My final project is a game card/board game about analyzing news “stories” and creating headlines to sell (and often spin) said stories. The game was largely inspired by my growing interest over the years in how money and other agendas can absolutely warp coverage and shape policy– a couple notable examples being the consistently empathetic coverage of billionaires and the recent Splinter news debacle. The game seeks to highlight the seemingly arbitrary and completely dishonest way basic facts can be distorted while maintaining the humorous and parodic nature of Dadaist work.
In the game players draw a card from a “story” deck which usually outlines an event, its participants, the location, and other relevant information. Players then go on to submit a “headline” to a judge, who selects a winner and awards a point. The winner then becomes the next judge and so on. In initial iterations, this was the main focus of the game and it worked successfully to create a humorous dynamic not dissimilar to Cards Against Humanity. Some highlights that made me and others laugh include:
- “Dukey Buys Chinese Children” – From a story about a “fake” rapper “Dukey North” creating a new clothing line that was made using sweatshop labor.
- “Boomer Has Never Seen A Woman” – From a story about a male film director sharing a negative opinion about blockbuster movies which feature female superheroes.
- “Chicken Is Now the Apex Predator” – From a story about a fight over a sold out chicken sandwich.
While the dynamic worked, after some thought I realized it wasn’t quite what I intended; the game still missed the agenda-making context I was looking for and so I implemented a mechanic where alongside the “Story” card, players draw a “Publisher” card and try to create their headline around that. Some of the publishers I selected were;
- The Daily Stormer (Online Neo-Nazi Publication)
- Breitbart (Online Alt-Right Publication)
- Fox News (Multimedia Right Wing Publication)
- CNN (Multimedia Center Publication)
- New York Times (Online/Print Center-Left Publication)
- The Guardian (Multimedia Left Wing Publication)
- The Daily Kos (Online Socialist Publication)
To be noted, I have a left wing-bias myself and my classification of these is very rough and lacks full nuance. However I selected these because I thought it would be more accessible to have more recognizable publications for an audience.
The results of this was fascinating, because even while I gave it new depth the result remained humorous. I play-tested with my parents over Thanksgiving and their own bias immediately became present as they made caricatures of the publications they disagreed with, while they were more respectful and even stylistically professional with those they appreciated. I think then the game began embodying the fluxus attitude of “helping us practice life” as outlined in “Fluxus and The Essential Questions of Life”; while supposedly playing a game critiquing bias and players themselves began showing (and playing with) their own implicit bias. I think a fascinating step if I were to take this project further would be to test with people with right wing views and see what results that yields.
At first I had the idea that players would write their answers on whiteboard/erasable cards that they could reuse. But after playing a couple of times I started realizing more and more how earlier headlines, even great ones, became forgotten. As such I opted instead to introduce an endgame mechanic where players compile all of their headlines into an “editorial board.” The result is a strange, almost nonsensical mismatch, a weird large mess with strangely coherent parts – a written word Exquisite Corpse. I think in this way the game could also be a way of art-making, should the players choose to keep the editorial board.