Workshop Wednesday: Pickup Planets

Image Description: The title in white reads: “Pickup Planets”. The sub-title in pale grey reads: “A Game of Privilege and Oppression”. The backdrop is outer space, with stylized white stars and one shooting star on a black background. There are five planets– a small red one, a giant yellow one, a medium-sized blue one, a giant purple one with a thin ring on a vertical axis, and a medium-sized green one with a thick ring on a horizontal axis. The URLs in white read “” and ““.

What’s The Source?

The Pickup Planets Game was first taught to me at a LGBTQ+ youth leadership retreat called Project Acorn in 2010. The facilitators learned it a few years prior from Karen B.K. Chan (, who had facilitated the creation of the earliest version of the game with youth of colour in Toronto.

What’s The Point?

This game shows the ways people come from different social locations and deal with systemic pressures. It illustrates basic understandings of racial and class privilege and oppression.

Who’s It For?

This game is best for ages 12 and up.

What You Need

  • Pickup Planet Activity Cards
  • Red buttons/stickers/ribbons/etc. equal to the amount of Red Pickup Planet Cards you have
  • 10-40 players/participants

What You Do

  1. You hand out Pickup Planet Activity Cards to all participants.
  2. Make sure all Red Cards come with a button/sticker/ribbon/etc. for the participant to wear.
  3. Make sure there’s at least two of every card given out (Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, and Purple).
  4. First, tell the participants that they can read their cards but can’t show their cards to anyone.
  5. Secondly, tell the participants that they have to act out whatever the card tells them to (but keep your hands to yourself!).
  6. Lastly, tell the participants that the point of the game is to “pick up” as many friends as possible, and they have 5-10 minutes to do so.
  7. After 5-10 minutes, ask the participants to sit down in a circle together and start a discussion.

What You Talk About

1) [Do this for every card: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Purple] Who was from the [insert colour] Planet? Can one of you read your card out loud? What did it feel like to be from the [insert colour] Planet? What did everyone else feel and think about the [insert colour] Planet?

2) What kind of real life examples do these cards talk about? Examples:

  • Green Planet is an example of newcomers who are still learning the dominant language.
  • Purple Planet is an example of newcomers and peoples who have different cultural values and behaviours.
  • Red Planet is an example of privileged and supremacist-thinking folks.
  • Yellow Planet is an example of folks whose people have been demonized and oppressed for generations.
  • Blue Planet is an example of folks who have been colonized and/or oppressed for generations and are pro-assimilation.

3) Explain that this game is a great example of privilege. You, as the game facilitator, are the system of privilege that sets up everything up. No one earned or were chosen to be from Red Planet, and no one earned or were chosen to be from Yellow Planet—it was randomly chosen. Privilege is that unearned advantage, and oppression is that unearned disadvantage. It doesn’t mean the system is right, and it can be undone.

4) Imagine if the goal of the game wasn’t to get as much friends as possible, but also to get jobs, land, resources, opportunities, and livelihoods. How can we work together to make sure people feel less alienated and oppressed? Examples:

  • Cultural exchanges where we try to learn each other’s cultures and languages.
  • Individual interactions where we think about why we react a certain way and work to understand where the other person is coming from, without jumping to assumptions and stereotypes.
  • Going through anti-oppression and decolonization training.

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