction. One of the earliest family game genres, alongside simple track games, was games known as conversation cards.17 Conversation cards generally consist of two sets of cards, one set printed with questions and another set with answers, and the objective of the game is to create comical juxtapositions of question and answer, most often through the random drawing of cards. Conversation cards at the turn of the century can be understood as a factor in the increasing informality encouraged for domestic interactions that marked the emerging companionate family ideal. Therefore, it was not unexpected that games would be viewed as a tool for introducing new communication ideals to the family in later decades. When discourses about dysfunctional communication and families in crisis came to dominate discussions of family life in the 1960s and 1970s, board games offered both a route for these discourses to enter the home and also a familiar tool for adapting these ideas to the needs of domestic play and intimate relationships.

Both the historical tendency in board gaming to broach topical subjects and the interest in engaging with emerging ideals of talk and sociability came together in therapeutic board games of the 1960s and 1970s. Popular psychological and therapeutic trends were one topic commonly exploited by many board games during this period. A number of games with explicitly psychological or psychotherapeutic themes were published beginning in the late 1950s. For example, Person-alysis (1957) was a game “based on the latest psychological testing techniques” in which players gave their responses to Rorschach-like inkblots. A booklet included with the game offered interpretations of common responses and even scored these replies.18 NBC and Hasbro partnered to publish a game called Interpretation of Dreams in 1969 which also tapped into psychological trends to try to create a playful social experience based around dream interpretation. Similarly, Shrink (1971) promises insight into the minds of other players primarily through techniques of image association.19 All these games attempted to create a playful social gaming experience by relying on popular interest in therapeutic methods and even incorporated these to some degree into the game in the form of inkblots and other testing techniques.

Within this trend, some games arose that used therapeutic themes in ways that engaged more deeply with changes in the communication and interaction ideals of the late 1960s and 1970s that were developing in group therapeutic circles. Like Group Therapy and the Ungame, these games did not merely offer therapeutic techniques for entertaining social play, but instead promised that they would work on their players and help them achieve more ideal relationships. Other examples of such games include Intimacy (1977), a game aimed at couples that promised “in just a few hours, you will experience openness and closeness that could have taken years,”20 The Games People Play Game (1967), Sensitivity (Sensitivity Games, 1969), Community (Family Pastimes, 1972), Choices (Family Pastimes, 1976), Social Security (Ungame, 1976), and Roll-a-Role (Ungame, 1976). These games not only referred to themes of therapeutic communication but also were represented as therapeutic interventions into the ways that couples, friends, and families interact.

“Telling It Like It Is”: Loose Communication Ideals in Therapeutic Board Games

Group Therapy is one example of this type of therapeutic game. Group Therapy even boasted that it was prepared with the assistance of a psychotherapist practicing in New York City.21 As described briefly above, in Group Therapy, players move around a game board in which they progress from “hung up” at the starting space to “free” at the end of the board (fig. 1).

Figure 1

Group Therapy (Park Plastics, 1969), game board. (Image courtesy of author)

Along the way, players pick up “therapist” cards that pose questions and challenges that each player must respond to on their turn. After each player performs their response, other players then judge the authenticity of that performance to determine how many spaces on the board that player will move. Created in consultation with psychotherapist Joseph Schlichter, Group Therapy was published by a toy company called Park Plastics. With a history in the toy industry going back at least to the 1950s, Park Plastics produced mostly outdoor toys such as squirt guns, plastic rockets, and rocket launchers.22 Group Therapy represented a departure from this background in children’s lawn toys. Park Plastics’ interest in a game based on group encounters could potentially be explained by their tendency to market toys related to emerging fads. Following the success of Group Therapy, Park Plastics also marketed Couples (1971), a game that called itself “a new concept in home entertainment.”23 Couples represented an extension of Park Plastics’ success with Group Therapy into a game more explicitly targeting adult couples to play together while maintaining the focus on interpersonal relationships.

The Ungame (Au-Vid, 1972) is another instructive example of this focus on improved interpersonal communication as a technique for both family leisure and family improvement. In the Ungame, players roll dice to traverse a round track with several forking paths, although notably, there is no end to this track and players are encouraged to play as long as they desire or decide on a pre-set duration of play (fig. 2).

Figure 2

The Ungame (Au-Vid, 1972 ) , game board. (Image courtesy of author)

Some spaces on this board direct players to draw “Tell it like it is” cards that ask them to answer questions about themselves. Other spaces marked “do your own thing” allow players an opportunity to comment on an answer that a previous player gave or instead to ask a question they want answered by another member of the family. A third set of “hang up” spaces directs players to move off the main game track if they have recently been guilty of the inhibited, or “hung up,” behavior described on the space.

As noted in the promotional materials for this game and in many newspaper articles reporting on it, the Ungame was designed by Rhea Zakich, a self-described housewife, after her doctor ordered her not to speak at all for three months because of a throat condition. Zakich describes how her inability to speak forced her to become aware of a loneliness and failure to communicate in her family and community that she realized preexisted her throat condition. Zakich became so desperate and isolated from her family that she was inspired to invent a game that would help them connect and listen to each other better. The game’s promotion retells the story of Zakich’s subsequent conversion from “the stereotype of the suburban housewife” to “interpersonal communication specialist.”24 After failing to get interest in the game from toy and game companies, Zakich was eventually contacted by Au-Vid, a company that up to that point had specialized in audiovisual aids for medical training. Although Zakich designed her game for use by her own family, Au-Vid recognized in the game the potential for training nursing students to be more sensitive to their patients.25 In its many subsequent editions, the Ungame was marketed to families, church groups, schools, and counseling professionals.

