Misinformation Telephone

My game is called Misinformation Telephone. It’s a digital, online game meant to represent how disinformation is created and spread. In it, one player takes the role of the “consumer” and everyone else takes the role of the “reporter.” Each reporter has a specific role (specifically, they’re either a supporter or a critic of the fictional politician Bob Smith). The goal of the game for the reporters is to get the consumer to agree with their stance.

The game takes place in rounds. In the first round, original stories are given to each of the reporters. Each reporter’s job is to change three words of the story so it fits their stance better (as in, they need to bias it). The next round, the goal is the same, but instead of being given original stories, the reporters are being given a story second-hand from another reporter. This is where the “telephone” part of the game comes from; each story gets more and more distorted until the end of the game, when it finally reaches the consumer.

My goal for this was to represent the unreliability of the modern news landscape through a fun, Jackbox-style game. Because players can change the story however they want, they can go in absurd directions with their changes, which–in effect-makes each resulting story a parody of sensationalist reporting in the real world. I also thought it’d be interesting to put most players in the position of the reporter, since in real life, we’re usually the consumers–so switching people’s point of view on this phenomenon could add some insight into why things are the way they are.

This might seem strange, but I was largely inspired by the Anna Blume poem while making this. The way it parodied the overly flowery language of conventional romantic poetry made me realize the value absurdity can have in critiquing a trend. In the same way that the poem goes on and on with “thou”s and “thy”s to mock that kind of media, this project mocks inflammatory news articles by aiming to create stories as ridiculous as possible.

The pictures below show the game in action (from a reporter’s perspective). The first picture is from when they’re modifying a story, and the second is from the end of the game, when they’re watching the consumer evaluate the story.

Both versions of my game are available below. The new version has features like better visuals and a proper timer, but I’ve had some inexplicable issues when trying to run it, so the old version may be more stable. The networking tools I used in Unity don’t seem to work for HTML5, so I can’t upload the project to itch.io, and instead the game unfortunately needs to be downloaded.


Intervention: Uncle Roy Koopa

My project is “Uncle Roy Koopa: All Around You,” a scavenger hunt that takes place in Mario Maker 2.

Players enter the level as normal, but will quickly realize that the only way to beat it is to enter a 5-digit code they don’t know. In a floating comment, the character “Uncle Roy Koopa” (based on the koopaling from the original Mario games) explains what’s going on. He says, “The code is at my other home. QX8-G82-2WG.” The sequence he gives is the ID for a completely different level. Players will then have to play that level, explore obscure parts of the map, and find *another* floating comment that states which level to try next. All in all, there are three levels the player has to explore before getting the final code.

The point of this game is to disrupt the way people play Mario Maker levels. In general, the community treats levels as very disposable, playing a level quickly from start to finish, and then forgetting about it. This is very unfortunate to me, since it reflects the increasingly apathetic way that people are engaging with art. Instead of being a meaningful experience that makes people think or feel, people are just consuming and moving on. I wanted to see if I could break that trend by turning a Mario Maker level into a more mysterious, longer-term experience.

The biggest inspiration for this level (probably obvious) was “Uncle Roy: All Around You.” While this game doesn’t have the social aspect of that experience, it does have the element of interacting with the world differently than we normally would. Instead of treating our cities as a simple, start-to-finish experience (go to the store–then we’re done), the game encourages people to find wonder and intrigue by exploring areas of their city they probably don’t normally visit. Because of that, I thought it was a great intervention model to follow.

This game has changed a little bit since I first came up with the idea. The biggest difference from before is that it used to be a social experience, where users would leave comments to pledge that they’d “be there for someone they don’t know.” That isn’t really practical in Mario Maker 2, since the active player base isn’t what it used to be size-wise, and so forming a lot of pairs like the original “Uncle Roy” can’t really happen.

Link to a video of the level: Link

Unfair Monopoly

^ The initial setup of the game

^ The board after a short and quick playthrough

Unfair Monopoly is a version of Monopoly with modified rules:

  • The player order is decided by a dice roll. (Highest roll = Player 1)
  • Player 1 starts with $5000, Player 2 and 3 start with $500, and Player 4 starts with $2.
  • Player 1 starts off owning every property on 2 sides of the board (of their choice).
  • Players 2 and 3 start off owning 1 property of their choice.
  • Player 1 starts off with 20 houses of their choice (5 houses can become a hotel).
  • Players 2 and 3 start off with 1 house of their choice.
  • Player 1 “has connections” and so can get a new property for free every turn.

