Month: November 2018

Indie Game: The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo

Full Game / Full Video Playthrough

One of my favorite indie games for a while has been The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo, a horror Twine game by Michael Lutz. In it, you play as a child in the nineties who is going over to a friend’s house for a sleepover; their uncle, who works for Nintendo (hence the title), will be visiting at midnight. Throughout the night, the main character has different memories of playing Nintendo games and their friend acts suspiciously. When the uncle arrives, the player can choose to hide in various places or go and open the door with their friend; no matter what, the uncle takes over the screen with lines of code and “eats” them. The true ending is unlocked after experiencing some of the major endings.


The game explores themes of childhood, nostalgia, and fitting in, as well as how games shape our lives, as described in essays unlocked after completing the true ending. I also love the game because of how it creates a very specific tone using text, simple visuals, and powerful audio. Later in the game, it directly plays with the affordances we typically expect from video games, and ties video game functions (such as saving) and other aspects such as bugs directly into the narrative for the player to take advantage of. The use of game affordances as a narrative tool has always intrigued me, and games that do this have recently been breaking more and more into the mainstream.

Art Game Show & Tell – That Dragon, Cancer

That Dragon, Cancer is an autobiographical game created by Ryan and Amy Green about their son Joel’s fight with cancer. The majority of the game is a walking simulator, with the player taking the role of both parents as they struggle to cope with their son’s illness. The game focuses on ideas of love, loss, religion, and purpose, abstracted as chapters in their life with Joel.

That Dragon, Cancer does an amazing job showcasing what games are capable of, and I believe is an excellent example of an art game as it embodies values and affordances of both contemporary art and video games. The game defies the conceptual affordances laid out by the gaming community immediately. This isn’t a heroic game, or escapism, it’s a game about a real family’s struggles and hardships that are unavoidably brutal. Ryan wants players to face the harsh reality of death and to know that no matter what they may be going through that they are not alone.

The game also subverts formal affordances with its strict limits on the player’s agency. Often you can only walk and interact with objects, with little to no choice throughout, furthering the idea that this journey is inevitable. The characters are also abstracted, with the simple geometric faces not going for hyper realism, but a more or less blank canvas in which the dialogue from the real, struggling family can convey their emotion.

Finally the experiential affordances are entirely different from what one thinks of as the typical video game. There isn’t an inherent challenge for the player to conquer, or enemies to shoot. The player is living the lives of a family who is trying to survive, and is powerless to change anything. That Dragon, Cancer is about the player to facing and eventually accepting the harshest realities life has to offer, not escaping them.

As a whole, That Dragon, Cancer is a wonderfully unique game, both in it’s subject matter and approach to game design. It is unflinchingly real, not avoiding any of the paranoia, fear, or cowardice that comes when faced with an enormous struggle. The game design itself is incredibly minimalistic, with the undeniable focus being the story itself. It’s a game the provokes long and thoughtful reflection, and that captures a unique essence of fear and love that so many games fail to replicate.

Intervention: Lifting Up Spirits

Intervention: Lifting Up Spirits

(lol because elevators are called lifts)  

Artist Statement:

I created Lifting Up Spirits because i beloved the elevator is a great petri dish of awkwardness and mundanity to produce interesting social interventions.

This piece draws influence from my personal life and interventions we examined in class (and on my personal time) of causing a public disturbance in a playful manner. I take a less obstructive approach to intervening because I felt it would be rude to interfere with people/students schedules. Instead my piece passively engages with the awkward tension in an elevator.

In my own life, because sometimes I do strange things to spice up someone’s life with a little fluxus/micro-happening. For example when I am walking by the communal bathroom door where I live, ill pop my head in and make a strange noise like an alien bird call or a fart sound, then continue down the hallway.

The other veins of inspiration I pulled from were less extreme than the works found in On Edge, and more geared towards the playfulness in the pieces by improv everywhere. I was hoping for people to become apart of the piece by participating in the game rather than marinating in the awkwardness. The other aria I drew inspiration was the 1962 psychology experiment in conformity Elevator Groupthink. Mostly because this was the only work done in an elevator that came to mind.

Combining my desire to inject strange moments into people’s lives and the interventions I’ve learned about, I wanted to encourage other people to make those same odd decisions by participating in a game in the elevator.

The most common effect my intervention had on the “players” (aka anyone who enters the elevator) was an odd (almost disgusted look) at the instructions. Most people stared at it during their ride, often glancing up at the paper like it was looking at them. The second VERY RARE response was actual participation. This usually arose when people came into the elevator as friends or sometimes questioned me about what was taking place in the elevator. The last reaction was the person just didn’t witness the paper and continued with their lives. One instance i was able to enter the elevator while someone was already inside and participate without seeming suspicious. I made the fart sound with my mouth because it was a personal favorite. The persons reaction was silent but there facial expiration could be described in the words “not to shabby..”.



