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Moving to KL during the lockdown, Shi Qi, a full-time teacher and self-proclaimed part-time TikToker, craved having conversations that went beyond the surface. 

Struggling to find a community in the city, Shi Qi turned to her long-term friend, Sarah, for support. The duo would text for hours, diving into topics from the heart, sharing their innermost thoughts and epiphanies. 

“I found that these conversations were so precious, and I longed to cultivate them with other people whom I love and trusted,” Shi Qi told Vulcan Post.

With the idea to connect and foster closer relationships between strangers, friends, and family alike, they created a card game titled, But Honestly.

Opening up

Shying away from sensitive topics can be second nature to many, especially those who grew up in Asian cultures, But Honestly’s website reads. We’re taught from a young age that certain things are too taboo to talk about and that wearing your heart on your sleeve is a sign of weakness. 

The goal of But Honestly is to break this stigma by fostering a safe space for honesty and vulnerability. 

Its co-founding team which comprises childhood friends, Shi Qi, Sarah, and Davin believe in the importance of having real and meaningful conversations. 

Sarah, Shi Qi, and Davin, childhood friends turned co-founders / Image Credit: But Honestly

“Mental health awareness is rising and was catalysed by the pandemic. We want to play a part in normalising open and honest conversations so everyone can better support one another,” stated Shi Qi.

But Honestly’s game mechanics differs slightly from its popular counterpart, We’re Not Really Strangers, in the way it has three question categories that increase in depth as the game progresses.

The deck also contains Action cards that act like more wholesome dares (in reference to Truth or Dare). While playing with my colleagues, a fun Action card we came across contained a prompt asking us to play our most recent song from a playlist we have, and share how that song made us feel.

The conversation managed to progress into the kinds of music we listened to, what we liked about them, and more.

Some of the Level 2 and 3 Action cards in the deck / Image Credit: But Honestly

Though the game recommends involving two to six players, you could also play it by yourself as a form of self-reflection, or in a larger group. In addition, the goal of the game isn’t to go through all 100 prompts in the deck, but to facilitate meaningful conversations. 

Having played But Honestly with two different groups of friends, I can attest to this. 

However, the success of cultivating a meaningful session would depend on how open each player is in sharing their personal experiences. But if you’ve got stubborn cookies in the group, having a good moderator helps too.

Crowdsourcing ideas and funds

While But Honestly was in development, the team posted about it on the popular Facebook group, Subtle Asian Traits (SAT), looking for some prompts for the cards.

Shi Qi shared that her intention in doing so was because But Honestly was imagined to centre around Asian culture. She figured that SAT would be a good source of inspiration in finding prompts that would be relatable.

Community event held at Ellipsis cafe / Image Credit: But Honestly

“Many of the topics brought up related to the experience of family,” Shi Qi said. “There were comments about the struggles of being the oldest child, tiger parenting, and pursuing your interest VS what your parents wanted.”

There were even some prompts that made it into the final deck:

  • Do you think your family’s expectations of you are realistic?
  • If you have siblings, do you feel sibling rivalry within your family? And if you are an only child, do you wish you had siblings?
  • Do you seek your parent’s approval for the big decisions you make in life?

On the topic of crowdsourcing, But Honestly also launched a Kickstarter campaign in September 2021 to fund the project.

“The original goal was to raise £5,000 (RM27,000) to help us start the business,” Shi Qi disclosed. “It was a 60-day campaign and we managed to exceed our goal and hit £9,889 (RM53,000) in funding. It was crazy watching the number rise daily.”

Screnshot from the completed campaign on Kickstarter

She elaborated that most of But Honestly’s 417 backers resided in Malaysia, with the US as the second-largest nation. They also saw backers from Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, and Canada. 

Each backer who pledged to the Kickstarter campaign was promised a deck of But Honestly cards and some additional goodies in gratitude for their support.

When asked about what Shi Qi thought contributed to the success of the campaign, she believed it was the media coverage the game received during its funding period. 

“We also intentionally built an Instagram following before our Kickstarter launched, so people were already interested in who we were,” Shi Qi said. “I believe people saw this product as something meaningful to enhance their relationships with others!”

Officially rolled out in January 2022, But Honestly went through five rounds of edits in nine months before the final deck was launched for RM69.90.

Going all in

Currently, the team claims to have sold close to 1,000 But Honestly decks. Having started as a side hustle, the co-founders are now planning to go all in this year to expand.

They’ve hosted a workshop for some of Malaysia’s successful leaders / Image Credit: But Honestly

Curious to know if they plan to release more card games, or even spin-offs in the future, Shi Qi teased that an expansion pack, a Chinese deck, and a family deck are in the making. 

The team is also venturing into more community events and corporate workshops, where they help moderate and host these games to build safe spaces for meaningful sessions.

  • Learn more about But Honestly here.
  • Read more game-related articles here.

Featured Image Credit: Shi Qi, co-founder of But Honestly

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)