Aaron Cai’s Express Project

My express/experience project is about how reaching out for help when you’re struggling with mental illness can be difficult. Often times, one can forget that it is even an option. To help players experience this, I’ve created what is essentially a score that asks players to sort playing cards from their hand into piles in front of them. The secret is that they can collaborate and help each other, but card game conventions makes them assume otherwise. The game always (in the two times I’ve playtested it) results in players reaching a point where they cannot progress forward but still have cards left in their hands. They would then ask about what to do from there. Eventually, they would ask a question along the lines of “can we trade cards?” or “can we collaborate?” This sparks an “a-ha” moment that results in the players quickly winning the game by working together.

A large part of the inspiration for this project actually comes from a critique I received regarding a different game I was designing. I was told that the other game was too much like “multiplayer solitaire.” It was meant to be a bad thing but I thought it could be turned into something more. I felt like a “multiplayer solitaire game” would be similar to how some people struggle through life alone, avoiding seeking the help of others, even though many would be willing to give it.

Another contribution to this project was the scores Fluxus artists have made. The way scores were very open to individual interpretation made me realize that I could essentially trick the player into thinking that there is a rule where there is none with my wording.

Since the rules and its phrasing are such a large part of what makes this project work, I will include the rules I read aloud to players during the playtest and during the final iteration:


This game is played with 2 – 4 players sitting in a circle. Use a deck of cards with the jokers removed. Start with seven cards in your hand. Allocate three spaces in front of you to place cards. The first cards placed in these three spaces can be any card. Subsequent cards have to be one rank different from the card previously placed (ie. 9 or Jack can be played onto a 10). Ace cannot be placed on a King and vice versa. Aces can be played onto a 2 and vice versa. You can pick up as many cards as you wish to reorganize. You can only draw cards if the number of cards in your hand is below seven. Your goal is to place as many cards down as you can. 

Final Iteration:

This game is played with 2 – 4 players sitting in a circle. Use a deck of cards with the jokers removed. Shuffle the cards thoroughly and distribute cards to each player so that each player has seven cards. Allocate three spaces in front of each player to place cards face up. The first cards placed in these three spaces can be any card. Subsequent cards have to be one rank different from the card previously placed (ie. 9 or Jack can be played onto a 10). Ace cannot be placed on a King and vice versa. Aces can be played onto a 2 and vice versa. You can pick up as many cards from the three stacks as you wish to reorganize. You can only draw new cards from the deck if the number of cards in your hand is below seven. You win when you place all your cards. You do not lose if someone else wins. There are no other rules.

I made some changes due to the questions that people asked during the playtest. I tried to reword it so that it answered any potential questions people had other than the essential “can we work together?” question.

I asked one of the playtesters what he thought the game was about. He said it was about helping others. I would call this a success in terms of conveying my intended message. Even though he didn’t mention the part about how it can be difficult to ask for help, I think the experience of the game made him understood that without me or him saying it.

Aaron Cai’s Intervention Project – Squid Game in CS:GO

For my intervention project, I decided to intervene in the game of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). The game the way it’s normally played is as follows: players face off against each other in two teams of five, fighting with guns and grenades over objectives. I wanted to turn that convention around by constructing games within the game that mirror the games in the popular Netflix show, Squid Game. Squid Game is a Korean drama about people in enormous debt being recruited to play children’s games for eccentric billionaires’ spectacle with the prize being the equivalent of millions of US dollars and the penalty of losing being death. It is an interesting critique on the failures of capitalism. There are three games I appropriated from Squid Game: Red Light Green Light, Marbles, and Squid Game.

Red light Green Light was played in the show with a giant automaton turning its head towards and away from the players while singing a song that translates to red light green light. When it says green light and the head is turned away, the players are free to move. When it says red light and the head is facing the players, players are not allowed to move. The ones who are caught moving are shot. The players have to reach a line near the automaton, which is some distance away from the starting location, within a time limit. Those who do not make it within that time limit are also shot. For my project, I took on the role of the automaton and would turn away from and turn towards the player while saying red light green light correspondingly. The players started with their backs against a wall and their goal was to reach the wall where I was standing. During the testing, I messed up a bunch of times, saying the wrong thing, like green light when I was facing the players or red light when I was facing away. Thankfully, the testing gave me enough practice that I was able to execute my part without a mistake during the actual thing.

Marbles was played in the show by pairing up the players and giving them ten marbles each. They were told to play whatever game they wanted, but one person had to end up with twenty marbles at the end of a certain time limit. The one without any marbles was shot. One pair in the show did this by betting all ten marbles on one game, they threw a marble at a wall, and whoever got it closest to the wall was the winner. For my project I had the players throw decoy grenades at a wall, and whoever got it closest was the winner. The decoy grenade was a good choice because it stayed around on the ground for a while, unlike the other grenades, so we could see where each one landed clearly. I did not have enough players to have them pair up (there were only three left at this stage) so I had them all do it together as a group. The player with the worst throw was shot.

Squid Game was played in the show on a pattern on the ground shaped vaguely like a squid. One player was the defender and one was the attacker. The attacker had to try to get to the head of the squid, and they would win if they were to do so. The defender has to prevent that from happening and try to get the attacker to step outside the squid. If the attacker stepped outside the squid, they would lose and the defender would win. The two contestants were also given knives and it basically devolved into a knife fight to the death. For my project, I had originally wanted to draw the squid on the ground with bullet holes, but the pattern proved too elaborate for the game system, which would erase bullet holes after a certain number of other bullet holes has been created. I would draw it partially and the first couple of bullet holes would start disappearing. So I figured just a knife fight to the death with no boundary restrictions was close enough to the show.