Iteration 1 (I tried to keep it simple and easy to process)




Say Hi/Hello = 5

Complement = 10 points

Question =15 points


Iteration 2 (I added two sections in case people wanted to participate solo or they were alone in the lift)



Group Points


Say Hi/Hello = 5


High Five = 10


Everyone Hold Hands = 15


Everyone = 15


Solo Points 


Snap your fingers = 5


Clap your hands = 5


Stand on one foot = 10


Dance = 20


Iteration 3 (eliminated the words “Solo Points and Group Points” because they weren’t necessary and i decided the sections with lines)




Say Hi/Hello = 5


High Five Someone = 10


Everyone Hold Hands = 15



Clap or Snap with your hands = 5


Stand on one foot = 10


Make a fart sound = 15


Dance = 20


[untested Iteration 4]

Print out an outline of a hand and above it reads “SLAP FOR GOOD LUCK”

I believe this iteration takes a lot of the social pressure away and i would sit in the elevator and slap it during the ride to encourage people to participate.


This is how the piece looked when the doors were closed.

Here are people not participating and just observing/being intervened.

Girl looks

Girl looks 2

Girl looks 3

Guy looks

Here are people becoming apart of the intervention.

People participate

participatioon guy

Guy participates 2

Girls participate

Indie Game Show and Tell: The House on the Hill

House on the Hill

I don’t play many video games (gasp!), but those I do play are usually browser-based, and a lot are text-based games. One new of my favorite Twine games is The House on the Hill.

At the beginning you choose a character, and then you move through the house using cardinal directions and finding different rooms. You only get a few moves per turn, and depending on which room you end in you find different things. Notably, there is no map, so you have to build a mental image of which rooms lead to which. And you can’t see your stats, but are told when you lose or gain a point in their different categories. During the game, you realize that you are playing as a board game character, along for the ride in a friend group’s game of Betrayal at House on the Hill. After a slow first half, the game accelerates into stopping the betrayer.

I liked this game because of its game-within-a-game qualities, as well as the memorization that made it more challenging than I assume the board game is. It’s fun to play a “multiplayer” game with just myself (which also adds to the horror element being more impactful).

(This game also warrants a mention, for its accuracy above all else:

Intervention: Reserved


Place a piece of paper reading “Reserved” on a table in a dining hall, or other area where seating is open. Wait 20-60 minutes to see what happens.


The first round was in Stetson East. The sign read “Reserved (in large font) for those without backpacks (in smaller font)”. Duration: 60 minutes.

The dining hall wasn’t too busy, but there were enough people that at least 10 came and went over an hour.  Several people looked at it, and one girl with a background touched it, read the small text, and then chose another booth. Everyone sat around the booth it was in.

The second round was also in Steast. The sign read “Reserved for those wearing Husky gear”. Duration: 30 minutes.

I chose a busier time to see if desperation for seating would make people more willing to disregard the sign. The same thing happened, with no one sitting there. However, the different this round was that when I looked up the sign was gone; someone had taken it.

The third round was in International Village. The sign read “Reserved for a couple.” Duration: 30 minutes.

Several people gave the sign strange looks or frowns, and one person talked about it to their friend, came over the the table, set their stuff down, read the small text, and went back to their old seating place.

This got me thinking that maybe people were hesitant to sit at a table that said “Reserved” even if they fit the description, so I made a new sign.

The fourth round was in Curry Student Center. The sign read “Reserved for those who wants to sit here.” Duration: 1 minute

This time I decided to “reserve” the table for anyone who read the small text. Once I set it down, the table was claimed within seconds of me walking away to get a picture. I wonder if this was because Curry was really busy, or because older students might have less indecisiveness about sitting at a table marked reserved.

The fifth round was in Steast again. The sign read the same “Reserved for those who want to sit here.” Duration: 20 minutes.

Because of the change of setting, this time took longer for someone to sit down. What I found interesting was that several people read the sign and decided to sit somewhere else (this may indicate they only read the large text?) After 15 minutes someone finally read it, smiled, and decided to sit there.


I originally had the idea to give flyers to those distributing flyers, namely the Jehovah’s witnesses, but that proved too difficult. Instead, I decided to play with the idea of how much people trust signs to have authority. Even the paper sign I made in Paint and then printed on normal printing paper seemed to have some sort of authority, even though it really didn’t. The structure of the dining hall was a good place to set it, because seating is always open, and I’ve never seen any table be reserved. How and why would you even reserve a table in a dining hall? Still, people seemed to buy it. Surprisingly, no one contradicted the signs through the 5 runs, and more than that, no one fitting the descriptions decided to sit there either, until the last sign (“Reserved for those who want to sit here”). I wonder: if there were to be someone fitting the description sitting at the table if others would be more keen to sit there (or if a person sitting there would stop them from doing the same instead of sitting by themselves.)

