Developer interview: SCARS: The Game of Imperfections

We always get intrigued when games start to cross traditional boundaries. Sometimes that leads to a hybrid of genres in a videogame, and at other times it’s an instance of an IP jumping across to a different format. We recently learned about SCARS, a card-based game that’s quite unlike other card games in that it serves mostly as a conversation starter. All the cards include questions that let players discuss things that are personal to them – many of them body-centered, like the story behind a scar you have.

We’ve already played a few rounds, and it’s a game that’s great at bringing out little-known facts even from those closest and dearest to you – ultimately letting friends grow closer and reach a better understanding of one another. It’s not going to be a typical game night, but playing SCARS can become both a meaningful and memorable experience. We talked to Erin Montgomery, one of the creators of the game at Bonfire Social, to find out more. The game is currently on Kickstarter and with almost a month to go it’s already fully funded! Read on to find out more.

What can you tell us about the people behind SCARS at Bonfire Socials?

I’m Erin! A massage therapist of 7 years and a mother to a 12 year old who is also a big driver of my desire to “be a better society together”. I’m the bleeding heart of the company who gets balanced out by the brains of Bonfire Socials – my partner in life, Alex Campbell, musician, producer, and guitarist of 25+ years.


How did you go about bridging the gap between a background in the wellness sector and game design?

My background in wellness taught me the importance of mental health and community. Massage is the very act of leaning into community to do what one cannot (because self-massage just isn’t the same!) The inspiration that we need each other as much as we need ourselves is what lead to the desire to find a way to bring people together. I already felt strongly about this and had enjoyed my own mountain of conversation cards from other companies.

During the pandemic, Alex and I were sitting outside trying to brainstorm our own conversation cards. Our brainstorming session paused and I glanced over and asked about a scar I’d never noticed before. In an instant, I knew more about him. We were laughing and sharing stories.

That was the bolt of lightning that was our breakthrough. Bodies. Everyone could relate to that. We then thought up questions and beta tested a simple design using the card manufacturing company, Make Playing Cards.

We got ourselves a graphic designer, Sean Raynor, who is to thank for our sleek card and box design. After a two year long process of refining the cards, here we are – at the time of this writing, 95% funded within the first week of launching on Kickstarter!

How did you go about finding the right questions and the wording for the game?

Lots and LOTS of owning conversation card games ourselves.

Alex and I both have strong writing skills so we came up with all the hundreds of body-related questions we could think of. We nullified ones that felt tasteless, redundant, intrusive, or boring. We aimed for questions to move beyond “yes” or “no” answers when possible and instead pulled at memories – often, long forgotten and humorously remembered.

We beta tested, and we ended by having a psychologist vet the cards.


While a lot of games are designed to merely be fun and engaging, this one feels like there are more personal goals involved. What made you want to do a game like SCARS?

We wanted to create interconnectedness in a time when discussions with others can be hard, to say the least.

We also wanted to normalize experiences (like the BFRB card that raises awareness for those with body-focused-repetitive-behaviors. Most people think their nail biting or cheek chewing is a “nasty habit”.. and it brings a lot of shame for those people.) so while we have a lot of funny cards like, “tell us about a time when nature called and you had to respond” – we also wanted to sprinkle in cards you can use with a more intimate group that you want to learn more about.

We hope that our cards, used well, can teach you about the life someone has lived. You find out about activities they enjoyed as children, or their odd quirks that make them unique. We hope our game helps to combat loneliness in a time of – as Esther Perel calls it – “social atrophy”.

SCARS relies on people’s ability to open up. What would your advice be for players who aren’t naturally great conversationalists, especially when it comes to harder topics?

Our advice is don’t answer any question you don’t want to. Share as much or as little as you’d like.

Go for the cards that bring up funny memories or show your own special flare, like “Can you snap your fingers? Whistle? Wink or move your eyebrows?” ( I LOVE this card because everyone begins acting the card out and it often leads to “can you wiggle your ears?” or other things people can do.)

Final thoughts are – ask follow-up questions or let the conversation go off topic. It is OK to be a fly on the wall and just hear the stories and chime in when you want to.

This game isn’t about being the coolest or most interesting person. SCARS is about your life lived and sharing who you’ve been or who you are now. Just be you.


How do you picture SCARS working within different group dynamics?

We’ve played with pretty large groups with all sorts of people. It ends up being like any group dynamic really. You’ve got the big talkers, and the quiet people and it’s perfectly fine.

A lot of people just sit back until a card is asked that inspires them to answer. People that feel less comfortable with vulnerability crack jokes that gets the group laughing and most people (if not all) share funny stories that put others at ease about not having to dive deep.

As SCARS works somewhat like a conversation starter, what are some good ways in which you can add replay value to the game for those who’ve played already?

We recommend answering questions differently! For the card “Do you have a story of a time you injured your foot?” – most people have done so in countless ways throughout their life. So, pick a different memory.

The game ends up being different based on other people’s reactions as well so sometimes, repeating stories can be pretty entertaining when you have some new people in the mix who don’t know you got bit by a squirrel once while trying to save it from your cat. 🙂

We can see there being an almost therapeutic element to SCARS, depending on people’s personal background. Is this intentional and how do you approach this from a game design perspective?

It can be so comforting to know that someone else is similar to us and that happens in this game when someone shares a story and you find out you have something in common, or perhaps someone resonated with a story we shared. It is a small, subtle gesture that feels really nice.

These cards normalize and draw out our own uniqueness… they pull us from small talk into a place that strengthens bonds and hopefully forms community from the laughter and smiles, and experience of interconnectedness shared.

When we have community, we have people to lean on when our cups aren’t full. When we are plagued by isolation, loneliness, and disconnection…exhausted and in despair by the harshness that are inevitable parts of life – and we have no one to lean on – we have no energy for anything.

We can’t solve the biggest problems of our world when we don’t have anything left to give. And while we as individuals cannot solve all the problems (nor should we try) – together, as a collective, we are pretty powerful and that is what SCARS aims to do… those little conversations – being seen and heard and known that add up to building community that snowball into other positive impacts that… help change the world… simply by making people feel better.

So, yeah, it’s pretty therapeutic and long lasting and you were right – it was absolutely intentional.

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