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Dr. Brian Kaufman - Rainbow Quest Interview

Updated: Mar 20

I met Brian and discussed his game Rainbow Quest at GAMA Expo 2024. Rainbow Quest helps to teach the history of LGBTQ+ people in a family friendly way. The game is designed for ages 11+ and will be getting a facelift before returning to crowdfunding.


This was originally intended to be an audio interview, but the audio quality was poor and I did not realize until I returned home. Instead, I have transcribed with some edits for clarity, time, and and expression our interview.


Dr. Brian Kaufman sits in brightly colored rainbow clothes explaining his game Rainbow Quest

Christopher: -Hello Everyone: I'm here today with Dr. Brian Kaufman. Dr. Brian Kaufman is the creator of Rainbow Quest, which is the only family friendly game which teaches LGBTQ plus culture and history. And we're going to talk about the game and talk about some of the challenges in moving from kind of an educational setting to what it might lead to see this game in wide release in the future.I’d like to talk about what you're both anticipating and what you're not looking forward as you have talked to many different people here at Game Expo 2024 this part of my continued coverage. Nice to meet you, Brian and we met last night actually, but Brian is up in New York still or…

 

Brian: I live in New Jersey now.Christopher: You're in Jersey. Okay. Okay, great. So, yeah, tell us more about Rainbow Quest and what's going on with the game and what your goals are for the game and why you created it.

Brian: Well, Christopher, thank you so much and I really appreciate you inviting me to be on your podcast on Rainbow Quest. I began developing this about 20 years ago for only the purpose of providing a meaningful activity, a compelling activity that would engage kids at their Gay-Straight Alliance meetings, which usually are not very exciting because there were no compelling or good activities or resources.And so I thought someone needs to create one and it turned out to be me, I've got a surprise. And now I'm in the gaming industry. After 30 years in higher education. But one of the things that has changed over the course of the development is that it's not just Gay-Straight Alliances that need meaningful activities of groups like P Flag or Rainbow Elders or community centers, gay gaming groups, all these groups really all of these things love this (game).  

They see this. And it sounds kind of weird to say that they literally squeal, but the way they touch the box, they're not used to anything so well-produced. That is for them.

Usually, LGBTQ resources are an afterthought.

And another development is that now looking at states now that either legislated or recommended the inclusion of curriculum for teaching the queer cultural history that has been embraced or hidden or is still being discovered.Christopher: That sounds like there are several uses for the game.

 

Brian: That’s true but there's so much information that can contribute to the development of authentic gay pride you will hear about in the Pride events. As a psychologist, my observations (of Pride events). People are so proud at this event. They are defiant. They're going to go even if their mother sees them. But they're not proud because they don't know that there were incredible people who were part of the LGBTQ community that really made contributions to humankind to make the planet and society more pretty, more pleasant, more engaged. 

Alan Turing for example- partially responsible for modern computing. And he (was forced into) Chemical Castration. Eventually, he committed suicide. Global game geeks or escape room people solving problems so that they can say, Wow, Well, you know, I don't have to live a miserable life because other people are condemning me in every election cycle and targeting the fragility of (inaudible) I'm so sorry that Sally Ride, the astronaut, wasn't able to come out of that being lesbian until her obituary.Yeah, that could have been so many little girls who are interested in, you know, science and technology and engineering that could have been inspired by that. So the authentic part coming from comes from knowing who your people are. And if you learn about them, it's very hard to be proud. And even like when people come out to their families or friends, yeah, there's a way you create it. 

Christopher: Can you explain a little more there? Brian: Now, family members and friends have to come out. They say, my, my child is trans and it's challenging without really understanding the pervasive history of gay people on the planet. We didn't just emerge after Will and Grace I was a professor. My colleagues kind of blamed me when this incoming crowd of students were wanting to have certain pronouns use or different names.Christopher: Wow

Brian: And my colleagues, I mean, felt that I was responsible for that and I thought that was really funny. So, it became great. And so, again, I want to walk us some way to learn about queer culture and history and about the people around the table to build community with the number of people self-identifying as normal and sexual LGBTQ plus exponential growth in the past five years.Christopher: Do you think anything has changed in the last few years in a positive way?

