Artwork #4: Experience Final

When you’re living with anxiety, there are times when it feels as if everything is just a second away from crashing down around your ears. You feel as if you have to put dozens of safeguards in place and quadruple check everything so that things don’t fall apart. This is the sort of feeling that I wanted to get across with my game.

There are already plenty of games that make the player feel anxious, but there aren’t many that I’ve found that include the other major aspect of my game. From the very beginning,  I wanted each player to reach a point where they would realize that all of the things that they were preparing for would likely never happen to them, and that they were trying to protect themselves from nothing.


The first iteration of my game was played as follows: each player got a hand of 5-7 Preparation cards (depending on the number of players, from 2-4) and one Critical Events card. The Critical Events card had two events listed on it, and under each event was a list of two preparations. The players were told that if one of those events came up and they were not prepared for it, they would have to draw until they had the necessary cards. The ultimate goal was to discard every card in their hand.

Each round, each player would draw a Preparation card and have the option to either discard two cards or trade one card with another player. At the end of the round, an Event card would be turned over. The players would make sure that the event was not one off their Critical Events cards, nothing would happen. The goal of this ruleset was to encourage players to horde Preparation cards out of fear of an event coming up that they weren’t prepared for, and then to slowly come to the conclusion that they don’t need to prepare for all of these awful things that would never happen.

This version of the game had both positives and negatives. On the positive side, I had a very simple set of mechanics that generally got people to the conclusion that I wanted them to reach. On the less positive side, the game was not engaging enough to make people feel anxious about losing, which somewhat undermined the effectiveness of it.

The second version of the game was based on the advice I got from some of my playtesters. Each Critical Events card has two events on it, and so I created Event cards for one event from each Critical Event card. I also added Perparation cards that were related to the Event cards that were already in the deck (but didn’t put new events on any of the Critical Event cards). This version worked better as a game, but it failed to get across the same point as the first iteration.

The third iteration of this game is the one that I’m the most excited for. I added several cards into the Event deck that made certain players (the one with the least cards in their hand or the players without a certain Preparation card, for example) draw extra preparation cards. This way, the outcome of the game is not predetermined and the players feel like they have some agency over the outcome. I also removed the new Event cards.

This is the version that I am most happy with, because it keeps the original concept while making the game feel more engaging. It isn’t perfect, and going forward, I would like to continue to work on this to add more to the second phase of the game, where the players realize that the Critical Events aren’t in the Event deck. At the moment, the game is very shallow and doesn’t offer good answers for those looking for ways of coping with anxiety.

When creating this piece, I believe I was most heavily influenced by Yoko Ono’s scores. There are are many of them that purposefully make the participants uncomfortable. The scores aren’t necessarily enjoyable, but they make a strong point, which is something that I hope I have accomplished or will eventually be able to accomplish with this game. I also somewhat had projects like Tekken Torture Tournament in mind while working on this, as games like those don’t just depict something (in that case the much simpler sensation of pain), but actively make the player feel it, such as how my game aims to not just show the player what happens in my mind during high anxiety days, but also make them feel the uncertainty and stress.

This is one of the two pieces in this class that I am most proud of, the other being my crane piece. Unlike the other pieces I made for this class, I feel that these had strong central mechanics and a distinct end goal, and to various extents, I believe that they were successful. Working on these projects also made me think about game design in a very different way than I am used to. Instead of starting with a story and fitting mechanics to it, these works have a central mechanic that is in itself almost a narrative element. This streamlining, more than anything, is what I am happy to have gotten out of this course and what I hope to continue to incorporate in my work in the future.

Intervention Final

For my intervention, I left a flock of origami cranes in a bush outside of East Village. Each of the cranes had a page’s worth of text from some well known piece of writing (Othelllo, A Tale of Two Cities, The Hobbit, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Pride and Prejudice, and My Immortal) printed on it.


In practice, the intervention sort of went how I wanted it to. At the end of about two and a half hours, I had quite a few cranes left. However, people did interact with the piece, sometimes in unexpected ways. Specifically, one person took one out of curiosity and left with it, two people took pictures of each other in front of them but didn’t take any, and one couple took them and unfolded them in front of the bush and read them aloud to each other (pictured below).

If I were to do another iteration of this intervention, I would like to do something to make it more obvious that the cranes are meant to be taken. One way that I would do that would be to use different colors of paper so that they look more temporary. I think part of the reason that many people looked at the cranes but didn’t take them was because they looked like actual garden decorations. I would also like to do this in a different location at a different time. I chose where and when I did because it was after most classes got out and people were less likely to be in a huge rush. However, I still think people were too caught up in their own worlds for the intervention to work fully.

My primary inspiration for this intervention was the pieces  in the Dada and Fluxus movements that encouraged people to take pieces of the artwork,  such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Portrait of Ross. I wanted to people to experience the work and have something physical that they could take away from it. Hopefully, that would be something that would brighten their day (which was why I was sure to include Hitchhiker’s Guide and My Immortal).