Although many games were published in the late 1960s and early 1970s that engaged with therapeutic material in order to intervene in family and interpersonal dynamics, Group Therapy and the Ungame represent two of the more popular and widely discussed examples of this genre of game. Group Therapy was extensively covered in newspaper articles in the years after it was published, and as noted above, it was even featured on an episode of the highest-rated television program in 1973. The Ungame was also a popular and highly publicized therapeutic game that was reported to have sold half a million copies within the first five years of its release.26 This game is additionally significant because of its continuing popularity: it is still sold by major retailers to this day and has been published in many different countries and languages. The popularity and discussion initiated by these games make them productive examples through which to trace the way that emerging therapeutic communication ideals were adapted for popular, domestic play in American middle-class homes in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Board games represented a vehicle for communication ideals to be transported from the clinical settings of family and group therapy to the middle-class, suburban spaces where families gathered to play together in their homes. As discussed previously, the desire for seemingly more liberated and loose forms of talk was a cultural preoccupation in the 1960s and 1970s. In psychiatric family therapy and group therapy, this was manifested in a valuing of spontaneity over rigid patterns of communicating, while in encounter groups it was described as techniques that encouraged participants “to bare their own souls and strip away one another’s defensive facades.”27 Therapeutic board games like Group Therapy and the Ungame not only drew on and repeated therapeutic communication styles and loose terminology, but they also provided the structure for families to practice these new ideals of interpersonal communication in their own homes.

Although group psychotherapy encompasses disparate practices and ideologies, accounts often locate its origins in the training groups carried out by Kurt Lewin and colleagues in 1946–47. Lewin’s work began as experiments in training educators and social workers in better skills for interpersonal interaction in order to foster change, especially with regard to prejudice and race relations. In these early experiments, Lewin quickly became aware of the importance of reflexivity and feedback about group relations as a tool for fostering the desired group insight and change. From these origins, the group therapeutic process spread widely and took on many forms as sensitivity training, encounter groups, gestalt groups, and sensory or body awareness groups, among others.28 What all these phenomena shared in common was the focus on intensive group experience as a therapeutic technique.

While group experiences developed in multiple cultural contexts, some common features united their approach to fostering better communication and interpersonal interaction. In his attempt to inventory these commonalities, Carl Rogers, a leader in humanistic psychology and practitioner of group therapy, included such features as, “a focus on process and dynamics of immediate personal interactions”; reduction of defensiveness and increase of freedom of expression—especially of immediate feelings and reactions; awareness of the integration of emotional, intellectual, and physical states; and “a development of feedback from one person to another, such that each individual learns how he appears to others and what impact he has in interpersonal relationships.”29 Many of these same paradigms from psychotherapeutic settings were being modeled in commercial board games like Group Therapy and the Ungame. I will focus especially on the way these games attempt to model the effort to decrease defensiveness and increase freedom of expression of immediate feelings, the importance of feedback, and the fostering of sensory or physical awareness of the group as a whole and of one’s relations to others within that group.

The contexts surrounding the production of Group Therapy and the Ungame exemplify the manner by which loose communication ideals were translated to mainstream middle-class life through designing games. These two examples represent distinct paths through which these transfers could occur. For Group Therapy, ideas circulating in psychotherapy and encounter groups were developed for board gaming through consultation with a psychotherapy professional.30 Alternatively, the designer of the Ungame described her knowledge of these ideals of communication as arising from her experiences with urban communities and through other secondhand sources representing the mainstream popularization of emerging loose communication ideals.

Group Therapy’s attempt to use gaming to facilitate better relationality can be traced in part to the background of Joseph Schlichter, the psychotherapist who consulted on the game. Schlichter had previously experimented with applying game-like methods in order to facilitate intensive group experiences and work against inhibited or conventional interactions. Before his involvement with the board game, Schlichter began his career as a dancer and choreographer involved in the Judson Dance Theater in New York. This was a short-lived dance company that experimented in postmodern and avant-garde dance practices and was associated with important figures from the avant-garde art world during its three-year run between 1962 and 1964. While a member of the Judson group, Schlichter’s interest in game-like performances can be seen in a dance he choreographed called Faces of the Coin. This performance involved an arrangement of numbered chairs, each holding a stack of cards with instructions on them. These instructions would either give performance prompts to the dancers, such as “Sing something” or “Climb a wall for 30 seconds,” or direct dancers to move to another chair and follow the directions at this new space. These directions resemble gameplay in that they rely on moving spaces (from chair to chair), drawing cards, and following these prompts as the basis for performance.31 According to dance historian Sally Banes, part of the critical value attributed to this performance was the improvisation and collaboration allowed by having the dancers follow instructions from randomly selected cards.32 This performance shows an earlier success that Schlichter had using games to foster more meaningful interpersonal interaction—in this case between dancers.

