Not so Hungry Not so Hungry Hippos

by | Oct 18, 2018 | Artwork #2: Appropriate, Uncategorized

Artist Statement: Not so Hungry Not so Hungry Hippos

This works intention was to appropriate a childhood game and incorporate adult-life concepts into the gameplay. The childhood game modified for this project was Hungry Hungry Hippos and the concept from adult life was dietary restrictions. I represented prominent symptoms of four human dietary issues through the certain penalties players receive when consuming colored pills. For instance, lactose intolerance is known to cause diarrhea/flatulence, this is represented by the player disposing of half their stomach contents before tallying up points.

I was attempting to change a fast paced game of greed into a slower game of timing a strategy. This was well accomplished after eliminating the hypoglycemic diet. That diet penalty was activated when it did not eat a certain food so it was incentivized to eat more, rather than the other players who were penalized for eating voraciously. Without that intense energy stirring the pills, all the players were more forced to be more cautious when consuming. A strategic element of timing developed which slowed the pace of the game. Players also discovered new ways to manipulate the hippo head. They found stages in its opening depending on how hard you pressed down on the button which they used to help manipulate which pills fell into their mouths.

Balancing the amount and type of pills in play was going to be a main issue to work out. For the first iteration of playlets attempted to work out a decent balance between the pill types by working out percentages and ratios of probability in respect to each hippo. After play testing, slight adjustments were made by one or two units to polish off balance.

My piece Not so Hungry Not so Hungry Hippos comes from the vein of fluxes artists reinventing classic games while weaving in a new narrative or alternate meaning. Yoko Ono’s “Play It By Trust” is a prime example by altering the colors of the classic game Chess to reflect a more serious theme, the pointlessness of war. My piece follows a similar structure by appropriating the classic game of Hungry Hungry Hippos and changing the colors to reflect a new meaning found in adult life.

Appropriation Game: Not so Hungry Not so Hungry Hippos

Game Contents:

  • Game base
  • Four hippo heads and bodies
  • A malleable Clay/Putty substance
  • 43 Marbles
    • 20 Normal Red marbles
    • 23 food marbles
      • 5 Yellow
        • Peanut
      • 5 Pink
        • gluten
      • 6 Black
        • Sugar
      • 6 White
        • Milk
      • 1 Blue
        • Cure-all

How to set up: Start off with all the food units in the eating zone. Fill up each marble release aria with normal (non food) red marbles

How to win: Whoever’s hippo gains the most points after 6 rounds wins.

Rules: Every hippo has a unique dietary restriction. Depending on the diet, the player will receive a penalty upon consuming food units that negatively correlate with their diet. The hippo that collects the one cure-all (blue) marble will not be affected by their diet for that round.

Hippo Diets:


If consumed 3 or more sugar pills in one round, all red pills don’t count

(Symptom: increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination)

Lactose Intolerance

If consumed any milk pills, lose 1/2 of points gained that round

(Symptom: diarrhea, flatulence)

Anaphylaxis Shock

If consumed any peanut pills, pass out for next round

(Symptom: anaphylaxis shock)

Gluten Intolerance

Stick a quantity of putty equal to the size of the pink pills consumed in the stomach of the hippo.

(Symptom: bloating and abdominal pain)

How to play:

Before playing, the players pick dietary issues at random

Once that game begins all the hippos can consume the colored pellets. Once all pellets are consumed, the eating phase ends.

The players then check the contents they have collected. Every pellet counts as a point. Dietary penalties are activated in this phase if a hippo eats a pill that interferes with their diet.

After six rounds the player with the most points wins



Not so Hungry Not so Hungry Hippos underwent 3 iterations. The changes between iterations improved major balance issues and changed the functions of certain diets to bring gameplay closer to a reimagining of Hungry Hungry hippos.

Changes from Iteration 1 to Iteration 2

-Replaced hypoglycemia diet with diabetes diet

-Why: During play-tests, hypoglycemia was at an unfair advantage because it received a penalty for not eating enough sugars. Essentially punished for not eating enough, where the other players were forced to play more cautiously because they can not eat certain things.

-Added 2 more milk and 1 more peanut pill

-Why: To improve balance between the players

-Changed the punishment of anaphylaxis-lips from sticking putty onto the hippos lips too putting putty in the hippo’s stomach.

-Why: The weight of the putty was too much for the hippo eating mechanism to perform effectively, it was too much of a disadvantage.

Changes from Iteration 2 to Iteration 3

-Renamed the ‘anaphylaxis-lips’ diet to ‘gluten intolerance’ and the Strawberry pill to the Gluten pill

-Why: The new rule of putting putty in the stomach of the hippo is more accurate to the sensation of bloating found in gluten intolerant people.



  • The play testing video below depicts usual gameplay.
  • The play testing video below is when the hypoglycemic hippo was passed out for a turn. This reflects the more cautious gameplay I discussed.