The Project to End all Projects

“A big butcher’s bill was not necessarily evidence of good tactics.” – General Archibald Wavell in a telegram to Winston Churchill

A few months ago, the World War 1 game Beyond the Wire had a free weekend on Steam, and me and a couple of my friends wanted to try it out. When we got in game, we noticed that we were playing as soldiers of the German Empire in the year 1918. We proceeded to get absolutely destroyed by American and French forces and had no idea what we were doing. It was awesome. It truly captured the experience of being conscripted into the German Army in 1918.

While I originally intended to portray a fantasy version of the German Empire when I pitched this, I gradually became more interested in American involvement in the war the more I looked into WWI and what I wanted to do. The Battle of Belleau Wood stood out to me in particular, as it is viewed as the battle that gave the U.S. Marine Corps the fierce reputation they have today, and this was accomplished by charging into German machine gun fire through wheat fields and forests 6 times, the first 5 times just resulting in piles of dead marines. It was an interesting experience listening to the Sabaton song Devil Dogs, which focuses on the heroic bravery and ferocity of the marines which even at one point belts out the famous quote “Come on you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” while reading about how the marines were yet again slaughtered by machine gun fire after attempting another charge. It’s interesting to contrast the heroic and glorious nature of the song Devil Dogs with the other song on their album about WWI such as Great War and Fields of Verdun which portray the war as cruel and pointless.

I thought about how one of my friends once told me about how in challenging dungeons in older edition of D&D players would bring stacks of character sheets anticipating that they would often end up ripped in half at the DM’s feet. I felt that this would be a good mechanic to base my entire revised game around. I made and printed out mass amounts of simple character sheets that had a minimal amount of fluff attached to it to suggest players could try to put some element of humanity into the characters they are playing but ultimately it wouldn’t matter. I also brought some minis and a rudimentary map consisting of a grid players would try to charge through that would gradually fill up with the dead bodies (knocked over minis) of their previous character.

The rules were simple You needed to cross through 6 squares in order to charge the German position. On your turn, role a d20. If it is above a 10, move forward one square. If it is 10 or below, knock your mini over as it has died there, I rip your character sheet, then take a new character sheet and put a new mini on your starting square. This version of the game worked exactly as I wanted it to. Despite the simplicity of the objective, no one made it to the end of board. All there was to show for their efforts was a pile of ripped character sheets and a battlefield of dead minis.

Something I wanted to add to my game but couldn’t find a way to incorporate smoothly was the findings of the Nye Committee. In my opinion viewing American involvement in the war as simply pointless obfuscates the more horrific reason that additional lives were shipped across the world to suffocate in mustard gas. While Germany resuming the use of unrestricted submarine warfare was used as propaganda to mobilize the American population the Nye Committee uncovered a far more probable cause to explain American involvement. Before America officially entered the war, it had leant the Entente 2.3 billion dollars and the Central Powers only 27 million. It was therefore in the interest of American banks and finance, who had an enormous impact on U.S. formal policy as the committee also uncovered, to ensure that the Entente wasn’t the side burning a hyper inflated worthless currency after the war ended, not to mention the activities and influence of the arms industry who also stood to make massive profits if America was to officially enter the war. While I felt that this would be a good complement to the mass death I portrayed in my game, I couldn’t think of a way to seamlessly integrate this in a way that didn’t dilute what I wanted my game to express.

Ultimately, I drew a lot of inspiration from the Surrealist and Dada movements portrayal of World War I as pointless and cruel, and while one could portray a more modern version of that through contemporary wars such as Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Vietnam, I decided to keep the focus on WWI, not just because of my personal fascination with it, but because of its massive scale in which an almost unlimited amount of stories could be told, including the development of American imperialist ambitions and foreign policy that would shape its involvement in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq,

Attached are documentation of a character sheet from my first iteration of the game that was focused on a fantasy German Empire, a character sheet for my second and final iteration as well as a pile of them ripped up, a map full of dead minis, and a deep fried image of a painting of the Battle of Belleau Wood that summarizes everything I’ve tried to do here, as well as a google drive link where higher resolution version of these images can be found.

Intervene Project: Becoming The Virtual Imposter Amogus

“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.”


The first quote is from The Society of the Spectacle, a book written by prominent Situationist Guy Debord. The second is from a kid in a vrchat among us lobby who was subjected to trickery and tomfoolery when trying to acquire a Huggy Wuggy avatar in vrchat.