I’ve always thought it was interesting how much some people hate Monopoly. I’ve always enjoyed it, but it feels like you can’t bring it up without getting some groans. I think that’s for a few reasons (its length, the jail system, the fact it keeps on going after the winner is almost guaranteed…), but ultimately, all these issues–to some extent–derive from the fact that losing at this game is painful. It’s awful to have almost no spaces, and almost no money, and just sit by as you spiral into bankruptcy. The thing is, this is–in a way–the most “realistic” aspect of the game. When you’re subject to the will of much richer, more powerful players, there are few tools at your disposal to recover from that. The fact that the original version of Monopoly was created as a statement (rather than being a game for the sake of a game) says it all.

Because of that, I figured it’d be fun to ramp up the most frustrating–and most realistic–aspects of the game. What if, instead of starting off on equal footing, the characters were split into classes (Player 1 being upper-class, Players 2 and 3 being the middle class, and Player 4 being poor)? Additionally, what if Player 1–on top of having far more property and money than anyone else–also had “connections” which let them gain properties without doing any work or spending any money? That’s realistic, too. Ultimately, these changes make the game nearly unplayable, especially for Player 4, but really for anyone who isn’t Player 1.

Making this game was a weirdly cathartic experience, despite how frustrating and hopeless it’s built to be. I think that’s because I’ve always been annoyed in particular by the concept of “connections” in getting people up corporate ladders, whether or not they have the skill/ability to warrant reaching the top. Because of that, it was satisfying to “vent” about it through this game.

In a way, this game’s style of appropriation derives from the way Dada artists took pictures and corrupted/distorted them to convey the violence of World War I and the shifting of culture in the early 1900s. In the same way their collages would cut up and combine their original photos in uncanny ways, this game takes Monopoly and distorts it into something unpleasant but realistic, while being fascinating in its own way.

The core of this game has generally stayed the same throughout development, but a couple things have changed. First, Player 1 used to select 20 separate properties at the start, but that dragged on for a while during the first playtest, so now they simply select 2 full sides of the board to own. Additionally, the game now uses a proper Monopoly board (with slight visual modifications) instead of a printed piece of paper, which was originally used for proving the concept.

Ultimately, I hope this game can serve as a quirky conversation starter for people who love, or hate, the Monopoly game we’re all familiar with.

Become a Tree

Locate a patch of ground and stand on it.

Do not move (rustling in the wind is okay).

If it’s raining, feel the rain.

If it’s breezy, feel the breeze.

If it’s sunny, feel the heat.

Continue feeling things for as long as you wish to remain a tree.

Optional: Perform photosynthesis.

I took a lot of inspiration from Yoko Ono here. I enjoyed how her works often asked impossible tasks of people (“Draw with yourself until you disappear”)–or didn’t explicitly ask tasks at all (“Water Piece: Water”). I wanted to stretch the concept of what counted as a “possible task,” while still being able to reenact it in real life somehow. Because of that, I decided on a piece where you take on the traits of something you’re not. Similarly, I tried to adopt a lot of Yoko Ono’s humor here, with lines like the optional requirement of performing photosynthesis, or the line about the acceptability of rustling in the wind.

Another thing I liked about many Fluxus works was their interest in blurring the line between art and life. In many ways, the viewer’s mindset is the difference between something that’s art and something that isn’t–and I think that’s something “anart”–like rotting food–demonstrated very well. For this work specifically, I focused on the idea that you can have a “beautiful experience” just by slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings–even if such a thing isn’t usually appreciated in the same way a more curated experience might be.

I also think this piece is interesting because of how minimalist the actual experience is. Without any game-like elements, or specific physical requirements, the experience of the piece is completely centered around your surroundings. Because of that, everyone who performs this score will see, hear, and feel wildly different things. This calls attention to the fact that life–unlike the carefully presented art at museums–is unpredictable, and sometimes unpleasant. If you’re a tree in the rain, or the wind, or the heat, you just have to stand there and deal with it. Even this unpleasantness can be beautiful, though. Like many of the food-related Fluxus pieces, it goes to show how messy reality is.