Teenage girls code Tampon Run for social change

Two girls build Tampon Run at Girls Who Code summer camp to address menstruation taboo

Two American girls are taking the coding community by storm with their game Tampon Run.

Both from New York, Sophie Hoser, 17, and Andreas Gonzales, 16, met at a Girls Who Code camp last summer and designed the game as their final project.

What started off as a simple game has become a tool for education and social change. The girls decided to use their time at the summer camp to code a game which generated a discussion around the taboo of menstruation.

Tampon Run requires the player to throw tampons at the enemy and allows them to collect more tampons as play progresses. Enemies confiscate tampons and it is “game over” when the player runs out of tampons.

The idea for the game came from a news story the girls had read about an incident at a court house in Texas. Officials at the courthouse confiscated women’s tampons as they entered the building because they were concerned about the women using them as projectiles – yet people carrying guns were allowed to keep them.

Hoser said they threw some ideas around and she jokingly suggested a game where a girl throws tampons. “We realised immediately we had to do it [as] the game could generate a serious discussion around the taboo of periods,” she said. “We wanted to use coding to create social change and make girls feel more comfortable about menstruation.”

After some research, they learnt that in some countries girls have to take the week off school or have to be careful not to touch or talk to people during menstruation.

Gonzales first learnt to code at SummerTech Computer Camps before she started ninth grade. She spent two summers at this camp, which was co-ed, and became comfortable coding in a community which was mostly male. “In my first year there were only four girls out of the 50 campers, and the girls included the staff,” she said.

Hoser pointed out how supportive the women in IT community has been towards the girls. “Everyone has been so supportive towards us learning to code. Unfortunately, there are not many female role models and it is hard to see myself in a role if there are currently no or few females doing it,” she said.

Gonzales said the game started online and that they thought it would only be played by friends and family. After the success of the online game, Pivotal Labs approached the girls to make a mobile version.

The iOS version of the game is available now and was built with the help of Pivotal Labs, which volunteered its services for seven weeks.

Both Hoser and Gonzales are researching their options to continue coding through computer science degrees at university.

Read more on IT technical skills