Final Project: The Robbery

Required Materials:

1. Tear paper up into rectangles. The number of rectangles should be at least double the number of players.
2. On half of the rectangles, write the words “success” or “failure.” Fold these rectangles in half so that the word inside is not visible.
3. On the remaining half of the rectangles, write either gun, knife, or nothing. The number of each type of weapon is up to the group playing, but it is recommended to not have more than one gun and knife. Fold these rectangles in half so the word inside is not visible. Mark the outside of the rectangles in some way to designate that they are weapon cards.

Playing the Game:
1. To begin, have all players draw from the success/failure rectangles. This determines how their job in the robbery was performed. A “success” means there were no issues, and a “failure” means that they failed to adequately perform part of their job. Nonetheless, the robbery was pulled off successfully, and there are no extenuating circumstances as a result of their success or failure. Players are allowed to discuss their success or failure, and they do not need to show their card to corroborate their claim to success or failure.
2. Players are then introduced to the money. The amount of money and where it came from are not significant. If players choose, they can have one player empty the contents of their wallet, they can pool the money they have with them, or do anything they want to obtain the money for this game. The money is then placed in the center of the table.
3. Players now draw weapon cards. The gun card allows a player to shoot someone at the table, eliminating them from the game. The knife card allows a player to stab the person sitting next to them, eliminating them from the game. To attack with a weapon, all a player has to do is say “I shoot/stab [player name].” After the card has been introduced and every player is aware of the weapon, attacks with that weapon must succeed on a coin flip. When the coin is flipped, the player calls heads or tails. If the player is correct, the attack succeeds and the targeted player is eliminated. If the player is wrong then the attack fails and the weapon is taken by the first player who call for it. For example, Player A has a gun. He tells everyone at the table that he has the gun. Now, every attack with the gun must succeed on a coin flip. If Player A fails a coin flip Player B says “I take the gun,” then Player B has the gun and all of their attacks are also subject to the coin flip. Had Player A not disclosed that he had a gun, then his first attack with the gun would have automatically succeeded, but every subsequent attack would have been subject to the coin flip. If a player with a weapon is eliminated, then any player but the one who eliminated them may call for their weapon. If the weapon card has nothing on it, then that player has no weapon. If a player is shot or stabbed, they are eliminated from the game and cannot engage in negotiations.
4. Once weapon cards are distributed, players now negotiate for money. The player with the most amount of money at the end of negotiations gets to keep his money, while the rest is redistributed back to where it came from. Negotiations end when all non-eliminated players are in agreement that the negotiations should end.

Artist Statement:
My major initial inspiration for this game came from a realization I had relating to guns in games. When players are given a gun, they are given agency over a situation. In most games with guns, nearly all problems can be solved by shooting the gun, and using the gun tends to be the best, if not only, way to resolve a conflict. Therefore, I wanted to create a game that focused on this core aspect to weapons in games by placing it in a semi-realistic environment. My first major inspiration was Mechanic is the Message by Brenda Romero, as that set of games is almost always an inspiration for me. Making players think about what game mechanics are trying to get them to do is what I find to be most interesting about game design, and the goal of this game was to get players to think about what having the gun did to their position in the negotiation. My second major inspiration was 16 Tons by Eric Zimmerman. After my first iteration of the project ended in peaceful negotiation with no mention of the gun, I wanted to find a way to make players more driven to win. The way 16 Tons made players pay other players to move their pieces with one player being able to consolidate power and win by making the most money made me realize that having real money in play was the best way for me to get players invested in trying to win. While the initial version of the game used quarters, I had requested for my money back at the end of the game. In my second iteration onwards, I continued to use the same quarters, but allowed the player who had the most quarters to keep them while the rest was up to me. This resulted in the violence and power imbalance that I had intended. However, the weapon was not used as a bargaining piece like I had anticipated. Instead, the weapon was used as a means of countering perceived threats. If one player suspected another of being armed, then they would attack, but they would not attack without that fear. When only one player had a gun in the first iteration, I believe that the lack of another threat in part discouraged the player from attacking, which led to the introduction of the knife.

Intervention: The VR Chat Interviews

VRChat 2021.11.12 –

As seen in this video, I walked around VRChat and attempted to interview. My goal was to get people to think about who they were in-game, either as their avatar or the way they acted, and to play an absurd situation completely straight.

I framed my interviews as though I were an alien trying to learn more about life on Earth. In turn, I asked people what they liked or didn’t like about Earth, why they continued to live on Earth, and other things of that nature. The alien was intended to act as a visual shorthand for an outsider with no experience in VRChat’s customs which a number of people picked up and and treated me as such. Regularly, I was met with a negative viewpoint. Most people said that there was no good part about living on Earth and everything was terrible. I think this negativity reflects on the reason why people were playing VRChat; it’s a means of escapism where you can interact genuinely with people while using the anonymity and distance provided by the internet to keep from getting too close. Not included in my videos was a great deal of racism leveled primarily against black people. While unfortunately not uncommon in these spaces, the degree to which I saw this was far greater in VRChat as players were able to fill my screen with images of klansmen and also yell the n-word loudly. I did not interact with these people. A few select people (namely the purple skeleton in the video) were very receptive to my bit, often times playing along with my alien persona after having answered a few of my questions by asking me questions in return about life in space. Most people were frankly not that interested in being asked questions and spent most of their time talking with the others around them.