Schlichter’s interest in using intensive group experiences to foster better relating was further developed by his later training in psychotherapy. After his experience as a dancer with the Judson group, Schlichter received a master’s degree in dance therapy in 1964, producing a thesis on what he called “Psychodance Therapy.” This graduate training resulted in an incorporation of gestalt and movement therapy into Schlichter’s later publications and therapeutic practice in which he treated patients in groups using movement- and gesture-based prompts.33 Schlichter was the leader of his own encounter groups where he treated patients in ways similar to the encounter groups and sensitivity training that was being practiced in countercultural centers such as Esalen. Schlichter was even a presenter at an Esalen-like workshop in the Adirondacks that attempted to teach participants about gestalt therapy and the human potential movement.34 As I will describe later, the influence of this training on Group Therapy can be seen in the way this game emphasizes both movement and verbal challenges and in how the game incorporates a focus on process and feedback that were characteristic of encounter groups.

Where Group Therapy incorporated approaches to communication deriving from gestalt therapy and encounter groups through the influence of Schlichter, the Ungame’s interest in looser ideals of communication originated from very different sources. Zakich, the game’s creator, attributed her throat condition as the direct cause leading her to make the Ungame. Yet, her narrative about creating the game, as laid out in many articles about her as well as in her memoir, Everybody Wins, suggests that the impetus for the game arose from multiple sources.

In her own account, Zakich does not suggest that her notions about communication came directly from group therapy or countercultural and youth movements. Instead, her memoir serves indirectly as evidence of the ubiquity of these loose or hip communication ideals. In describing her inspiration, Zakich cites a mix of sources including the black community in Watts, the local television news, church group events, and even popular magazines as leading to her conversion into a communication specialist. For example, when trying to find a publisher for the game, Zakich reached out to the editors of Psychology Today because, as she explains, “It occurred to me that maybe only certain kinds of people would enjoy this kind of game, but who were they? Maybe people interested in psychology. I’d been reading lately about encounter groups and places like Esalen, where people go to get in touch with their feelings.”35 Although this does not prove that Zakich was directly influenced by the growing encounter group movement, it does indicate that discourses about these phenomena were so widespread as to appear familiar even to this self-described “average housewife.”

In recounting the development of her ideas about effective communication, Zakich also cited other sources. Prior to making the Ungame, Zakich spent two years working in, and occasionally spent weekends living in, Watts after the 1965 riots. This work was consistently claimed as a source of authenticity for Zakich who says she otherwise, “couldn’t have been a more average housewife and mother.” As this same article proclaimed, “Rhea Zakich no longer fits the image of the white, suburban housewife content to live out life mowing her dichondra or washing dishes. Mrs. Zakich has seized upon interpersonal communication. For her it means living in a rundown tenement in a Los Angeles ghetto. It means trying to shake white suburbanites off their collective apathies … It means inventing a game she hopes will tear down verbal copouts [sic] in living rooms throughout the nation.”36

Zakich’s conception of more authentic forms of communicating, then, seems to have been derived in part from her experiences in this work. In her memoir, she describes the struggle to communicate with black residents in Watts as well as to communicate her experiences there to the white, middle-class suburbanites who made up the audiences for the hundreds of lectures she gave afterward.37 Another article about Zakich and the Ungame attributes the game’s subtitle, “Tell It Like It Is,” to “an expression in the black community after the Watts Riots.”38 These accounts of Zakich’s evolution relied on ideas about infusing authenticity from urban space into the dysfunctional communications associated with the suburbs, but did so in ways that reinforced reductive ideas about rundown urban ghettos and essentializing notions of authenticity in these communities. Furthermore, communities like Watts were instrumentalized as a way to transfer legitimacy to Zakich and to the forms of interpersonal communication encouraged by the Ungame. In fact, Zakich even describes her time there as having the effect of changing her world from black and white to Technicolor.39 Still, it is important to note the influence of Zakich’s conceptions of inner-city cultural ideals and communications on the Ungame, even though these are distorted by her assumptions.

Group Therapy and the Ungame show traces of this period’s embrace of loose communication, not only in shaping their production, but also in the types of interactions that game prompts encourage. These games share the effort to facilitate an increased expression of players’ immediate feelings and a decrease in barriers to communicating. As described by its instruction manual, “Group Therapy is for people who want to do more than just play games. For people who want to open up. Get in touch. Let go. Feel free.”40 The terminology used throughout both these games with “hang ups,” “tell it like it is” cards, and “do your own thing” spaces clearly show an embrace of loosening communication, expressed by way of hip or countercultural rhetoric.

Group Therapy and the Ungame share the goal of decreasing barriers to expression of immediate thoughts and feelings. Still, these games presented variations on how to achieve this ideal through board game play. This can be seen in part through the different types of prompts that each game offers players. “Tell it like it is cards” in the Ungame rely primarily on straightforward questions that prompt players to report and reflect on their thoughts, feelings, past experiences, and future hopes. For example, these cards ask, “How do you feel when someone laughs at you?,” “How would you define love?,” or “Do you ever feel lonely?” In these cards, it is the act of being prompted to express oneself with family that creates the preconditions for transformed relationships.

Group Therapy took a more varied and at times embodied and movement-oriented approach to bringing about less inhibited communication, demonstrating the influence of gestalt and movement therapy that informed its design. Some cards ask for simple reports and reflections similar to the Ungame. Examples of these prompts include: “Name the person in the world you would most like to look like and tell why” and “Talk about your loneliness.” However, the majority of the cards in Group Therapy instruct players to engage in complicated physical performances to help them express their immediate thoughts and feelings. Some cards asked players to use performance to reflect on their own habits and failed forms of communicating. Examples of such directives include: “Pick a way in which you are phony and exaggerate it” and “Repeat to the group a lie you often tell about yourself in the way you usually tell it.”