 

Brian: It's shocking to me as an old gay guy to know that so many people will (be) comfortable identifying now. And yet there are so many consequences and so many states do not have protection. You can get married, but if you do, you lose your job or your house or be denied credit. That's just how it is. So, coming out is (still) a really big deal. 

Christopher: Can you tell us about how the game works?

Brian: Yeah, Part of the game as you make your way from the bleak, colorless world, we might call it “Flo Ride A” of you make your way around the very simple pathway towards the better world for everyone. And whoever gets there first, they might win. Yeah. and the way other players must collaborate and listen and participate in order to continue with advancing around the world through collaboration, all the players get to move ahead as well as the person who started it.Christopher: What do you think is most interesting about gameplay?

Brian: Well, the exciting elements of the game and the most interesting elements is one that does not have one of these problems.

Christopher: How many cards does the game have? Is it about 200 cards or so?

Brian: The question, you know, there's too many cards that makes the game expansive. We are going to be producing, we're going to have a Kickstarter. We have to scale back the cost.I mean, this many cards is probably to go to about 480 cards, 480. Okay, So this is 5 hours of researched. You know, this, but we it's too heavy, it's too expensive. So the next edition is going to be less nice. I got the most wonderful feedback from people here. This community's amazing (here at GAMA Expo 2024) is about your people who are kids at heart. 

Christopher: Can you elaborate about your experience here at GAMA Expo?

Brian: They understand the importance of play and imagination for expanding our own options, for seeing possibilities of horizon that we may not otherwise consider. So I'm so, so grateful for that. All the outstanding criticism that our experts in the industry have given me, of course, remaining on the game, saying that this is gorgeous. It's just so nice. Can you make it a little more just not nice.

(Laughter)Brian: Yeah, can you cut back so we can afford it? So the next edition will probably have closer to 300 cards and will close out and include them in expansion packs. So, it is expensive, but so as people make their way around the board and we want it to be a safe experience, we know that even LGBTQ post teachers who are eager to incorporate queer culture history in their social studies classes, they're apprehensive. 

Christopher: Oh yeah? What do people get apprehensive about?

Brian: They don't know the (unknown). No one really is comfortable for talking about sex and gender. You know, they're taboo subjects. This game was designed for ages 11 and up. It's being used in hundreds of schools in the New York City Board of Education and Ellicott City, Maryland. They're all using it. It's a great resource. And teachers and counselors love it for the social emotional learning that I built into it because I'm a psychologist and I taught group dynamics and interpersonal relations and organizational change and development.


Christopher: Why do you think your background is important?

Brian: I know that if you're going to change attitudes, people better be laughing while they're doing it. You know, (people) never like change never makes the values confronted. And what we find in this game is it took 20 years, it took research and development, it took testing and more testing. We can incorporate lots of feedback to make a game. And we knew we had to knock it out of the park because no one really wants to play our game.Christopher: What do you mean? Why is that? Brian: There is suicide and bullying and (our goal is to) make school safer around the world. And with that being said, we have to make it so compelling that when we play this game in a public space like the restaurants or out in front of everyone, the place has other customers that gather all they want to know what happens. That is, you know, why is it engaging? Christopher: People ask questions?

Brian: Yeah, people say things like - So, what is amazing and what's your activity? And should your see the game, everyone participates. You never know what's going to happen next. I'm so grateful to all of the, uh, testimonials from a professor at the University of Maine said “You could play this game every without having the same experience twice as a straight out(sic).” I mean, there's so much pain in the history of the person who's an educator and a chance to say so.  

Christopher: Why should someone try your game?

Brian: The first (thing) is it is easy to learn and it fosters understanding and empathy among peers. And I agree with this inter-generational context. The impact of the game cannot be overstated of when I have facilitated this game for people and I see grandparents and grandkids playing this game and having discussions that they would never, ever have imagined, and they dive right in and they eat it up and sometimes they don't care if they win. It's really about getting to the end.Christopher: Tell me more about that. What type of experience do people have with the game? Brian: It's the joy of the Rainbow QUEST The long journey towards the better world. Every person, everyone has so many options. We make it safe, incredibly safe for beginners. When people want the second of three spaces or spaces or seven spaces. And if people are very competitive, it's this little green dance movement. Two, three, four, five, six, seven. You know, you might be really good at culture and history.

