Give ‘Em Something To Talk About

Arts & Culture

While the words “card game night” typically evoke images of poker chips and cigars and the kinds of people who think it’s ok to smoke cigars indoors, Sarasota artist Samantha Wuerfel and her partner, Michael Donahue, have something very different in mind with their newest creation: a not-quite-card-game-but-more-conversation-deck called Hio.

Hot off the press, a Hio deck comprises 54 cards, each with a single philosophical/introspective question printed on it. And… that’s it. Less a game and more an operation in curiosity, exploration and empathy, the goal is to spark the kind of conversation that doesn’t always crop up naturally while rehashing the day’s news or recalling the latest episode of whatever, but that almost always results in the sort of evening that everyone agrees “We should do more of.” So while the cards provide some targeted jumping off points for conversation—“Who were you before you were told who you should be?” “How do you think your reality differs from others around you?” “If you could relive any moment, what would it be?”—it really is up to the participants to bring the rest and engage with the questions in an open and honest way. The results, says Wuerfel, could be surprising.

She speaks from experience, having taken a similar “question deck” on a cross-country trip she and Donahue took in the summer of 2021, transporting a friend’s RV from California to Rhode Island. For six weeks, the pair were on a bona fide adventure, camping in national parks, making new friends by the fire and generally doing their best to experience the breadth of what this grand and bizarre nation had to offer. And along the way, in between landmarks and campsites, when the cell service was gone and the horizon stretched out forever, Wuerfel and Donahue went through the deck. “And even though we’d been dating for years,” she says, “we learned so much more about each other.”

In the two years since, the pair have been curating their own deck, asking the questions that they think need asking, pushing the buttons they think need pushing. The result is Hio. “And everywhere we’ve taken our prototype deck,” Wuerfel says, “the responses have been amazing.”

Currently available via the Hio website, the inaugural run will be limited to only 100 decks, as Wuerfel and Donahue already have plans to refine and re-release. They have more decks in the works, as well, including a deck for couples, one for young families, and another based on conspiracy theories. (“Choose who you want to use these decks with,” laughs Wuerfel.) And that’s just to start. Wuerfel and Donahue plan to see how far they can go and just how much a deck of cards can really do.

“So many of us are seeking connection and wanting to learn more about ourselves and the people we surround ourselves with,” says Wuerfel, “and it’s funny to think that a simple deck of questions can be so effective in discovering each other and ourselves.”

https://hiodecks.com/

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