This intervention played with the cultural expectation of food seating, or the experiential affordance of a table. A table can be reserved in a restaurant setting, and even though the dining hall is not a restaurant setting, people are easily willing to accept it since the context is similar enough, even if they’ve never had the experience of reserving a table in a dining hall. It also questions what makes something have authority, if there is nothing concrete to back that up. The sign, though paper, had enough details (the fact that it was printed, the font, the more complicated way it was folded) to register as “formal”. If I were simply to have written Reserved on a scrap piece of paper, there might’ve been less regard given to those instructions.

This idea fed from similar ideas from past projects, namely the beach balls left in the quad and the origami paper cranes left out. I wanted to do something regarding out of order elevators or showers, but that had already been done. It was also inspired partially by Chris Burden’s questions of authority, and his Shout Piece, described in On Edge like this: “he sat on a brightly lit platform… ordering people to ‘get the fuck out”—which most did, immediately.” That description stood out to me.

Overall, I think this intervention was more of a social experiment, but a success nevertheless.

Indie game S&T: Samorost 3


I chose the game Samorost 3, a point and click puzzle adventure where the player interacts with a detailed and immersive world through the curious character Gnome. Gnome is equipped with a musical tool that allowed him to activate spirit like entities that inhabit objects in the environment. This game succeeds in many ways at knowing what type of game it wants to be, which is an immersive journey, and focusing on that in every way. The player engages with the game through discovery and solving puzzles in order to progress. The difficulty of the puzzles is balanced and relatively easy which has a positive impact by letting the player be equally as engaged in the challenge of a puzzle and the experience of solving a puzzle while existing in a new world. The art process utilizes a wide variety of digital painting and image manipulation (of things like horse hair and rocks) to create beautiful realistic outlandish visuals. The mastery and complexity in visuals is also matched with an beautiful soundtrack that mixes tribal tonnes, rich nature sounds, and an almost metallic biological noises at some parts. Headphones are a must.

I chose this game because of my personal affinity and it’s a strong example of how art intersects with games. In game art, as talked about in the readings, “challenge is often found in the unconventional themes and there mechanics to explore them” (Works of Game : On the Aesthetics of Games and Art). In In my opinion this game exists strongly in the space of art because of its ability to present challenge in the context of its unconventional visuals and mechanics.

Indie/Art Game Show and Tell: Night in the Woods

The game I showed was Night in the Woods. Night in the Woods is a narrative driven game that uses platforming elements and mini-games to tell the story of Mae, a college dropout who is returning home to her dead end home town of Possum Springs. The story is full of delightful characters and story threads and expresses the feelings of returning home after being away to find that while things look the same on the surface, they really aren’t.

To me, this game is important as it expresses a lot of the feelings of being excluded and trying to fit back in when the place you call home has changed without you being there. As someone who went across the country for school and is moving to the opposite coast for a job after school, the feelings of missing home but also not really fitting in back home ring true. The moments of trying to relive the glory days but knowing that you aren’t a high school student anymore and it won’t last ring true to my own personal experiences.

Indie Game Show and Tell

The game I chose for the indie game show and tell is Owlboy by D-Pad Studios. You can watch the release trailer here:

In Owlboy, you play as a young owl named Otus who can’t seem to get anything right. However, when pirates attack his village, he takes it upon himself to make things right again. D-Pad Studios worked 9 years on this game, and it shows in the gameplay and the artwork. The sprite work is incredibly detailed and well-done, the music is fantastic, and the gameplay is smooth and simple.

I chose the game because of this effort and detail put into it. The sprite work in the game is some of the best I’ve ever seen for a sprite-driven game. When I was playing through it I found myself completely immersed in the environment due to the detail and the music. Plus, it’s just fun to play. Otus can’t do much besides fly on his own, so you carry characters to help you. This allows for a lot of skill as you switch between party members and “change weapons” based on the scenario you’re presented with.

It also tied into the reading as it relates to the concept of games for entertainment, art games, and further, game art. The mechanics, story, and game itself was meant for entertainment. It’s fairly simplistic but utilizes its few mechanics to the fullest. The game’s backgrounds, designs, and music, however, give this game a very artistic vibe. It may not speak on any particular message, but just the sheer beauty of the environments is art. Combine these, and you see game art, the mesh between the game aspect and the artistic aspect of the game.

Artwork 3: GTA V Helicopter News (Intervention)

ARTWORK 3: Intervention – GTA V Helicopter News

The Premise:

Players have to act as reporters in a GTA Online match and report what they’re seeing in Game Chat

The Rules:

  1. Two players (One Pilot, One Reporter) pretend to be part of a News Helicopter crew in a GTA Online lobby
  2. The Reporter must “report” in game chat where everyone can hear them
  3. Neither the Pilot nor the Reporter can attack other players or return fire if attacked by other players

Artist Statement & Inspiration:

My main goal with GTA V Helicopter News was two fold: One, to create a fun and silly game that forced participants to interact with the extremely hostile world of GTA Online in a different context (as a defenseless spectator), and Two, to force those who commit the actions that make GTA Online extremely hostile to view their actions through someone else’s eyes.

Part of the inspiration for this project came from memories of the mini games my friends and I had come up with playing games like GTA IV. I also drew some inspiration from machinimas like Freeman’s Mind and Red vs. Blue, which usually manipulated the game to create content that was somewhat different from the intended play (more so in the case of Red vs. Blue). The main inspiration came from several role-playing mods that sprung up from games like ARMA 3 (Project Life) and GTA V (LSPDFR), as well as the many videos that sprung up around such mods.

As for broader sources of inspiration, the work of The Yes Men, particularly in regards to the performance where one of their members impersonated a DOW Chemical spokesperson on the BBC, was influential. This performance drew international attention to DOW’s misdeeds (in regards to them failing to clean-up after the 1984 Bhopal Chemical leak, which was caused by a company they later bought), while also showing how they continued to do nothing to mitigate the damage (i.e. Failed to compensate the victims of the disaster). While my project had far lower stakes, their method of using performance art to make a group of people come face to face with their misdeeds explicitly inspired the second part of the project’s main goal.

Play Report:

  • Results weren’t bad, but they weren’t great either.
  • Plenty of footage was recorded, but there wasn’t much vocal response from the players
  • 9 times out of 10 we were shot out of the sky before we could start recording (had to constantly stop and restart due to Xbox Capture limitations) by hostile players in various flying vehicles (Helicopters, Jets, Hover Bikes, etc.) as well as ground-based players with anti-aircraft weapons (Heat-Seeking Missiles)
  • Side note: It was also really difficult trying to get helicopters because they were spawning in weird places and I had my HUD turned off to get the best footage



Artwork #3 Intervention: Somebody


  • Laptop
  • Bluetooth/wireless speaker
  • Song/meme of your choice


  • Connect your laptop to the speaker and make sure to hide it in a reasonably obscure place
  • When playing the song of your choice, leave the window open in full view and make sure it is no smaller than the video player
  • Your screen brightness has to be no lower than 4 (on a mac)
  • Play the song and only end it if A: you are ratted out by classmates, B: you are questioned by the professor, or C: the source is stopped.

For this  assignment, my goal was to intentionally disrupt an established system/procedure with something that was lighthearted or otherwise inherently meaningless, but familiar and socially relevant enough to be funny. In essence, I wanted to break up the daily monotony of class (especially one that was 3.30 hours long) with a direct injection of laughter and general non-seriousness, relying on a somewhat shared generational sense of humor to optimally make light of a serious moment.

I had originally intended for this project to be competitive, and while I issued an open challenge at the end of my intervention, I am doubtful that many people would be willing to take it up. Class choice was important for this as well; I had to pick a class with a professor who wouldn’t take it too seriously, was full of class mates with a shared culture of media consumption, and had a similar/not too distant sense of humor.

This project most closely resembles some situationists’ tactical interventions, mainly situationist pranks and jests that served to subversively undercut what they considered oppressive establishments, corporate institutions, and top-down media broadcasts. One comparable example is the Notre-Dame Affair that aired on French national television in the 1950s where key members of the radical wing of the Lettrist movement (which has its roots in Dada and surrealism) hijacked an Easter Sunday sermon broadcast, “choosing a quiet moment in the Easter High Mass to climb to the rostrum and declaim before the whole congregation a blasphemous anti-sermon on the death of God, penned by Serge Berna.”

While my intervention was nowhere near as goal-oriented, subversive, or scathing, both instances were wholly disruptive, completely driving attention away from a previous focal point and towards this abrupt, curious interruption. They were both situations where the “soap box” or podium speaker that has harnessed the attention of the crowd was usurped by something entirely foreign to the audience and their setting. However, while the Lettrist intervention probably earned the contempt of many a French church-goer, mine seemed to positively influence the atmosphere of the room, making the experience feel like a transactional performance of sorts whereby I gained the audience’s favor in exchange for a curious happening and a good laugh.