/Unknown/Description of game play/This is called. did you know that? And it's like the only Trivial Pursuit celebration. And if someone really has to be in the lead, maybe they must know this, but they're compelled by the need for achievement. So this question is from the symposium Phaedrus and other works celebrating homosexual love is that Plato saw Sophocles or Socrates? Christopher, do you want to try this problem?Christopher: I know, but I already looked at the answer. Yes. Yeah. But I would say that it totally okay.

Brian: You know Plato. Plato? Yes. Sorry. I was in because I needed to investigate it better. Yeah. Now they don't get to create, they just kind of look down. But in the course of the game, they can easily be resurrected, would like to move ahead on when they cooperate with another player's turn.Christopher: Let’s talk more about another space.

Brian: So, some of you might want to move through spaces. Well, you know, it's interesting. A lot of theater kids are queer. It's a way to live out the whole thing anyway. Most of the time if they're closeted, so acting is good for them. Yeah, would be so great. And they might have to do a charade of this is so much fun because in the band and every coach plays a little bit about what is the boys in the band?Yeah, and we even have a resource online for teachers. So, if they want to do a little more on their lesson plans in the classroom, they can look at a curated Wiki on our website, completely wholesome. They will not be bombarded with ads for adult toys or the or some so called adult webspace.

 

Christopher: What do people like best about the game?

Brian: It's community building and it's a way for people to get to know one another on levels that they normally wouldn't. And even groups of players that you are going to know each other for years. They play this game and then one whole and how much they learn about one another, and they can grieve and grow from the things that we're learning so much from on around to the game.Yeah, So it builds community. You learn about other people better not alone.

This is not just between us? No. I mean, sure, it's easy, if you would, just to describe your life, Christopher, you could describe your life as a ride at an amusement park?

Christopher: I don't remember the name of it, but there's one that's a roller coaster. We're going to go with that one.

 

Brian: At Coney Island?

Christopher: No Kings Island. Yeah, it's a roller coaster.

Brian: Really? Roller coaster?

Christopher: Yeah. Because there's some drops there. Some. Yeah, right. There's a lot lots of difference in it. And it's not quite as predictable as, like, the modern roller coaster, right?Brian: Yeah. Yeah. And that it makes a lot of wonderful noise.

Christopher: Yeah. Yeah.

Brian: So depending on your need for being a little bit that you prefer doing, some people will prefer to do one space instead of ten because they want to draw. They might need to draw Philadelphia is the name of a movie. One of the first really big box office hits with Tom Hanks playing a person who has HIV and it was fascinating to see how people will draw Philadelphia and people will guess it.Usually, it's the Liberty Bell is how people get there.

Christopher: That makes sense.

Brian: Yeah, of course. Their social connection and learning team and community building item is you think you know me. an example here is you a janitor in our school. I know you. Or would you attend your upcoming class reunion?

Christopher: Yeah, that's a that's a great question. I bet that’s a hard one for a lot of people. Can just imagine running through the answer and what that means.

Brian: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's funny. People just stories share their stories as much as they're comfortable. Do we encourage people so ever, you know, jeopardize your safety? You don't want to reveal things about yourself that might put you at risk?

Christopher: Can you give me some more examples of the unPinkable cards?

 

Brian: I think of all unPinkable is for helping to teach some social skills like well is a first day back three spaces (on the board).So yeah I'm I see these are autobiographical to some of them are some of the most important friends you're speaking unkindly about a good friend of yours and you joined right in Move Back five Spaces. There you see your former romantic partner at an event. You greet them warmly and ask them how they’ve been or Okay, do you now turn around and leave immediately? 

Here’s another one-

You have a rich life. You don't let other people constrain you on your ability. Do whatever you want. If you're out of the closet, get you're coming out street all out. Many people said you should remove that.

 

Christopher: You mean this space, this closet space?

