Intervention, food experiment

When I began thinking of possible interventions for my project, I thought back to a story of how someone at my residence hall ordered delivery from Chipotle hall only to find it stolen. College is expensive, so its understandable that many students try to save money as much as possible, and while theft is absolutely not pervasive behavior, students are still notorious for going to great lengths to come by free food. Many of my friends have swung by booths and loaded up on free food and drinks being given out even if they absolutely hate the items. I felt that this relationship between college students and food was an excellent situation to intervene in.

One inspiration for my piece was inspired by the Jejune Institute ARG, specifically the elements where participants where given specific instructions to perform on their own. I also drew from the work of the Yes Men, as I enjoyed how their work involved intervening in public contexts.

My test piece was simple, I laid out an array of snacks alongside a handwritten note instructing for fellow students at the residential hall to take a snack and then leave a snack. I set this up in the residential hall’s basement, which is the area where the most students pass through. Since there are no actual tables down there I set the snacks up on a radiator. The goal of the intervention was to look at how students would act without supervision, so I left the snacks completely unattended until I checked on them. I wanted to see if people would follow the instructions and trade in a snack for one on the radiator or if they would simply take them. Most people who give out food on campus usually do so with ulterior motives, like trying to get people to join an organization, so I thought it would be interesting to create a situation where food is made accessible with seemingly no motive outside of building community. (Although staging an intervention is definitely an ulterior motive).

This is the arrangement I made for my test run

To my surprise when I came back 6 hours later to check on the snacks I found that there was actually more than I had initially left!

While some snacks like some Hostess pastries and Hi-chews had been taken, a plethora of new snacks had replaced them and more.

For my “final” iteration of this experiment, I noticed that the snack food that had been taken the first time were snacks that are generally considered to be higher end. With that in mind I decided to vary up the quality of the snacks to see if the better snacks were taken first.

Alongside more generic snack foods like potato chips and Oreos I placed higher quality (and more expensive) snacks like Milano’s, chocolate oranges, and Hi-chews.

Another change I made was to the note. The note I left in the first one was very informal, as it was made by nothing more than scrap paper and the first pen I could find. I made a more formal note in photoshop to see if it would affect how people interacted with the instructions.

After a few hours I went back to the snack arrangement and found that all of the “higher end” snacks were gone, with nothing to replace them.

However the most interesting occurrence I discovered at the end of the test day.

When the higher end snacks were gone, people actually followed the instructions of the note and traded in a snack for a snack.

I find the results of this intervention to be incredibly interesting. It seems that when the arrangement seemed more informal —with a handwritten note and cheaper snacks as a whole— people were more willing to not only follow the instructions, but actually support the project by donating foods without taking any away. However when the arrangement seemed more formal, with better snacks and a designed note, people were less willing to follow along as a whole. Another interesting occurrence is that when only the more generic foods were left people were once again willing to follow the instructions.

Project 4: By the Word

After getting the prompt for the final project, I quickly realized that I wanted to make the game revolve around language. Despite being something people use every day to communicate with each other, language is not explored in games very often, and I wanted to see what themes I could explore with it. I quickly settled on a game paralleling the way the English Language has evolved over time. After refining my idea more, I eventually outlined a game like Risk where the territory contested by players also equates to words in the English dictionary.

My chief inspiration was an art video game discussed in class where the player rearranged words in a sentence to manipulate the rules of the game itself. I really loved the concept of playing with words and it definitely sent in the direction of my finished project. Another inspiration was the concept of appropriation that often came up during class. I really enjoy games that play with the rules and concepts of existing games and I felt like doing so would be a good starting off point.

My first step in creating the game was making the map. Because the game involved players fighting over the English language, I felt like an appropriate map would be one of Great Britain.

