Image: Isis Suarez Menendez

By: Isis Suarez Menendez and Antonia Pieper

A classmate whispers behind your back. The button of your jeans refuses to close. Your best friend slips you a pill at a party.

Triggers for addiction can wear many faces. They could be hiding behind that boy’s approachable smile, in the anxiety of cramming for tomorrow’s exam, or in the tears shed after the end of a friendship. By themselves, triggers may not seem particularly threatening, much less life-changing. When they start to build up on each other however, they quickly turn destructive.

We often think ourselves invincible: After all, drug addiction is something we read about or hear about, but surely not something we could ever become ensnared by ourselves.

Inspired by the iconic game of Jenga, Silent Saboteur asks you to slip into someone else’s shoes and begin building up the structures of your new life step by step. Some experiences will be positive and steadying, others will destabilize you and your life’s very foundation. By doing so, you will immerse yourself in what it means to struggle with addiction, what the build-up towards addiction can look like, and what it feels like to see the instability of addiction slowly snake its way through the building blocks supporting the fragile underpinnings of our lives.

Will you be able to hold out?


In Silent Saboteur, every player’s goal is to build a stable tower which manages to outlast the others’ towers. There is a catch however: Players are prompted to choose two different kinds of building blocks! The first type of block is stable and easy to stack, symbolizing steadying experiences in your life such as making a new friend or getting a job promotion. The second type of block is bulky and odd-shaped, representing the destabilizing effects of addiction triggers. Here, examples include experiences of abuse or becoming entangled in a drug-using social circle.

A player loses the game if their tower is the first to fall. This collapse symbolizes ultimately giving in to addiction.


By playing this game, we hope you learn about two fundamental dynamics of drug addiction:

1. Reaching a better understanding of the ubiquity of addiction:

There is no one type of person that is susceptible to addiction. Yes, some people may have more risk factors than others, but in the end, addiction can lure any and every one of us into its clutches.

In this game you have the opportunity to slip into various different roles, to let go of your preconceptions and immerse yourself into the context of a new life. By doing so, we hope you gain a better understanding about the vastly different types of people – with different economic, social and cultural backgrounds – that can fall prey to addiction.

2. Reaching a better understanding of the nature of triggers:

Just like there is no one type of addict, there is no one type of trigger for addiction. Triggers can be small, circumstantial and difficult to see and anticipate. This makes their cumulative impact much more difficult for us to assess ahead of time. For this reason, many of us don’t know we are on the path to addiction until it is already too late.

This game is based on the concept of triggers. Every time you encounter a trigger, you have to incorporate a certain number of destabilizing ‘addiction blocks’ into your tower. While just one of these blocks might not threaten your tower, once they start building up on one another, your tower will quickly grow more and more unsteady. This mechanism is meant to visualize the cumulative, increasingly destructive effect that triggers for addiction can have on the foundations of our lives.

A detailed package for distribution is currently under development.

– Struggle in the City Team

Silent Saboteur

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