Some Group Therapy cards even eschewed speech altogether and instead attempted to achieve loose communication by way of novel physical challenges. Such cards directed players to: “Assume the fetal position, close your eyes, and rocking back and forth, make appropriate sounds,” “Using your face and body, assume the position which makes you most vulnerable,” and “Walk up and down the room as though there were nothing you were ashamed of.” These prompts used for Group Therapy had strong similarities to the type of therapeutic exercises practiced in the encounter groups that Schlichter led as part of his psychotherapy.41

Ideals of communication developed in group psychotherapy did not stop at discouraging barriers to free expression. Group therapy also insisted on the importance of feedback and reflexivity in the group. Similarly, Group Therapy and the Ungame did not work only on changing the content of group interactions through their novel prompts to share feelings or perform challenges. In fact, teaching players how to effectively offer feedback or judge the authenticity of others were central parts of these games. In Group Therapy, reaching a desired state, in which players are able to “let go” and “stop playing games,” depends on the feedback of other players. In this game, judgment of the sincerity of player responses is a necessary step to any progress on the board. After a player answers a therapist question, every other player decides whether he answered honestly, and displays a “with it” card, or dishonestly, and displays a “cop out” [sic] card. Players move forward or backward on the board depending on whether they receive more “with it” or more “cop out” votes and how many more they receive. As the instructions explain: “Were you ‘With It’? Or did you ‘Cop Out’? Everyone judges. Everyone is judged. And judgments tell you where you’re at … on the board.”42 This mechanic significantly not only requires players to communicate in unexpected or unfamiliar ways but also asks them to judge others as well as to anticipate how their communications will be received by other players. The instruction manual for the game even provides guidance for how to make these distinctions, asking a series of questions to help determine what a cop-out would look like: “Was he acting? Was he impersonal? Was he glib? Did he try to make a joke of what he was doing?” The instructions suggest that although this judgment is a difficult and uncertain task based on one’s familiarity with other players, that “judging is a risk you must take.” This aspect of the game highlights the importance of group feedback and reflexivity in reaching ideal interpersonal communication.

This focus on monitoring one’s communications in anticipation of their reception by others was shared by the wider trends toward loose communication prevalent at this time. In his work, Binkley points out that the concept of getting loose is inherently marked by contradictions and that looseness also requires constant attention and effort. As Binkley explains, “the challenge of properly loosening oneself presented a task of tremendous technical skill and calculation: one had to work on oneself, monitor and supervise the growth of one’s new sensibilities, tease out hidden blockages and bottlenecks that prevented one from freely choosing and being who one really was … this immediacy was at the same time mediated at every step.”43 Group Therapy encouraged this careful self-monitoring where players are constantly made aware not only of the imperative to let go but also of the need to convince others of their authenticity.

In fact, beyond reflexivity and feedback, these games share a focus on group awareness and encouraged players to consider how their communications affect or are interpreted by the group as a whole. Many Group Therapy cards prompt players to reflect on the whole group dynamic and to alter it via performative challenges: “Stand facing the group member who threatens you most. Pushing your hands against his, tell him why he frightens you,” or “Choose the member who has the most authority in the group and show him how you feel about it.”

Although the Ungame does not have an explicit mechanism for judging other players in the way Group Therapy does, it also focuses heavily on the fostering of group awareness. Game promotions gesture to this environment of awareness of group dynamics. An insert packaged with the Ungame claims, “The Ungame provides means to develop true thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening, game-like atmosphere. While creating a receptive learning climate. The Ungame… will help you zero-in on the affective domain of attitudes, motives, fears, emotions, joys, ambitions, sorrows.”44 This greater sense of awareness is fostered in the game through specific gameplay instructions. One of the few rules involved in this game warns players: “There should be NO TALKING nor COMMENTING unless it is your turn. LISTEN to each other and try to ACCEPT and UNDERSTAND the feelings shared by others.” This is reinforced by some of the “tell it like it is” cards that also prompt players to consider how they are listening and not just what they are saying. For example, some cards prompt, “If there is unnecessary laughing—some people might be afraid to share their feelings. Be aware of the mood you create!” Another card asks, “When others are sharing—are you listening? Or are you thinking of what you would say?”45 In addition to the confessional imperatives of this game, these cards further instruct players on how to understand their role in interpersonal interactions. Players are asked to think about how their statements or even their unspoken actions might be affecting the greater communicative field in the home.

Becoming loose required a great deal of self-monitoring and calculation. In these board games, we can clearly see these tensions at play. They are the product of a growing cultural imperative to get loose, or as the Ungame describes it, to “tune in” to others, while they also require a very self-aware and calculating approach to one’s own communications. Furthermore, the calculation and self-monitoring in these games are oriented toward a greater group awareness. When performing authenticity, players must anticipate how their performances will be read by others. Additionally, these games encourage players to focus on the way that they listen and judge others rather than only on their own ability to shed inhibitions and speak with immediacy. In all of these ways, Group Therapy and the Ungame show the influence of communication ideals that were initiated in group therapeutic settings and that rely on reflexive group experience.