The concept of the game is that each player takes control of one of four language groups that have influenced the English language: Old Brittonic, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and Frankish. Old Brittonic was a Celtic language and the first spoken in Britain. Anglo-Saxon was spoken by Germanic invaders who conquered and settled Great Britain during the Dark ages. Old Norse was spoken by Scandinavian conquerors who settled large parts of Britain before being repulsed by the Anglo-Saxons. Frankish was spoken by the Normans who conquered Britain and established England as we know it today. Frankish was a hybrid Germanic and Romance language spoken in modern day France. In each region on the map were symbols that each language had a word for. When a player takes a region, they place a small slip of paper with that has their language’s word for the symbol on the region. Every symbol and its corresponding cards were also given numbers to make gameplay easier.

After I finished the map, I began to collect words from the four languages into a google sheet. This proved to be by far the most challenging part of this project. While I could find comprehensive dictionaries translating to English of both Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, Frankish and Old Brittonic proved more challenging. Fortunately for me, in the English language’s history, Frankish sort of won out, and a lot of English words come from that language. Brittonic, on the other hand, was incredibly challenging. Brittonic was the first language spoken and Britain, and was gradually erased by a revolving door of Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman-Frankish invasions. I was able to find some Brittonic words, but for the most part I had to delve into languages that evolved from it to fill out my list. For this I used Welsh and Breton, Welsh being the historical language of Wales and Breton being spoken in the French province of Brittany, which was settled by Britons pushed out of England by the Anglo-Saxons. Most of the words in these two languages are quite similar because of their common ancestry, but when the two disagreed I went for the Welsh word because I felt like the lack of French influence would make it better reflect Old Brittonic.

This is a good time to point out that I am not a professional linguist or a philologist (language historian). I tried my best, but my dictionaries are not perfect. Some other important factors to acknowledge are that during the time period these languages existed in, language was very decentralized and often changed region to region. Someone speaking Anglo-Saxon in one part of England was not necessarily speaking the same language as an Anglo-Saxon in another part. Also, while I’m pretty sure each word I found roughly translates to the symbols on the map, that doesn’t mean that the word precisely has that definition nor does it mean that there aren’t more precise words I could have used. That being said I was chiefly aiming for the appearance of old languages, and even if the dictionaries I assembled aren’t perfect, they still fill the purpose I needed them to.

After assembling the dictionary I began to piece together the physical game. I bought beads to be used as pieces, created the word cards, and printed out the map.

Because of all the research involved, I was only able to get my game together before the day where we presented, so it was also my first play test. Despite this the test went really well, but there were a few hiccups in the rules that needed to be sorted out on the go. Fortunately my group were super responsive and quick to give feedback one what could be improved. One great example was how in my original rules when one player attacks another and one has more pieces than another, the player with more pieces rolls more dice, just like in risk. However in my version the player with more dice adds the die together, which makes defending against much larger forces virtually impossible. The players quickly pointed this out early on so we changed the rule to the highest single die wins with tie going to the defender, which was the original rule from Risk.

I really enjoyed this project and I honestly think I might continue working on it. I already have some ideas on how to improve the game, such as making the map physically bigger and adding more regions, and it would be interesting to see how much I can polish it as a game.

Artwork #2 Appropriate Reverse Poker

For this assignment we were tasked with creating a playable game that involved the use of appropriation. For my game I essentially took Texas hold ‘em style poker and made a single change to the gameplay: the way the cards are held is reversed. The change makes it so that instead of players taking the cards and holding them in a way that stops the other players from seeing them, the cards are held so everyone but the player they belong to knows what they are. I dubbed this version “Reverse Poker”, or simply “Rekop”