We played my version of Squid Game in Counter-Strike with four players. One player was eliminated from each game, resulting in a winner being determined by the end. Unfortunately, I had an issue with my recording software and my voice was not captured in the videos.

Video clips from the testing: https://youtu.be/pUd11SJNtK0

Video clips from the final iteration: https://youtu.be/_C9at8Deamk

Aaron Cai’s Appropriation Project

This game can be played with any number of players above three, although one needs to be able to hear everybody speak if the game is to be played in person. Alternatively, this could also be played with an online chat system, which could allow for more players than the soft limit imposed by the aforementioned restriction.

First, pick two people to be competing against each other. One will be the drawer, and the other the saboteur. The rest of the group will be the guesser(s). These roles can be determined any way the group likes.

Then, pick a word or phrase. This word or phrase will be only known to the drawer and the saboteur, not the guesser(s).

Use an online tool that allows multiple people to draw on the same canvas simultaneously. This game will work with any software that allows for this. The best option out there currently and the one used for playtesting is aggie.io.

When everybody is ready to begin, the drawer starts drawing the word or phrase to the best of their ability. The guessers will attempt to guess the word or phrase from the drawing. The saboteur’s goal is to thwart the drawer and guessers by drawing on the canvas as well. The saboteur is not allowed to just cover up the drawing. The refereeing of this rule is up to the group. One way to discourage this behavior is to have the drawer’s drawing on top of the saboteur’s drawing. This is not foolproof as the saboteur can still effectively cover up drawings if they use the same color as the drawer (assuming the drawer only uses one color), so the refereeing is necessary. Additionally, if it is at all possible to view what one person draws separately from another, the guessers must abstain from that information. In aggie.io, this takes the form of layers. Each participant can only draw on one layer, so if one were to look at the layer previews, one can see what the drawer is drawing without the interference from the saboteur. This can be resolved by obstructing the guesser’s view of the layer previews.

Some tips for the saboteur:

  • Use the same color and stroke thickness as the drawer to make your red herrings indistinguishable from the actual drawing
  • Add elements that make the drawing appear to depict something else
  • Add arrows pointing to unimportant areas of the drawing if you are especially devious

Some tips for the drawer:

  • Use different colors relevant to the word/phrase
  • You can restart the drawing in a blank space (if there’s any left) if what you’re currently working on in unsalvageable

Some tips for the guesser(s):

  • Differences in color and brush stroke can tip you off that different people are drawing different parts
  • Usually, the stuff closer to the center tends to be the drawer’s and the stuff surrounding it are the saboteur’s

The round ends when the guessers have correctly guessed the word or phrase or when the group collectively agrees to give up. If it took more than one minute to guess, the saboteur wins. If it took less than a minute to guess, the drawer wins. This time length can be adjusted if the group wishes but play testing has found that a minute is a good threshold for our group. For example, if the words or phrases being picked are consistently very difficult to draw, the group may want to extend that time, or shorten it if the words or phrases are easy to draw.

A new round can have the same people in the same roles, but we found it more fun to rotate the roles around so that everybody gets a chance to try every role.

Here are some of art created from play testing:


Eiffel Tower


Artist’s statement:

I knew I wanted to do a game where multiple people draw on the same canvas because of the child-like nature of it. I was also inspired by Yoko Ono’s scores that resulted in artwork being created, such as Painting to Hammer a Nail, and John Cage’s procedural pieces that were slightly different every performance. I liked the idea of creating art by following rules or instructions. In this game, art is constantly being created every round, and it is all done without the main focus being the creation of art, but rather defeating your opponent. I think this creates art that could be more spontaneous or organic. I also think shifting the focus away from the creation of art can help those hesitant about art be more free from their preconceptions about themselves. I was also intrigued with the idea of two parties clashing in a competition where one is declared winner. I enjoy competitive video games in my free time, and I wanted to include that competitive feeling into this game. I think I was successful, even though the game is very casual in its presentation. I feel like it strikes a good middle ground where some groups can get very into winning and losing and other groups can be more focused on the drawings instead. As for what I appropriated, I’ve appropriated drawing software to play this game, as well as other drawing games where people guess what others are drawing such as skribbl.io, garticphone.com, or the drawing version of charades.

Self-Portrait Score – Aaron Cai

Make a self-portrait

Destroy it

If It is a drawing, rip it to shreds

If it is a sculpture, smash it to pieces

Gift what remains to a friend


Artist’s Statement:

I struggle with my self-image, so I wanted to do something with self-portraits. I liked the idea that a self-portrait can be in many forms and styles, so I decided to leave that up to the reader. I specifically suggest a sculpture to let the reader know that it doesn’t have to be a drawing. The idea of destroying a self-portrait is cathartic for me. It is also pretty poetic. As for the last line, I wrote it because I think art should be given away to people, not necessarily for free, but the artist shouldn’t hang on to their work forever. Not only that, I just like gifting things to friends, so I think gifting a destroyed self portrait would be really fun to do. The reason the score is formatted the way it is is due to inspiration and influence from Yoko Ono’s scores. I really enjoyed her slightly ambiguous and rhythmic style and wanted to imitate it in this score. I hope I was successful.