How This Card Game is Bringing Heartfelt Conversations to the Table

Isaiah Chia
Isaiah Chia

Fill Me In

For those who struggle with mental health, it is a slippery slope that can be hard to climb out of. In this pandemic alone, the prevalence of people seeking help for mental health concerns has spiked, affected by economic uncertainty and the pressures of social isolation.

Part of the path to recovery lies with tapping on professional treatment and resources, but as important is a safe space that allows the individual to feel accepted and heard. The card game – TableTalk – aims to recreate that safe space, by redefining conversations around the more intimate, harder-to-approach topics in our lives.

The creator of the game

We spoke to Isaiah Chia, the brains behind the game, to find out more.

A 19-year-old student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic and co-founder of Vessels, a change-driven social enterprise, he first designed the game on material we’re all familiar with – foolscap paper. Being naturally introspective, Isaiah found himself asking questions about identity, the human struggle, and other emotionally profound topics.

Isaiah Chia

The inspiration

Being part of Gen Z made Isaiah fully aware of the prevalence of emotional disconnection, despite increasing digital connectivity. Says Isaiah, “Going up to your friend and telling them out of nowhere that you’re depressed is hard to do. It’s not easy to have these heart-to-heart or deep conversations nowadays.”

Watching a lot of wholesome content on YouTube, Isaiah saw first-hand the power of storytelling and having genuine conversations. Questions like “What are you holding onto that is holding you back?” or “What would you have done differently from your parents?” intrigued him, and it was this culmination of experiences that inspired Isaiah to bring this content into everyday life.

Why TableTalk conversations are important for mental health

According to a market survey conducted by Vessels, seven in ten youths aged 17 to 25 find it hard to have a deep conversation with another. Says Isaiah, “There was this barrier to having meaningful conversations about yourself, and not much was being done about it.”

“But, these conversations are important, because change begins with small steps. Through candid conversations, people grow, as they discover more about themselves and the people they play with. At Vessels, we feel that when you gamify meaningful conversations, it actually creates a space for you to be more vulnerable, since everyone is sharing as well.”

How so?

As Isaiah puts it, “Genuine conversations build relationships, and cultivate understanding.” With studies showing that one in seven people will experience a mental health disorder in their lives, forming bridges that support one another becomes more important than ever.

TableTalk encourages its players to hear another’s story in a fun and open environment, and says Isaiah, “if we all just do this for one other person, it can create this social fabric of support and empathy.”

How TableTalk works

Question cards from four categories – self, circle, love, and discomfort – are arranged in a circle, and light-hearted action cards are placed in the middle. Players each draw a question card, and can choose to answer or take an action card to skip (you’re also action-carded if you break the circle). The game ends with a round of reflection, when the ‘Last Card’ is drawn.

With each question individually created, and a good mix of wild cards and crazy action cards, it’s a creative way to break the ice between old friends and new beyond the usual small talk.

Isaiah Chia
Isaiah Chia

The response so far

Says Isaiah, “One of the things that was unexpected with the game, was that there’s so much buried within us that the questions and actions help to draw out.” Over the several months it took to design TableTalk, Isaiah and his close group of friends literally played it 8 to 10 times, yet still found out something new about each other each time.

At that point, the group had known each other for six years. Says Isaiah, “I think that’s really the beauty of the questions. You would think that the game can be overplayed real quick, and that there’s nothing else to learn about your friends. But when asking the questions to different people or even at different seasons of life, their response can still shock you.”

A question to ask your loved ones

One of Isaiah’s favourite questions from the deck is “Do you feel loved right now? Why or why not?”. Isaiah says, “This question is so powerful because it helps to assess the state of someone’s heart at that very moment. Once, I asked this question on Instagram Story, and while 70% of people shared that they felt loved, 30% indicated that they didn’t.”

“DM-ing them and asking why opened up many conversations – from social anxiety to trust issues.” Much like in TableTalk, asking questions with intention can spark responses that create meaningful conversations.

Where to try the game

Currently, you can play a preview of TableTalk on Telegram (@TableTalkTelegramBot). Following their initial Kickstarter campaign, Isaiah and his team expect to officially launch the game in February 2021.

For the latest exciting developments, and to support Isaiah’s (and Vessel’s) mission to start intentional conversations, you can also follow them on Instagram.


Join the conversations on THG’s Facebook and Instagram, and get the latest updates via Telegram.




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