Two teenage brothers in Hong Kong aim to help those stuck in COVID quarantine by giving away their thought-provoking new invention.
While many of us have been worried about getting COVID, or are anxious about vaccines, lockdowns and life in general, brothers Alex and Gabriel Wigisser realized this wasn’t a productive way to spend time. Nor is it good for one’s mental health either.
The long-term Hong Kong residents, 14 and 15 years old respectively, decided to do something about it instead.
“We would like to save the world and heal it,” says Alex.
With that sentiment in mind, the duo spent several months conceiving, designing, finessing and finishing ‘Q!’, a card game designed for families, friends and those in relationships to bond with each other.
“We wanted the cards to connect family and friends on a deeper level,” adds Gabriel.
Nobody wins or loses when playing Q! and the rules are simple. Each person playing selects one or more of the 52 cards in the deck and reads the question contained on it out loud. Then, each participant reveals their answer, as personally or generically as they wish. Those who aren’t speaking are urged to listen closely and maintain eye contact with the person who is giving their answer. Everyone who takes part is eventually urged to answer the same question.
“The golden rule of the game is to have no judgments,” says Alex. “The only objective is to have in-depth conversations and be closer to your peers.”
The questions range from the light — “If today was your birthday, what would you wish for?” — to the potentially revealing: “Do you have any regrets? If so, which ones?” The brothers stress that people aren’t obligated to answer the questions they receive. There’s also no set game length or need to go through every card in the pack.
“The cards aren’t meant to be finished,” says Gabriel. “You are meant to drift away. We’ve done three cards which took three hours and that was fine.”
Alex and Gabriel first thought of the idea during a family dinner when they were thinking of ways they could help people who are stuck in quarantine in the city, which, to date, has some of the strictest and longest lockdowns in the world. They decided to put a Hong Kong twist on a Costa Rican game called Vasotherapy, which has been played by over 4,000 people there as a device to improve personal bonds and have better conversations.
“A young psychotherapist named Cristina Gomar invented it and uses it on her patients,” says Alex. “The game was in Spanish, so we decided to adapt it and she agreed.”
After collaborating with her for two months, the brothers decided to completely redesign the game for a Hong Kong audience with Gomar’s blessing. That meant new designs, packaging and most importantly, 15 Hong Kong-specific cards for local residents.
“There are questions in there like ‘If Hong Kong was an animal, what would it be?’ I would say a monkey,” laughs Gabriel. “For me, a monkey is an animal that hustles a lot and ends up getting what it wants. You see that a lot in Central and Causeway Bay.”
To date, the duo has produced close to 200 packs of Q! and have tested it out on friends, family and classmates. There are even plans for more international city-specific editions. But their biggest goal at the moment is to be able to deliver the card game free of charge into the hands of anybody stuck in quarantine throughout the city.
They’ve enlisted the help of the NGO organization Time Auction to help, but are emphatic about responding to anybody and everybody who contacts them.
“People can contact us via Facebook, email and Instagram,” says Alex. “We get an average of five to seven emails a day. If they tell us their address, we send Q! over in a bag and just ask people to pay it forward by posting about the game.”
For the Wigissers, creating Q! has been a thought-provoking and challenging entry-level look at what goes into creating a business, which they hope to pursue one day after university. More immediately though, it’s given them therapeutic insights into the potential severity of mental health issues in the city. Their greatest reward is being able to help those in quarantine.
“Quarantine is not the same as talking in person,” says Alex. “The best feeling is a thank you email at the end,” adds Gabriel. “It really motivates us and is satisfying.”
Those who would like a copy of Q! can request one by emailing: Qgamehk@gmail.com
Time flies when you’re having fun, so Q! just might make those mandatory 21 days in quarantine go more quickly.