New iPhone Game Lets You Throw Tampons at Bad Guys and Break Taboos at the Same Time

February 13th 2015

Kathleen Toohill

If the idea of an app that revolves around tampons makes you cringe, there’s a reason for that – it’s called the menstrual taboo, which stigmatizes periods as embarrassing and indecent. The teenage creators of Tampon Run want to use their app to help eradicate the menstrual taboo and to encourage more girls to pursue computer science.  

Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, two high school students living in New York City, created Tampon Run as their final summer project for Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization launched in 2012 that supports high school girls learning to code. In Tampon Run, the game's protagonist, Luna, throws tampons to vanquish her enemies, who are people trying to confiscate her tampons. The tampons turn into pads and fly away when they hit their targets. 

Houser and Gonzales launched the game via their website last September and recently released an iOS version with the help of Pivotal Labs.

“Honestly, our only expectation was that our family and friends would visit [the site],” Gonzales said of their September launch in a TEDx Youth talk. 

“The next day [after launch],” Houser continued, “I got a frantic call from my mom. ‘Where are you?’ she said. ‘You’re trending!’”

Houser shared her experience of being too embarrassed and ashamed to buy tampons when she first got her period.

"This is the menstrual taboo,” Houser said during the TEDx talk. “Most people don't even realize that it exists, but it's prevalent, and it's a problem. It teaches women that a normal and natural bodily function, something that most women get for the majority of their lives, is embarrassing, crude, and shameful. It teaches women not to appreciate something that embodies their womanhood.“ 

Tennis player Heather Watson made headlines a few weeks back when she attributed a poor showing in the Australian Open to her period. “Menstruation: the last great sporting taboo,” proclaimed a headline in The Guardian. 

But confronting the menstrual taboo is not the end game for Houser and Gonzales. The pair found coding empowering, and they hope that their story inspires other girls to take interest in the traditionally male-dominated fields of engineering and technology.

"Statistically, in a room of 25 engineers, only three of them are women,” Gonzales said during the TEDx talk. “And even though 60 percent of all college graduates are female, only 20 percent of all computer science majors are women.”

I downloaded the cleverly-named app Tampon Run (like Temple Run, get it?) after a protracted struggle with my phone, which first told me that I needed to update my software to download the app and then told me that I didn’t have enough storage to update my software (maybe my phone is secretly a period-shamer).

This new iOS version currently has four and a half stars (out of five) and 67 reviews. Its description in the app store reads: “Help Luna rid the world of menstruation haters! Throw tampons at them and don’t let them confiscate yours. How many enemies can you enlighten?”

As Luna, I had two options when I encountered enemies: to jump over them or to fire tampons at them. I could access additional tampon boxes floating in the sky by jumping up into them, but characters careening through the sky via jetpack cause you to lose a life if you jump into them. The idea, as far as I could tell, is to accrue as many tampons as possible and only fire them when you can’t jump because of jetpack girl. I got a score of two on my first try, seven on my second try and ten on my third – I might just be a Tampon Run master yet.

Tampon Run feels like a nostalgia-inducing throwback to a much older game, but there’s nothing outdated about its mission of enlightenment and awareness. If you’re interested in trying your hand at tampon-throwing and tampon-box grabbing, you can download the app here.