Weston Karnes talks a good game. Or, more precisely, his new game is good for talking.
Karnes is the creator of “Let’s Get Real Bro,” a conversation card game geared toward guys who want to explore real talk around mental health, feelings, masculinity and more. It’s “’Cards Against Humanity’ meets your therapist,” promises the website built by Karnes.
Karnes is a Seattle tech worker with a product design background who seems to have been contemplating the 90 questions in his deck of cards for much of his adult life. He started his company last August and launched the game in December.
“It’s a lot of what I’ve cultivated over my life. That’s been an evolution,” Karnes said. “I didn’t always seek out more vulnerable, open conversations. I came from a place of a lot of social anxiety when I was younger.”
As he got older, Karnes found value in deeper conversations, group therapy and his own mental health. The game is aimed at guys because men tend to shy from getting together and having a deeper check-in with other men.
Tapping into his user experience skills, Karnes answered his own questions while contemplating and ultimately building “Let’s Get Real Bro”: Who needs this? How can it be more accessible? How do you make it feel fun?
The fun starts with the name and the branding and is threaded throughout the themes and questions in the game. In the game, an asker picks a card and reads a question and players write down their response. The askers choose a favorite reply, but it’s not really about winning.
Humor is important to Karnes. Rather than asking guys a question such as, “What don’t you like about yourself?” it’s framed instead as, “If you were dating yourself, what parts would really suck?”
Three are three levels of cards/conversations in the game: “kind of real,” “pretty real” and “super f***ing real.” The intention is to let people who are playing the game calibrate to a level of, “OK, this is good for me.”
“Most people don’t want to sit down and just get really into the thick of life, you have to balance it,” Karnes said.
The deck also contains “nudge cards” such as “dig deeper, dude,” “i love you, man” and “i feel you, bro” to spur player interaction.
Players who are ready for level four can move on to real therapy, if desired. Karnes has a sponsorship deal with BetterHelp, an online counseling company, and each game comes with a card redeemable for a free month of therapy. He’s also giving $1 from the sale of each $29 game to men’s mental health.
As he learns the ins and outs of building a brand by himself, through marketing and advertising, Karnes has a had a particularly good time finding his groove on social media. On Instagram he’s been doing mini game sessions with friends and other notable men, posing questions that lead to enlightening conversations.
Discussing emotions and masculinity and what makes a man a real man might be a good way to land on a watchlist for the woke in today’s supercharged political and cultural landscape. Karnes is keen to rise, in some circles, of the post-Trump definition of machismo, but he doesn’t shy from “getting real” and helping people of all stripes.
He thinks his brand can access a larger range of individuals through humor and honesty, and he’s attracting an audience in the early going.
“Let’s Get Real Bro” sold through a first run of 1,500 games and 5,000 more just arrived and were being sent out this week. Karnes hopes to sell a lot more by attracting a tech company or several that might want to gift the game to employees, especially during men’s mental health month in November.
The growth of the game and brand will happen in some obvious ways, such as themed expansion packs of cards, and in ways that will take nurturing, such as the continued building of a “Let’s Get Real Bro” community, online support groups or courses .
Karnes is also in the process of building out an iOS app so players can access the game on the go without a deck.
Surprisingly, Karnes is not a big game geek. He said he loses interest if something takes too long to learn. But “Let’s Get Real Bro” does tap in, sort of, to a past life with cards — he played online poker professionally for seven years.
“It’s funny how the cards have come full circle now. But this is very different,” he said, explaining that he uses it more as a tool than a game. “The intention of this game is a little bit more feeling oriented, to take us a little bit out of our head, and just connect.”