I also wanted to play with appropriation, which was why I chose to use published works instead  of generating my own text, I have generally found that finding a reference to something that you are already familiar with is more exciting than finding a random piece of text.

Appropriation Final

There are a lot of Dada appropriation pieces that involve appropriating a work and then making it completely non-functional. That was where I started for my game. I was largely inspired by pieeces like Der wildgewordene Spiesserr Heartfield by Grosz and Heartfield and the work of Marcel duChamp.

I knew at the outset that I wanted to use sewing tools, considering that I have a box full of them in my dorm and they can be far more versatile than we usually give them credit for. The core experience that I initially thought of for the game was the idea of players sabotaging each other’s efforts to create something.


The first iteration of my game involved a set of fabric scissors, a box of pins, a box of chalk, a square of fabric, and a set of cards with nouns on them. To start, each of the two players drew a card, and then took turns manipulating the fabric to try and make it look like the noun on their card. They could either make one cut with the scissors, make a marking with the chalk, or use three pins to manipulate the shape of the fabric. The players drew the cards “cane” and “banana,” and both were able to create their objects. However, the unforeseen problem with including the scissors was that the fabric ended up being cut in half so that the players were not interacting with each other.

There are several changes that I made for the second iteration. First of all, I used a t-shirt instead of a square of fabric (this was always part of the plan, but didn’t happen for the first playtest because of time constraints). Second, I removed the scissors and replaced them with pieces of thread. I initially included them because I thought it would make it a little less infuriating to have a way to shape the fabric beyond pinning it, but by making it possible to cut the fabric, I also made it possible for players to create separate pieces to work on and for them to simply cut silhouettes out of the fabric. Initially I was going to make a third change of changing the number of pins available to the players on each turn, but I ultimately decided against it.

There are a few things that I would have liked to have had more time to play around with with this project. Namely, I wish that there were some way to keep the scissors as an implement without losing the core experience that I was  aiming for. One of the hallmarks of the Dada movement is taking something functional and making it nonfunctional. Without the scissors, the piece of clothing/fabric is only temporarily nonfunctional, because none of the other tools permanently alter it (the chalk rubs off, pins can be removed, thread can be untied or cut off). If I had more time and resources, I think I would try to add in a serger and limit the amount of time that the pedal can be pressed per turn, which would allow players to permanently alter and cut the fabric without the risk of it being cut in half.



Score: Sing a note—any note you like—until you run out of breath, then keep going.

The two main things that gave me the idea for this piece were the works of John Cage and the music section of Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit. If I’m being honest, I didn’t necessarily enjoy their works at first. I’ve been a musician most of my life and have played fewer than a dozen “modern” pieces, preferring instead to stick to mostly the baroque era. The fact that there were pieces that consisted of four minutes of silence or recording the ambient noise in a room and that they were classified as music kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

The one piece in that section of Grapefruit that I actually did connect with a bit was Overtone Piece, because it was one of the more directly “musical” pieces and, perhaps more importantly, was something that I’d actually done. When you get up to the higher registers on the flute, it’s frequently easier to use harmonics (the word we use for overtones) instead of the actual fingering for the notes because of how convoluted they get in the upper registers. Because of this, there are many pieces that I’ve played using exclusively or almost exclusively harmonic fingerings. As part of practice, I’ve also done a fair few exercises consisting of “bugle calls,” or pieces where you use one fingering and create the different notes as overtones, using your embouchure to change pitch instead of your fingers.

Once I had that touchstone, I decided that I would start there for the assignment. I played around with several ideas involving the flute specifically. Most of these were the sorts of things that we would do to pass the time in band class or orchestra rehearsal, such as playing with the flute held backwards (so it sticks out to the left instead of right), not blowing into it at all and instead slapping the keys down so that the notes would come out with almost a percussive quality, and popping some of the springs so certain keys would be stuck in a down position. There were a few obvious problems with these. The most obvious is that, especially for the last example, these were things that could actually break a flute if not done very carefully. The other major issue that I ran into is that I don’t actually have a flute with me, and so couldn’t fulfill the performance requirement of the assignment.

After realizing that I couldn’t actually use a flute in my piece, I tried to come up with something based on it that could be used with the voice or any instrument. This was how I eventually arrived at my final score. One thing that I remember very clearly about band and orchestra is that many pieces ended with the flutes holding a ridiculously high note for several measures. This note was almost always just long enough that nobody had the lung capacity to finish it, but it also rarely had a good place where we could drop out and breathe in the middle. When these notes came up, I remember that I would pour every last bit of breath into them, and then even when my lungs felt like they had collapsed, I would sometimes find that I could keep going for just a bit longer to finish up the piece.

Documentation: (a video of a solo performance of the score)