Copping Out?: Therapeutic Board Game in Family and Domestic Play

Understanding the way that the Ungame and Group Therapy were designed to intervene in family and interpersonal interactions requires not only an attention to how these games defined ideal communication, but also the type of group, family, or interpersonal relationship in which the games were situated. Changes to the family form in the late 1960s and 1970s were often described in terms of a “crisis” of the family. Experts very commonly referred to changing demographics that were increasingly departing from a nuclear family ideal. Rising divorce rates and increases in single-parent homes were often mentioned as the surest signs of this crisis.46 As historian Natasha Zaretsky argues, what can now be seen as changes resulting from a shift to a postindustrial society was in the late 1960s and 1970s understood as “a cultural, social, and moral crisis emanating from the institution of the family itself.”47 Occasionally, these changes were met with tolerance. For example, the 1970 White House Conference on Children and Youth attempted to expand the definition of family and critiqued policy makers who insisted on maintaining overly narrow conceptions of the nuclear family. Still, it was more common to condemn the family itself for social decline.48

Group Therapy and the Ungame were in dialogue with these transformations in the national standing of the nuclear family. Their attempts to intervene in and fix family communication were both informed and limited by these social changes and the anxieties about the nuclear family that attended them. These games allowed some greater flexibility in their definition of the family group that might play them and also encouraged more flexible forms of communication and interactions between those players joined in intimate groups to play together. And yet, these games stopped short of suggesting radical alternatives to the family or to heterosexual coupling. Even though these games did not explicitly limit the types of players they hailed, articles discussing these games, as well as some of the stories about their contexts of production, still situated these games within the bounds of a normative family construct.

To be sure, there were some ways in which games like the Ungame and Group Therapy suggest the possibility for a familial intimacy to be forged within heterogeneous groups—not limited to white, middle-class families. Notably, both these games refrain from using an image of the nuclear family in their promotions. In its early iterations, the Ungame, for example, presented a collage of images of players across race and generation, suggesting that the game could forge intimacies between players not typically united by biology or traditional kinship (fig. 3). Also eschewing images of a family circle, Group Therapy was packaged in an unembellished black box, marked simply by the game title and the playful provocation, “Is it Really a game?” (fig. 4). In this way, these games suggested some potential to work to redefine family and intimacy to include more heterogeneous groups.

Figure 3

Box cover for the Ungame (Au-Vid, 1972). (Image courtesy of author)

Figure 4

Box cover for Group Therapy (Park Plastics, 1969). (Image courtesy of author)

Although in some ways these games raised the possibility of a more inclusive conception of family and an expansion of intimate bonds, some aspects of the games and their reception reiterated white, middle-class perspectives on proper family structure even in their attempts to transform communication. Many cultural discourses at this time in popular magazines and newspapers reflected on changing public perceptions of women’s role in the family, signaled most often by statistics referring to both the rising number of female-headed households and the increase in the percentage of women working outside of the home. Analyzing popular discourse that identified a growing culture of narcissism in the US in the long 1970s, Zaretsky notes how social critics linked this to a “perceived erosion of family life” in part due to a growing feminist movement that critics blamed for a rejection of family and reproduction. The influence of these changing social conditions and cultural discourses could be clearly found in discussions of the Ungame. Echoing these cultural anxieties, Zakich’s memoir demonstrates her constant sense of guilt that her work in the inner city and on the lecture circuit was a distraction from caring for her husband and children.49 Additionally, critics believed that the contemporary generation was suffering from narcissism because they had been raised by “smothering yet cold mothers and absent fathers.”50 When discussing her inspiration for the game, Zakich mirrors this by centering her own communication as a source of blame. Describing the dysfunctional communication in her home, Zakich recalls her previous “nagging” at her children as well as referring to her former self as an unemotional “steel person,” who hadn’t cried for thirty years. By primarily placing the responsibility on herself for the family’s patterns of communicating, Zakich’s explanations reflect many contemporary discourses that expressed anxiety about women’s changing role in the family of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In these moments, Zakich’s understanding of the need that inspired the Ungame threatened to reiterate gendered discourses about proper and improper communication. This provides some evidence that this game was intended to alleviate pressures on the nuclear family rather than to offer alternatives.

Other stories about the game suggested it had the power to ease gendered imbalances of communication. As one poignant endorsement suggests, the Ungame was promoted as a tool to redistribute care work across the family, encouraging husbands and children to offer emotional support they would not otherwise. As one mother explains in reviewing the game, “I felt overwhelmed that someone really cared about what I thought and felt. My two small children and husband are always telling me their feelings, but I never seem to bother to tell them mine. Maybe because they don’t ask.”51 Granting that this review is included as a marketing claim, this example still suggests some of the ways that the game’s focus on new ways of relating between families had the power to remediate tensions and provide more equal distribution of the care work involved in responsibly speaking and listening to others. But even this claim is limited in scope. Ultimately, the aim of the Ungame was to relieve the pressures on the nuclear family and could allow for flexibility in rigidly defining who was included in this family, but it did not attempt to offer wholly alternative structures in which to experience relational intimacy.