A big inspiration for my interviews was the Eric Andre Show but not in a normal way. The Eric Andre Show is primarily a prank show where Eric Andre puts on fake interviews for his guests where he does his best to make them uncomfortable and have them react to his bizarre mannerisms. My goal was to do the complete opposite by acting very politely and calmly in response to an incredibly strange environment. I think this works on the same level that comedian activists such as the Yes Men do. Things like the business suit that allows managers to see through cameras attached to their employee’s bodies or the all-in-one home suit used in the event of the flooding of the Earth force us to realize the ridiculousness of their context. Similarly, I wanted to have the people I interviewed have a similar moment of realization where they engage with the reasons why they play VRChat and how it differs from the greater world. I was additionally inspired by my previous interactions with VRChat. While I’d previously played VRChat playing different characters, most notably a shopping cart on a spiritual pilgrimage, I wanted to try engaging with other players in as normal a way as I could rather than adding to the visual and literal noise of people acting out. I was also inspired by Youtube channels such as All Gas No Breaks with impromptu interviews with random people at events to learn about why they were there.

Artwork #2: Speak Fighter

Requirements for Speak Fighter:
A fighting game (this specific version uses Street Fighter 2 for the SNES)
Two controllers
Four players, these players do not need to know how to play fighting games, it is possibly better if they do not

The players will divide into two teams. One member of the team will be the fighter who uses the controller but is not allowed to see the screen. The other team member will be the coach who can see the screen and gives the fighter information in order to win. The coach and fighter can only give information to each other in coded language. For instance, the coach can say, “you need to do the right thing,” in order to communicate that the player needs to move right, but the coach could not say, “go to the right,” as that makes the information too obvious. I suggest asking for examples of movie genres or television shows before the players compete and using one of the suggestions as a theme for how the players can communicate. For example, players could only be able to communicate as though they were in a western and would need to speak in an accent and use language associated with westerns.

Artist’s Statement:
This piece definitely change a lot from what I had initially intended. My original inspiration was based on a thought I had about how I found that using fighting game terminology to refer to things that had nothing to do with fighting games was incredibly funny. This thought spawned the concept of a fighting game that you played only by speaking, possibly using syllables as a means to simulate frame data or requiring players to complete a full argument to win. This idea proved to be far too abstract and complicated for this project, so I changed the concept a bit. My new goal was to create a fighting game with a verbal component, possibly requiring players to talk to each other while playing or only being able to attack while speaking. I had been watching speedruns of blindfolded Punch-Out!! for the NES which made me want to add a hidden information element to the game. I was also inspired by the boxer/coach relationship present in that game which made me consider adding other players to guide the fighters. Additionally, games such as the version of Tekken where taking damage was simulated using actual pain impacted the thought process for designing this project. This project, however, was intended to be a new way to experience trying to play Street Fighter rather than feeling a more literal impact from having played Tekken. This culminated in the original prototype of the game and also informs the language I use to refer to the players. The coded language was an attempt to maintain a verbal detachment from fighting games where now instead of fighting game terminology would be applied to non-fighting games, non-fighting game terminology would be applied to fighting games. Additionally, the sit down and play environment and improvisation required reminded me of the show Whose Line Is It Anyway. This directly inspired the optional rule to ask for a communication theme for the players to abide by in the same way that the host of the show would. In the final iteration, players and coaches sat facing each other which came about organically, as it was not a requirement for play in any of the rules. This solidified player groups as a team due to the direct contact that they had.

Speak Fighter: The Movie

It’s also worth noting that the players were instructed to speak as though they were in a Marvel movie in the attached video.

Write a Song

  1. Find a musical instrument. If you cannot find one or own one, then make one. You do not need to be able to play the instrument.
  2. Improvise something; a short rhythm or melody will worm.
  3. Record the improvisation.
  4. Repeat the improvisation until you’re sick of it.
  5. Wait a day.
  6. Play the improvisation again until you’re sick of it.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you one day forgot to perform the piece.
  8. Play the original recording once.

Artist’s Statement:
Prior to this class, I was not aware of scores, so my entire understanding of them is largely informed by what we’ve discussed and read for this class. Yoko Ono’s scores are the ones I am particularly familiar with given the readings, so my score’s format is largely informed by her style. John Cage was also a partial inspiration, but primarily with how he dealt with music rather than by any specific piece or aspect of his style. The title and thematic goal of the score is actually inspired by the song Sing from Sesame Street and the lyrics “Sing/Sing a song” which to me carry a very “anyone can do it” attitude that I was inspired by. When writing this score, I wanted to find a process that I was both familiar with yet accessible to a large number of people, and making short works of music by tapping out a rhythm or plucking on a stretched rubber band is something I enjoy doing while bored. I then extrapolated that process, treating it like composing a song, with some of the ideas behind this being how a song can change over the course of being written, how the things we remember change even over short distances, how repeating the same process that once seemed stimulating can become boring and irritating over time, and so on. In actually performing the score, the rhythm I tapped out was intended to fit a 5/4 meter which actually changed as I performed the score on my own over the next couple of days. The rhythm gained a beat which changed the meter to 6/4. This change was actually an intended goal of the score, as I wanted to capture the way a piece of music can change based on memory. If I were to iterate on this score, I’d probably expand its scope to a large group of people, maybe around ten, and have them all perform an improvisation collectively. Over the coming days, they would individually continue the score until a week had passed where they would then present what they remembered the improvised piece as.