The simple act of reversing the way hands are held completely changes the way the game is played. In a conventional game of poker players make decisions based on their confidence in their own hand, and can only theorize as to what other players might have. With the hands reversed, the game is now about weighing the strengths of other people’s hands while trying to figure out how good your own is. In my test games the first few hands felt like shooting in the dark, as without knowing our hands it felt like we lacked vital information needed to make decisions, but as we got more comfortable, viable strategies began to reveal themselves. At one point I was convinced to fold by another player’s confidence in their own hand only to find out my hand was actually much better, and another time I began to play uncharacteristically aggressive because I had figured my hand was statistically the winning since I could see everyone else had complete junk. Effectively the core of the game had changed from convincing others of the strength of your hand to convincing them that their own hand was weak, whether or not it is true. In one memorable instance, one player had three kings —an incredibly strong hand— causing every other player to fold immediately, much to the winner’s bemusement. This led me to discover that unlike in regular poker, where you want your hand to be as strong as possible, in reverse poker the ideal hand is good enough that it beats everyone else’s, but not too good as to discourage other players’ confidence in their hands or to risk using mind games, as the longer the game goes, the bigger the winnings that are up for grabs. I had decided to use the Texas Hold’em variation of poker after comparing it with other variations of the game for two reasons: The first being that I felt that having only two cards in one’s hand would make determining its contents easier for the players, and the second being that Texas Hold’em is very simple and by far the most popular variation of poker which would make it easier for players to pick up my take on it.

The chief inspiration behind my idea was Yoko Ono’s white chess set. This artwork is a game of chess in which every piece and square on the board is painted white. I really enjoy the concept of changing a familiar game so that it adds an extra dimension to it or changes the experience completely. Ono’s change doesn’t render the game unplayable, rather it changes the experience so that players not only have to outmaneuver their opponents, but also remember whose piece is whose. When I was first introduced to this artwork I began to think about how I would have altered the game of chess, and started applying that thinking to other games, eventually coming up with reversed poker. Another inspiration behind my idea are the many different “formats” for playing magic: the gathering, a trading card game. Aside from the standard way to play as prescribed by the official rules, there exist a number of variations that toy with the game’s mechanics, like deck size, life totals, card colors, and creature types. My favorite variation is called commander, which is a format meant for large groups of players that makes massive changes to the standard game. Commander was originally created by fans, and I’ve always enjoyed the fact that actual players have put their own spins on games that they love, which inspired me to put my own spin on things.  

The Poker Chips we used in our games were generously provided by my classmate Jackson, who also created a poker based game.



Smoothie Piece – Xavier Meade-Kelly

Smoothie Piece

Record everything you eat during a meal

Repeat this for every meal for three days

Gather together the foods on your list

Place all the foods inside a blender and blend.

Pour it out into a cup.

Take a sip


When I began to bounce ideas around for my score, I first looked to existing pieces for reference. Most of my favorite pieces could be executed by a single person, and the ones that really stuck out gave the performer nonsensical or uncomfortable instructions. My biggest inspiration was definitely Yoko Ono’s collection of scores called Grapefruit, which includes a number of works in this vein.

As I began to zero in on my idea, I realized that I wanted to involve food in my piece. Food is a constant in the human experience. Everyone eats food, everyone enjoys food, and everyone appreciates food. Even though food unifies us, it also sets us apart. Some people view food as a means for moral expression, choosing not to eat animal products or food produced by certain companies. Food also marks culture, with every region spawning a number of unique dishes. 

At the end I settled on blending together all the foods eaten for three days into a single smoothie and taking a sip. I thought it would be interesting to combine all the different things I’ve eaten into one substance, and to combine all of the tastes I’d experienced into a single sensation. In a weird way the container I kept the smoothie in mirrored my stomach, as both essentially contain the same things.

On my third day I began to gather together all of the foods on my list. At the end of the day I blended them all together and placed the smoothie into a refrigerator. I presented my score in class by reading out the instructions, and taking a sip in front of everyone. One Idea I had was to plan out all of my meals so that the smoothie would taste good, but I decided to just eat what I normally eat: steak, salads, macaroni, and other foods were all blended together into one bizarre amalgamation. When I finally tasted my creation, I regretted that decision, as it tasted so very bad, so bad that I felt a little sick for a few hours.