Popular reviews and depictions of Group Therapy also indicate that the game was working to modify modes of interrelating between players while still addressing these players within their familial roles. In an interview, one of the designers of Group Therapy suggested that those already experiencing distress (he offers housewives on the edge of a nervous breakdown as one example) are the most likely to be strongly affected by the game.52 This demonstrates that even if the game does not explicitly limit players to certain familial structures, the designers still defined player receptivity according to normative roles. This story also suggests that Group Therapy was understood as a tool that might help or hurt women who were part of a heteronormative nuclear family. Another article about Group Therapy relates that one player “who failed to move out of ‘hung up’ all evening, went home and shouted at his wife for hours, spewing out pent-up venom and self-pity.”53 Even if this man was not playing Group Therapy with his wife, the stories about how the game worked and what impacts it had were still firmly situated in notions of conventional middle-class familial relationships. As these examples show, Group Therapy and the Ungame were being positioned as tools to ease (or pessimistically, to inflame) dysfunctional relationships within the family, but reviews of the games did not entertain alternatives to this family construct.

Although it is a fictional example, the depiction of Group Therapy featured on All in the Family may also hint at some of the complex ways that the game could be understood to intervene in and remediate traditional ideas of family dynamics. This episode offers further evidence that even though it could be played by eclectic groups of players, Group Therapy was predominantly interpreted as a game for remediating family communication. Although not all players in this episode are part of the same family or household, they are still addressed largely in familial roles. For example, when daughter Gloria selects a card asking her to “Pick the person closest in the group to you and tell them something you think will help them,” Mike scolds her for choosing her mother rather than him, her husband. Mike tries to police Gloria’s understanding of proper familial intimacy by explaining to her that she was wrong to consider her mother as a closer relation than a husband.

In addition to demonstrating the way that Group Therapy remains caught up in normative understandings of familial roles, this example also indicates the potential impediments to achieving the communication ideals fostered by the game, especially when played by a group of family and intimate friends. Even with the ornery Archie Bunker absent from this episode, the gameplay does not proceed in a revelatory or harmonious manner. Instead, Archie’s son-in-law Mike increasingly comes to feel put upon by the directives of the game and his family’s honest responses. Mike is resistant to nearly all of the criticisms aimed at him throughout the game and never moves to take any of these seriously. In addition, although the others playing the game appear initially more comfortable offering honest communications, throughout the process their ability to do so is constantly cut off by Mike’s refusal to hear criticism and his quickness to perceive any alliances between characters other than himself as a personal attack. Mike directs the entire family’s communications toward his needs. In this episode, Group Therapy fails to redistribute the work of listening and caring across gendered lines in a more equitable way. Although Mike comes to an understanding by the end of the play session about his ingrained and unhealthy patterns of fighting with Archie (as a result of his mother-in-law’s counseling), the episode undercuts even this small realization when it cuts to one of Archie Bunker’s characteristic mugging expressions of ridicule. The episode thus suggests that entrenched patterns and tensions as well as differences in generation, gender, and family roles have the potential to impede the open and free-flowing communication that these therapy games intended to encourage and that these patterns threatened to overpower the game’s attempts to reconstruct communication.

Conclusion: “Is It Really a Game?”

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, therapeutic board games like Group Therapy and the Ungame offered families a playful way to reflect on their habitual forms of interacting and communicating and attempted to reshape these habits to be more in line with idealized visions of liberated and authentic relating. These games adopted ideals of loose communication but attempted to modify them to fit the particular needs of the family, as those needs were imagined at this time.

Board games offer unique instruments for orchestrating and structuring particular forms of domestic interaction. I have tried to demonstrate that the analysis of board games, therefore, also necessitates a shift in focus and methodology when these games are being analyzed within their domestic, familial, or interpersonal context. For board games, especially in the context of domestic life, the argument the game is making about the system it simulates is often less important than how it structures the interactions occurring between players in the home. Much work in game studies has been done to counter what was initially seen as an overreliance on visual or narrative analysis. This has often resulted in approaches that focus on games as simulations of other systems and provides tools specific to this kind of reading, including language to analyze game rules and procedural rhetoric.54 While a focus on procedural rhetoric and rules expands our understanding of board games, it still fails to account fully for the way that some games are incorporated into domestic play and into copresent interactions between family members, friends, and intimate groups.

Recent work in feminist and queer game studies has begun to explore games as tools for imagining new ways of relating—between individuals playing together and between players and game systems. This work has catalyzed major shifts in our understanding of games and game studies. For example, Naomi Clark and merritt k have attempted to expand our understanding of what makes games meaningful in their work on queer games. In a coauthored essay exploring human-game relations, Clark and k suggest: “We want to consider what a queer relation to play might look like, in which play serves to help us imagine and invoke new possibilities. This necessitates shifting our focus away from the question of what constitutes ‘a queer game’ and towards the investigation of new ways to relate to play, and through it, to each other ... For that to happen, we have to interrogate and rethink the work of playing.”55 This scholarship poses exciting directions for the study of games, both analog and digital, and for the creation of new forms of intimacy and relating. Yet within this work, the role of games in family relations in the home requires more attention.