While the first iteration of this was more of an intervention (I actually intervened in a vrchat among us game with my youth pastor schtick) and I was more of an observer in the second iteration, where my plan was to do Seinfeld stand-up bits, I think that the spectacle I encountered is more interesting to focus on. While we didn’t have any assigned reading focused mainly on the situationist movement itself (at least as far as I’m aware), I believe they are relevant to the teachings of this class, especially since they built on the Surrealist and Dada movements. And I believe the philosophy of the Situationists was demonstrated in the spectacle I witnessed in vrchat.

The use of the word “scammed” in the huggy wuggy affair is interesting. What happened, as far as I am aware, was that someone lead the seeker of the huggy wuggy skin to a vrchat world where he said he could get the huggy wuggy skin (vrchat avatars are often gained in “avatar world” where an object in the world gives you and allows you to save an avatar), but the world contained nothing. There was no monetary transaction, and yet the bamboozled party claimed they were scammed. While scammed could just be the first word the kid could think of to describe the situation, I believe it reflects a deeper commodification of society that Debord wrote about. “give me the HUGGY WUGGY SKIN THAT I GOT SCAMMED FOR!” is an expression of the anger of someone who couldn’t acquire an image that is treated as a rare an expensive commodity as they wanted not only to have that image, but appear as it, in order to affect the social relation they had with others in this virtual world.

So to summarize this, in my adventures in the world of vrchat I encountered an exaggerated and hyperbolic representation of the modern society described by Debord and the Situationist movement. But rather than trying to do any direct critique of it or the capitalist world it is derived from, I just did some youth pastor and Jerry Seinfeld bits. Cuz why not, that’s kinda funny. Oh and I also won an among us imposter game as a painting of the Mona Lisa. All of that is documented in photoshop collages I made that can be found here. I’ll also include them in this post itself, but they will be lower quality. Maybe in the future someone smarter than me could do something to critique the relation of one’s avatar in vrchat to the social relations they have with others in it, but that’s an intervene project for another day.

Appropriation Project: Superfight TTRPG

“We were against the pacifists, because it was the war that had given us the possibility to exist in all our glory. We were for the war, and today Dada is still for the war. Things have to collide: the situation so far is nowhere nearly gruesome enough.” – a cheeky statement from a speech Richard Huelsenbeck gave that would describe the characteristics of the Dada movement in Berlin

Superfight is a game similar to Cards Against Humanity, but instead of answering a prompt, players design heroes by assembling different fantasy, superhero, sci-fi, historical, and pop culture characters as well as powers and debilities, and then argue about which one would win in a fight. I saw this extremely varied character creation process and had the idea to turn it into a tabletop roleplaying game. The players would design their characters and I would design enemies for them to fight. Keeping with the theme of the very loose and almost limitless possibilities for character creation, the rules were very loose as well, where action mainly ended up consisting of rolling a d20 and deciding how well the attempted action went based on if the roll was above or below 10. As the game was played and tested, I decided to implement health for the player characters as not a number that goes down until the character dies, but I would just slap their character with new and wacky debilities until the player decided that this character was now dead or at the very least incapacitated. Debilities and powers were also acquired by the players on their turn if they felt like playing an additional card on their character or an enemy. It was a very fun seeing the wacky characters the players and I built, and actually playing out what they would do in a fight, something the original game only teases at.

But what does it all mean? Antonin Artaud, a playwright who was briefly part of the Surrealist movement said in an essay The Theater and Cruelty “This is why we shall try to concentrate, around famous personages, atrocious crimes, superhuman devotions, a drama which, without resorting to the defunct images of the old Myths, shows that it can extract the forces which struggle within them”. He was very interested in the forces contained in mythology and how they are not done justice in modern times, as he says in The Theater and Culture “The old totemism of animals, stones, objects capable of discharging thunderbolts, costumes impregnated with bestial essenceseverything, in short, that might determine, disclose, and direct the secret forces of the universeis to us a dead thing, from which we derive nothing but static and aesthetic profit, the profit of an audience, not an actor”. I can’t help but agree with him a bit in how a lot of old myths have been watered down to purely aesthetics in how we portray them and their derivatives in our culture, whether it be in fantasy, sci-fi, or superhero genres of books, games, and film.