Brian: Yeah, they said-

No one's going to want to share a coming out story. AU contraire. In the queer community, it's a momentous situation. It's a milestone. It's an accomplishment. Even if it's tragic, it's still an accomplishment because it's, you know, just winning historical authenticity and honesty. And so people actually are coming out stories when straight people out of the closet, you know, they they smoke a sweat, they will go and they worry. And you say that this is not about confessing to that sleep over where maybe you know what, it's all over and you feel like you made some faux paux. You don't need to go there. But a lot of people, straight people say, yes, I have gay friends, I'm an ally. We go out together, people ask for a couple, and I say, no, that's just my lady friend. I'm straight. And they look, you know, Mary did it and they look sad and ashamed. I mean, look around the room and say, Wow, I am so sorry.You're being so blunt about that. I heard your stories and the burden you carry not knowing the outcome when you come in and if you're going to be thrown out or beaten up or disowned or, you know, everyone says, don't worry, we love you no matter what, which is wonderful. But as you say, which is remarkable, never attempted to teach heterosexual privilege, but straight people will say, I would have heard that phrase before, heterosexual privilege. I never could imagine what it meant until right now, because you carry that burden. I didn't not have to think about when to come out of it just spontaneously. I didn't think about it. The real consequences, I think even Register is coming out. So it's very interesting, the understanding, empathy and compassion that develops as people play the game. 

Christopher: That sounds unfortunate that people aren’t having these conversations beforehand, but fortunate that you have created this tool. Tell us more about that.

Brian: Yeah. And the side effect is and makes people feel better. We have a researcher at the University of Lynchburg who is gathering empirical data to show the psychosocial benefits. I think your of reports as a scientist, I'm really glad that someone is studying the impact of the game.Christopher: Yeah, it'll also be interesting to see if there are more studies. I mean, you mentioned the educational aspect several times, in fact, and some of these quotes are from educational people. How do you want to bridge the gap between kids and education? Because this is a kind of a mass market show, right? So, for being here for a lot of the show out here in Louisville, what has been surprising to you and what has been said that is scathing as you mentioned earlier? I mean, you are using it for an educational tool, something you mentioned last night, it's okay for like a DVD costs $600. Right? Because sometimes it is it is bespoke and made for certain situations. What are you working through? As you already mentioned, cutting down the curves and cutting down costs. But are other ways that you want to present the games other than the material aspects as you move things that you've learned this week to open them this week?Brian: I read a lot. You know, we did this. We want we knew if we were going to do something to make schools safer, reduce bullying, reduce suicidal thoughts, we knew we had to make it compelling and fun and people wouldn't care if it's good for them, you know, because they're tale of walking in with something really delicious salt and people eat it and it's good for them.Yeah.

 

So what we're going to do is we're going to have a lot of influencers who talk about how much fun the game is. Community groups love it when our initial expectation, based on our prototype exhibitions, where we would get these games, go to conferences and play those and sold the game for the pandemic just as our games arrived, we had to change our whole model.When people see the game, they love it and it has been difficult through the pandemic to gain momentum. We're finally doing that now. Bigger cities, more cities that are using it. We're glad that educators endorse it, but also just game groups love it and straight people do. They think it's so much fun to worry about this stuff. So, yeah, we've got to bridge the gap and we're not going to really highlight the educational aspect of it anymore (laughs). I think going to work better of marketing and differentiate our target audience is the first we thought because there's nothing else like this and the number of people identifying as queer is growing exponentially, but it's not safe for them. This kind of game makes it safe and comfortable for older people of all ages who come out because, you know, there are gay people in every generation, so I can come out.This game gives context on those communities. We know that when people feel that they're part of a caring community that pays attention to them, they feel better about themselves and they're less likely to engage in self-harming behaviors. So that's on. And part of I was surprised that in the wake of a scathing report that was in The New York Times just three weeks ago, it was reporting back at a national advocacy organization.Christopher: Tell us more about that. You mentioned it a few times last night.

Brian: I will read this quote, “LGBTQ people spend more on games and companies ignore them. If you are ignoring the LGBTQ community, you're doing it to your own detriment.” So I was really surprised that when I got here that no one seemed to be aware of this article. And I was thinking, here's a guy, we better sign up and go get this game, because no, to save our integrity, to show that we're not ignoring them. 

Unfortunately, when we produced this, we did have to set a retail price that's considered high. It's not outrageous. People spend more for accessories, but to get a mass market target or something, we have to make the game smaller, more compact, more affordable, and whatever it takes. You know, this isn't about my ego either. I have to (let my expectations) change about this game. 

Christopher: Was that hard for you to change? When you had already done so much work and went through so much?

 

Brian: It's like, Yeah, of course we'll do it because, you know, ultimately it's about saving lives. Yeah, I used to do that myself. When support groups for 30 years. No training, who was going to show up and what they had in their mind. And as I could often not find the placements if I couldn't make it to the group and I had to take everything I've learned and put it in a box before I was put in the box and make it available so people will just open the box, have a great time, feel better about themselves. 

And so it's really ultimately about preventing suicide. And this is a really good reason. I feel like Social Security now, I need these people to be paying into it. I have a vested interest in making sure people are not killing themselves. And it's much safer in school. 

Christopher: Tell me more about that safety motivation.

 

Brian: We know that when kids feel safer in school, they have a really strict anti-bullying policy and it's enforced. But all the kids do better academically because they're not worried about what's left, worried about what's going to happen at lunch or in gym class or walking home from school. Yeah, as an educator, whatever other things would you want to see in the presentation of a mass market game? 

Christopher: But what is your game offering to people other than educators? I mean, you don't want people to just buy your game, but just in general, what would you want to see in a mass market game that's ultimately going to teach?

 

Brian: What I'm proud and amazed of how effective this game has been, people, people all love it. They really, really get excited about it. What I've been asked by many educators, “Do you have a K through six very soon? We would like to see that too.”

I personally felt that developing a wholesome family game for ages 11 and up is risky and difficult (enough). But, you know, eventually I would like to do a K through six game because kids are at school already understanding what it means to be gay based on the figure of politicians saying (during) election cycles, based on G-rated films that they see on television, where they know that being different is a bad thing and will not be that they don't really necessarily know what it means.They just know it's bad. And so, I understand why they would want a way to reach the younger kids. Then this particular product is created for them, because those kids also, they're much more aware than we think than we ever understood about their own sexual identity, their gender identity. So eventually, I would like to see this game in every single school, every library, every social studies post every day for the alliance.And the community needs students. And because we have to make it cheaper and, you know, it will be less so it'll just be a little less glamorous. Yeah, that's what we'll do. That's my battle. I mean, that's simple. For all these years, people talked about the gay agenda. This is my big agenda to really make the world a better place and to know that there's so much talent that gets stifled when people hide their authentic selves. 

Christopher: Even though this is covered in rainbows and bright colors, it’s a serious subject?

Brian: I tell people it's a real thing. Gay. You kill yourself for gay people, that's a real rare opportunity and really to have this authenticity. And, you know, so it's a whole thinking that really affirms an oppressed people when they play it or anything else you want to say just about like being yourself or, you know, okay, maybe I need to have a booth next year or so (here at GAMA Expo).  

Christopher: You feel like connecting with the tabletop industry has been a good thing?

Brian: So many people have been so helpful because they see what I'm trying to do. They love it and understand that this is not going to be mass distributed in its current form. Yeah, so I'm overwhelmed by these sincere and invaluable helpers. So many people are taking me under their wing to help me with a song doing a Kickstarter to create the balance sheet, and I'll be using that on the deluxe version, and that will be an incentive for people to donate to our campaign. 

Christopher: That's great to hear that. Anything else you are doing?

Brian: We'll be looking at some corporate sponsors because this is all very expensive. Yeah. and you know, it's a yeah, we really hope people get on board and help us out, you know? I mean, over my head, I admitted that this is not my wheelhouse. I thought that as soon as it was available, someone else would want to grab it, license that family, and I could focus on our nonprofit, which means we underwrite the cost of the game for any group at all that knows about it.(If) they want it and they have no budget- you know that national nonprofit does that, and I'm hoping that I can just remove that profit eventually. I leave all this for game industry to do. So we're trying. Yeah, people have really been in it for a while and know what they're doing. Fantastic.

 

Christopher: Thank you, Brian.

Brian: Christopher, thank you so much.I appreciate it.


*This post is part of my continuing coverage of GAMA Expo 2024 were I am part of the Hosted Media program. The Game Manufacturer's Association promotes tabletop games of all types and brought media in, expenses paid, to cover the event as a service to industry members.


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