The therapeutic games from the 1960s and 1970s analyzed in this essay offer an example of an earlier attempt to “rethink the work of playing” and to utilize games to imagine better forms of relating. These examples also help indicate some of the potentials and obstacles to using games in these ways. These therapeutic games offer insight into the way that qualities specific to gaming are either embraced or transformed as games are adapted for the needs of family life and new forms of relating. In fact, even as they turned to games for achieving their goals of better communication, both the Ungame and Group Therapy treated conventions of gaming ambivalently. For example, Zakich often refers to the convention of turn-taking in board games as one of the qualities of this form that made it ideal for her needs. Zakich relays that this was because she realized the only time that she and her family took turns talking was when they played board games like Monopoly. Although she used the dice and tokens from Monopoly when she began to design the Ungame, Zakich still critiqued the competitiveness of that game and turned to another play model for her own purposes.56 The resulting Ungame had no winners or losers despite embracing other board game conventions. Even Group Therapy, with its more common practice of having a clear winner and more competitive play, demonstrates this ambivalence when it tells players, “Play Group Therapy. And you can stop playing games.” Here it is suggested that playing this game is a path to better communication, while at the same time contrasting improved communication and game playing.

Group Therapy and the Ungame used gaming conventions to work on families and pursue more authentic and liberated forms of communication, but these examples also point to some of the limitations of using games to achieve these goals. As this evidence about the design and reception of therapeutic board games like Group Therapy and the Ungame suggests, even games designed with the intention of transforming ways of relating and imagining more attuned communications can be impeded by the cultural norms defining player relations outside of the game. In a similar vein, Fred Turner has discussed the way that the New Games movement of the 1970s attempted to use and adapt gaming for liberatory ends: “In building New Games, the young adults of the late 1960s and early 1970s hoped to create a new set of rules and with them, a new way to live.”57 Although these games focused on embodied play, cooperation, and empathy rather than competition, they did so, Turner argues, without significantly challenging the race and class privilege of the players and thus failed to question some of the foundational elements of the dominant Cold War logic they were contesting.58

As scholars take up the challenges made by feminist and queer game critics and designers to analyze games as media that can improve relationality, a richer understanding of the history of games being mobilized for these purposes helps us see how games intersect with the family forms and ideologies in which they are designed and played. In the case of Group Therapy and the Ungame, the transformative potential of these games was limited by ingrained expectations about familial roles and normative structures. When studying such games, we must not only examine how they encourage players to relate with each other but also what structures and ideologies organize the relationships in which games attempt to intervene in order to more fully understand the limits these impose.


1. ^ Along these lines, the psychiatric field of family therapy was consolidated and rose to greater prominence in the 1960s and 1970s. Family therapy was associated with new forms of therapy that focused on treating families by treating their methods of communicating with each other and often required close observations of repeated patterns of family interaction. Deborah Weinstein, The Pathological Family: Postwar America and the Rise of Family Therapy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013).

2. ^ Marion Goldman, The American Soul Rush: Esalen and the Rise of Spiritual Privilege (New York: NYU Press, 2012), 1–8.

3. ^ Jessica Grogan, Encountering America: Sixties Psychology, Counterculture and the Movement That Shaped the Modern Self (New York: Harper Perennial, 2013), 191.

4. ^ Goldman, American Soul Rush, 1–8.

5. ^ Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); and Aniko Bodroghkozy, Groove Tube: Sixties Television and the Youth Rebellion (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001). Bodroghkozy has discussed the way that network television shows ranging from The Smothers Brothers to The Mod Squad exploited countercultural rhetoric to appeal to younger viewers.

6. ^ Frank, Conquest of Cool, 13.

7. ^ Sam Binkley, Getting Loose: Lifestyle Consumption in the 1970s (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 165.

8. ^ Janine Fron et al., “The Hegemony of Play,” in Proceedings, DiGRA: Situated Play, Tokyo, (DiGRA, 2007).

9. ^ Fron et al., “The Hegemony of Play,” 8.

10. ^ Naomi Clark and merritt k, “Queering Human-Game Relations: Exploring Queer Mechanics and Play,” First Person Scholar, February 18, 2015,

11. ^ Henry Lowood and Timothy Lenoir, for example, have traced the interchanges between commercial and military war games. See Tim Lenoir and Henry Lowood, “Theaters of War: The Military-Entertainment Complex,” n.d., Outside of game studies, Paul Booth analyzes board games as an instance of media studies by considering games as paratexts and studies how they augment the larger transmedia texts of which they are a part. See Paul Booth, “Missing a Piece: (The Lack of) Board Game Scholarship in Media Studies,” Velvet Light Trap 81, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 57–59; and Paul Booth, “Board, Game, and Media: Interactive Board Games as Multimedia Convergence,” Convergence 22, no. 6 (December 1, 2016): 647–60,

12. ^ Margaret Hofer, The Games We Played: The Golden Age of Board and Table Games (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003), 40, 94, 100, 154.

13. ^ Hofer, Games We Played, 21.

14. ^ See, for example, Milton Bradley, “Home Amusement and Relaxation: Bending the Twig and Inclining the Tree of Human Life,” Good Housekeeping, May 2, 1885; Milton Bradley, “Common Sense in Home Amusements: Games for the Family Circle,” Good Housekeeping, October 3, 1885; and Milton Bradley, “Games and Amusements: As Benefits and Blessings in the Home,” Good Housekeeping, January 1896. Bradley was not alone in working through the place of board games in the family circle. George Parker, founder of Parker Brothers, another prominent games publisher of the period, claimed to thoroughly playtest his games with family, friends, and employees multiple times before putting products on the market in order to ensure that they were fit for domestic amusement. See Esther M. McCabe, “Report on the Testing of Advertised Products,” Parents’ Magazine & Better Homemaking, July 1960, 24.

15. ^ Lisa Jacobson, Raising Consumers: Children and the American Mass Market in the Early Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 161.

16. ^ Jacobson, Raising Consumers, 160–62.

17. ^ Hofer, Games We Played, 26. Conversation cards were popular forms of domestic amusement and were published in various versions by many of the major game publishers including McLoughlin Brothers, Parker Brothers, and Selchow & Righter.

18. ^ Person-alysis, 1957,

19. ^ Descriptions of these games come from Board Game Geek. Interpretation of Dreams is described here:; and Shrink is described here:

20. ^ Kenneth Turan, “A Long Way from Parcheesi: In the Trendy ’70’s, New Games for Grownups: The New Games for Grownups,” Washington Post, April 19, 1977, B1.

21. ^ Park Plastics Co., “Group Therapy Instructions,” 1969, author’s collection. See also Group Therapy, 1969,

22. ^ Classified ad, New York Times, March 5, 1956, 29; display ad, Boston Globe, June 19, 1980, 9; display ad, Chicago Tribune, November 23, 1969, J6.

23. ^ Couples advertisement, Playthings, October 1971, 4. Image of advertisement in author’s collection.

24. ^ Au-Vid, Ungame back box cover, 1972, author’s collection.

25. ^ Rhea Zakich, Everybody Wins: The Story Behind the Ungame (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1979), 146.

26. ^ Shearlean Duke, “Born in Silence: Very Unusual Is the Ungame,” Los Angeles Times, February 12, 1979, sec. Orange County.

27. ^ Tom Wolfe, “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening,” New York Magazine, August 23, 1976.

28. ^ James H. Capshew, Psychologists on the March: Science, Practice, and Professional Identity in America, 1929–1969 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 225–26; and Carl Rogers, Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), 2–5.

29. ^ Rogers, Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups, 6–7.

30. ^ In addition to Schlichter’s role as consultant, an online essay about Group Therapy names Daniel M. Klein, Phil Ross, and Susan Perkis Haven as the cocreators of the game. This information relies on interviews with those involved. I have been unable to find independent information about these three cocreators. See Daniel Nester, “Group Therapy: Was It Really a Game?,” The Millions, July 15, 2016,

31. ^ Sally Banes, Democracy’s Body: Judson Dance Theater, 1962–1964 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 144–45.

32. ^ Banes, Democracy’s Body, 144–45.

33. ^ Joseph Schlichter, “Psychodance 1964,” in Extensions of Dance, Impulse 1969–1970, ed. Marian Van Tuyl (San Francisco, CA: Impulse Publications, 1970), 76–77.

34. ^ Classified ad for Adult Education, Entayant for Human Potential, New York Times, March 21, 1976, 144. This advertisement for the Entayant workshop made references to Esalen or figures associated with Esalen.

35. ^ Zakich, Everybody Wins, 135.

36. ^ John Dart, “Ungame: Not Usual Cutthroat Fare: The Object Is Not to Win but to Communicate Feelings,” Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1981, B3.

37. ^ Leek, “Interpersonal Activist.”

38. ^ Park Plastics Co., “Group Therapy Instructions,” 1969, author’s collection. See also

39. ^ Joseph Schlichter, “Psychodance Therapy” (master’s thesis, Mills College, 1964).

40. ^ Park Plastics Co., “Group Therapy Instructions.”

41. ^ Binkley, Getting Loose, 10.

42. ^Ungame Order Form,” 1972, author’s collection.

43. ^ Au-Vid, “Ungame Cards,” 1972, author’s collection.

44. ^ See, for example, Kenneth Keniston and the Carnegie Council on Children, All Our Children: The American Family Under Pressure(New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977) based on the finding of the Carnegie Council on Children that convened in 1972.

45. ^ Natasha Zaretsky, No Direction Home: The American Family and the Fear of National Decline, 1968–1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 12.

46. ^ White House Conference on Children (Washington, DC, 1970), 227.

47. ^ See Zakich, Everybody Wins, chap. 9.

48. ^ Zaretsky, No Direction Home, 186.

49. ^ Au-Vid, Ungame back box cover.

50. ^ William Fripp, “Trauma in the Game Room,” Boston Globe, August 18, 1971.

51. ^ “Therapeutic Games,” Newsweek, September 22, 1969, 108.

52. ^ Gonzalo Frasca, “Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology,” in The Video Game Theory Reader, ed. Mark J. P. Wolf and Bernard Perron (New York: Routledge, 2003), 221–36; and Ian Bogost, Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007).

53. ^ Clark and k, “Queering Human-Game Relations.”

54. ^ Connie Lauerman, “Bringing People Closer: The Ungame Gives Voice to Our Hidden Feelings,” Chicago Tribune, November 26, 1984, E3.

55. ^ Fred Turner, “Why Study New Games?,” Games and Culture 1, no. 1 (2006): 109.

56. ^ Turner, “Why Study New Games?,” 109.

57. ^ Jane Leek, “Interpersonal Activist: Housewife Shifts Campaign from Watts back to Suburbia,” Los Angeles Times, September 11, 1972, sec. Orange County, OC_A1.

58. ^ Zakich, Everybody Wins, esp. chaps. 5 and 8.