While that is a whole other conversation, it is from this premise that I decided to include the Huelsenbeck quote at the beginning of this post. For it is this reduction to purely aesthetics that allows these mythological stories to be industrialized and mass produced, similar to how warfare was in the first world war. And just as Dada would not exist without the collisions of the grotesque aspects of the war and societies that it spawned from, so too would my game not exist with the mass commodification and production of myth that the game Superfight serves as a Library of Alexandria of. I am not sure that there is media today that would satisfy Artaud in his quest to express the human mind and spirit as he imagines the myths of ancient times were able to, but until that happens, I will continue to collide the vast majority of what we do have to create new characters and story that are at the very least fun to mess around with in all their absurdity.

This came off a lot more serious than I intended it to and doesn’t fully reflects my beliefs on modern culture, but again that is a whole other conversation. Documented below are some of the zany characters created while playing the game in class.

Adding the pictures I took of the game and the wacky zany characters created from playing it directly into the blog results in them being too low resolution to see clearly, so they’re documented in this google drive folder instead. But I have been informed I need them in the actual blogpost for it to be graded so here they are

Josh Gersh Score

When I initially pitched my score in class, something felt wrong. It didn’t feel like it reflected what I wanted my projects for this class to be, and I felt empty repeating the score that I had created with the only inspiration being that I like dice. As I paced around in my apartment after class, I remembered part of Diary of a Wimpy Kid that resembled a score. A teacher tasked the class with designing a robot, specifically what functions a robot should perform. The first thing that the class thought of was words that the robot shouldn’t be allowed to say. And as they got caught up in writing down a list of swears words the robot wouldn’t say, eventually class ended, and all they had to show for their work was a list of swear words. While I quickly realized that I shouldn’t replicate that exactly, I liked the general idea. I then remembered a bit from the podcast Chapo Trap House where one host jokes about shooting a movie trailer designed to be really popular at the time, but once people buy tickets and watch the movie in the theater it’s just him saying “I lied, there’s no movie, but hear me out and why I should have the money to buy a samurai sword”. I decided that something like that was more appropriate for class as a fun final iteration of my score.

With the assurances in class that happenings count as art, and that as long as you do the readings and turn in something based on them you can get a good grade, I went to work on constructing my actual score. I wanted to work in the question of whether or not I cared about my grade into the art, such as using it to create an expectation that I did make a video of my score being done only to tear that down by having it be the rickroll video and hastily writing up a score after my presentation as a last ditch attempt to save face but then showing that that was part of my actual score which had been written before class.

If my commitment to this class and my grade in it remains unclear let me clarify. I did not read or make any attempt to acquire Grapefruit by Yoko Ono until the day before the playable iteration of the score was due in class. When I did look through it, I only planned to try to use it to relate my dice score to the room piece during my presentation, which I didn’t end up doing anyway. However, I did follow Yoko Ono on twitter well before this. I’m not saying that my piece was some revolutionary art independent piece independent from these past movements. On the contrary, I think it reflects that same spirit. Despite my procrastination of Grapefruit, I did do the other readings, and similar to the music created using modified or broken instruments, my presentation was the result of a modified and broken score. The meta-score of “Perform a happening consisting of lies, deception and trickery. Write a score documenting the process after the fact” served as a mechanism to modify and break my original score, which resulted in the drawing and video I presented in class.

Attached below is the link to the presentation I showed in class, the score I hastily wrote up after, and the score I wrote up before showing that it was planned the whole time.


Actual Score

Actual Actual Score

Proof I followed Yoko Ono on Twitter

Addendum: I saw the “Let’s Try This Again” email and I kinda sent some mixed messages pertaining to doing the readings so I’d like to add a new point. I remember in class the patch to the nude raider patch that added the Duchamp goatee to the naked Lara Croft model was mentioned, and although I didn’t say it at the time, I remember that patch was also mentioned in the Games As Art reading we were assigned that was written by none other than our great professor Celia Pearce. Furthermore, I am channeling the spirit of that patch right now. This addendum is the patch to a patch goatee added onto my dumb score project, which I have argued above is already a modification to the idea of scores themselves. The only difference is that my original project did not objectify or sexualize women. If this difference is enough to refute my claim that my work pertains to the art, readings, and themes of the class, then that is a sacrifice I probably should make rather than try to argue that my original project objectifies and sexualizes women.

Addendum Documentation: