Artwork #4: A Year in Her Life

About the Game:

For the final project, I created a highly immersive narrative based game that is essentially a cross between an escape room and the game Gone Home. Gameplay takes the form of engaging with physical artifacts as players sort through the protagonist’s (Lily’s) belongings and learn about her life, her struggles with mental illness, an abusive relationship, her loss of innocence, and her sense of identity. The concept is fairly straightforward but its design was very carefully considered and each artifact was carefully selected in order to achieve a certain feeling/impact/experience for the player. While the overall narrative may be hard to explain in a meaningful way, this game’s meaning undoubtedly comes from the narrative and the physical space that the player interacts with.

The game contains several artifacts. They are as follows:

A lamp

A letter from Lily’s mother

A DVD given to her by “J” (Jake)

A polaroid camera

Several books, one of which contains hints to a password that unlocks Lily’s computer

Lily’s computer, which contains a password-protected folder that contains transcripts of Facebook conversations Lily and her abusive boyfriend Jake have had

And, most importantly, a journal, which tracks a year in Lily’s life

The entire setup

The letter from Lily’s mother

A hint page in one of the books


Sample of a Facebook conversation found in locked folder on Lily’s computer

The journal

Sample pages from journal:

All of these artifacts, which the player gains and uncovers by examining other artifacts, piecing together information, and solving puzzles, help to tell Lily’s story. It becomes clear why each of them are in the space as the player begins to piece together the story and draw conclusions. Each artifact was carefully chosen with the purpose of immersing the player in Lily’s story and making the setting and story feel more real and relatable.

The journal is the artifact that tells the majority of Lily’s story, though the Facebook messages and other artifacts help fill in some of the blanks. In addition to straightforward entries, the journal contains pictures that create visual representations of what Lily is feeling. During times of high anxiety, the pictures are more gruesome and are generally pretty creepy and highly abstract, and during more relaxed times, there are more straightforward, representational images. Often during these more relaxed periods of her life, there are no pictures at all, meant to represent the fact that she can adequately express how she is feeling with her words, while her anxiety and depression are harder to verbally express.

Each entry in the journal has a date on it, and during stressed times, Lily will write several entries a week, whereas during relaxed times, she will check in only about once a month. The dates also help the player to keep tabs on her abusive relationship, as, towards the end of the journal, Lily begins to write less and less even though she expresses feeling high anxiety, as her significant other is beginning to demand more and more of her and she finds herself spreading herself far too thin and feeling trapped.

Playtests/Player Feedback:

I conducted two playtests of the entire, completed game. The playtests took about 20-25 minutes each. Footage of one (along with the player’s thoughts) is available at the link at the bottom of this post.

Both players had very positive reactions to the game. They said that the game was very intense and immersive and that they easily emotionally connected with Lily, allowing them to gain a sense of authentic empathy for those who may struggle with some of the same problems as Lily. Overall, I think that this game accomplishes exactly what I intended, and based on the players’ reactions, I think it may have the potential to have even more of an emotional impact on players than I initially imagined.


I was largely inspired by the indie artgame Gone Home, which, similarly to my game, tells the story of an elusive protagonist who never actually makes an appearance in the game. Yet, by the end of the game, the player is meant to feel very connected to the protagonist and to have empathy for her circumstances. I was going for a very similar theme with A Year in Her Life. I wanted to apply certain ideas that I really care about that are not generally portrayed in games and create a sense of empathy within the player for those who struggle with these things. I very quickly knew that, unlike Gone Home, I wanted A Year in Her Life to take place in a physical space, as I think that the actual physical presence of artifacts made the story feel more real and made Lily feel like a real person. This was definitely a decision I made with class teachings in mind, as I carefully considered the atmosphere and medium of the game and how this would impact the player’s experience, which is one of the main concepts I took away from this class. This project really gave me the chance to carefully consider the artifacts I would use, the forms they would take, how they would aesthetically work together, and how this would impact the overall mood and tone of the game and narrative. I think that the unit that most impacted the choices I made while designing this artwork was the intervention- I wanted to create the feeling of almost a reverse intervention in which the player is intervening in the life of a character that doesn’t actually exist, but I still wanted the player to feel as if they were intervening in some way and being invasive, and based on player reactions, I would say that this was accomplished.

Documentation/Video of Gameplay: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1T8yfs6xb7xRp5qVdIztXmaRwOuHhd7Hd/view?usp=sharing

Final Artwork Concept

For my final artwork, I would like to create a pseudo-escape room, primarily inspired by the game Gone Home. Similar to Gone Home, I envision a highly narrative-based experience that follows the life and experiences of one elusive protagonist through personal artifacts. Ideally, this would be a room filled with artifacts (similar to an escape room) that each contribute to the story.

I want to use this game to focus on the experience of life and some of the messier elements we experience as humans, such as depression and mental health/illness. In this regard, I was inspired by my own room. Looking around my room, I feel there are a lot of elements that are quite revealing and tell a very interesting narrative about the person I am, and this is something I really want to gamify. I imagine that this experience would probably be highly auto-biographical, drawing on many elements of my own life and my own struggles through life.

Unlike an escape room, the goal of this game is not to escape— it is for the player to acquire a certain level of empathy and understanding by piecing together conclusions based on the artifacts in the room. Players would be able to unlock clues through examining artifacts (example artifacts: journals, a computer, props and items that inform the protagonist’s interests and hobbies, etc). I am also considering adding an element of mystery to the game, perhaps encouraging the player to come to an ultimate conclusion or to solve some sort of mystery.

Artwork #3 (Intervention): Pinning Positivity

Artwork #3 (Intervention): Pinning Positivity


Clothes pins with compliments written on one side and “Pass it on!” written on the other (10 for each player)


Can be played with any number of teams (1 person per team)

Players receive 10 clothes pins each

Players have 5 minutes to distribute the clothes pins (and compliments) however they see fit. The goal here is for players to read the compliment written on the pin and to attach the pin to a stranger (without being noticed) who they think the compliment applies to.

Players earn 1 point for every clothes pin they attach to a stranger without getting noticed

Players lose one point every time they are caught

After 5 minutes, the scores are tallied. The winner is the player with the most points.

Artist’s Statement:

The point of this intervention is to anonymously spread positivity and compliments. I think that our generation sometimes has trouble expressing sincerity without being able to hide behind the veil of social media, and this game makes it easy to compliment people and express your thoughts without being overt, awkward, or uncomfortable. In many ways, it is a social statement on how difficult it has become to approach a stranger and compliment them, and it proposes a solution to this problem and is an example of a way to spread positivity without direct and uncomfortable communication. I wanted players to have to carefully consider who they attached the pins to by reading the pin and looking at the people around them, and to then tactically decide how to attach it without drawing attention to themselves. This game makes the daunting task of approaching a stranger and complimenting them fun and far less intimidating, tasking them with maintaining anonymity and turning the entire process into a game.

The playtests I conducted for this game went extremely well; they were very fun to watch and player feedback suggested that trying to attach the pins without being noticed was difficult but felt very rewarding. Players said that they enjoyed the game, and that it was a playful, fun, non-awkward alternative to approaching a stranger and verbally complimenting them.  I am very happy with the results of the playtests and think that this game accomplishes most if not all of what I was aiming for.


I have three primary inspirations for this game. I was largely inspired by my friends, who used to have an obsession with pinning clothes pins to people’s backs without them noticing. They once pinned me when I was going through airport security, which made me pretty upset. However, I appreciated the intervention and playfulness of the action, and wanted to translate this into a more positive and less annoying game.

I was also inspired by the Jejune Institute and the idea of bringing players into a magic circle that merges with the real world. It’s a game that brings people into it without them really realizing that they are a part of a game; to most people, the pins are nothing more than an everyday artifact, but to players, they represent a way to communicate with those outside of the magic circle and potentially bring them into it, encouraging them to pass on the positivity.

I was also inspired by such interventions as the Gameboy/Super Kid Fighter intervention and the Barbie Liberation Organization intervention, and the idea of intervening with people in a way that could be considered mildly annoying but also has an undeniable aspect of humor and clever playfulness that, in my opinion, largely negates whatever inconvenience it may bring.


Each clothes pin says “Pass it on!” as a way to encourage spreading the positivity.

Examples of phrases on clothes pins

A pinned student

A pinned student who took off his jacket without noticing the pin.

Video of gameplay:


Indie Game- Lisa: The Painful RPG

Lisa: The Painful RPG is a game about pain, perversion, addiction, and the social darwinism of a world in ruin. In the game, players play as Brad Armstrong, a drug-addicted man who stumbles upon an abandoned baby. As far as Brad knows, the baby, who he takes in and renames Buddy, is the only female left in the entire world. He swears to protect her, dressing her as a boy and raising her underground.

When Buddy is kidnapped, Brad embarks on a quest to find her and bring her back home. During his journey, Brad is faced with tough decision after tough decision, forcing the player to realize that, sometimes, there is no such thing as a painless choice.

Watch a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-kT5SDifCU







Appropriation: The Game of Real Life

Artwork #2 (Appropriation): The Game of Real Life


For this project, I appropriated The Game of Life. Using all of the game’s preexisting pieces and its board and modifying them as little as possible, I created a game that more accurately reflects the experience of going to college, beginning a career, and trying to maintain a healthy balance of happiness and income while making an effort to keep anxiety levels as low as possible. The game is based on the life of a game designer, as I wanted to make the game semi-autobiographical and something that I personally found relatable. The game uses actual pocket change as currency as opposed to fake in-game money in order to reflect the stress of a tight-budget and to make the experience feel more realistic. Players keep their coins in pill bottles to further enforce this stress. Instead of using cars as player pieces, I used the small pegs that go in the cars as the player pieces and painted them to be the primary colors as a social criticism on the concept of gender.

The board and all of the game’s components

Player pieces

I also appropriated some of the basic rules of the game Careers. In Careers, players create their own win conditions by deciding how much happiness, money, and fame (out of a total of 60) they need to win. Players can distribute these 60 points however they choose. In my game, players split 40 points between happiness and money ($1 = 10 points, 1 happiness = 1 point) but must also keep their anxiety level below 5 points in order to win the game. Winning the game is very possible, but it is definitely not easy.

The anxiety stat works to reflect actual anxiety in a number of ways. Firstly, players must pay 1¢/anxiety point per paycheck to pay for therapy and anti-anxiety medication. Players can choose at any point to skip a turn (meant to represent taking a day off of work and stepping away from stressful responsibilities) and take an anxiety card instead, which relieves anxiety and will lower the player’s anxiety level. This is meant to encourage the concept of taking care of yourself.

Examples of anxiety cards

At the start of the game, players first make their win conditions and then decide to either go to college or begin a career.

Players who go to college receive 10¢ at the start, must pay back their college loans ($3, an absurdly large sum that is difficult to obtain throughout the course of the game) before the end of the game, and choose from a college-specific set of action cards during their time in school that generally create opportunities for greater success for the player later on in the game, though the payoff is not immediate (meant to represent the importance of going college in getting a career).

Examples of college-specific action cards

Players who choose to start a career start with 20¢, must pay rent of 1¢/paycheck, and, on the whole, make less money than college grads throughout the game, but they do not need to pay the absurd cost of college, which is this path’s main appeal.

College graduate career salaries vs. non-graduate career salaries

Each turn, players spin the dial to move and will take an action card that affects either happiness, money, or anxiety. There are many positive action cards that increase the player’s happiness and income (through promotions, bonuses, and well-selling games), but there are also many negative action cards that cause the player stress, cut salaries, cause players to lose their job or make hard decisions (such as quitting their job and losing their source of income or taking on a huge amount of anxiety due to an abusive boss or an absurd workload), or lose money on increased rent, purchasing a car, etc. I modified to board so that there are no spaces besides action spaces.

Examples of positive action cards

Examples of negative action cards

I wanted player choice to be very important to the game. Players can choose to take care of their mental health or “overwork” themselves to make more money than their competitors or try to be happier than their competitors. Even though competition is highly irrelevant to winning the game, there is still a sense of competition when playing with others, which is meant to represent how we as human beings are constantly comparing ourselves to the people around us even though they have no bearing on our lives or on our success.

First Iteration:

For the first iteration of this game, I did not have the board or any of the pieces yet. I only had a paper prototype and no action cards, so everything was written on the board. Also, it was only after the first playtest of the game that I decided that the game should include separate anxiety cards that the player must consciously decide to take instead of simply having action cards that lowered anxiety mixed in with the rest of the action cards, which took no thought and was simply a matter of luck. This was one of the biggest changes I made between the paper prototype and the final version. Other than this, I did not make any major changes to the structure of the game. I did, however, make some smaller changes, such as deciding to use actual change and use its actual value as opposed to using an abstracted form of currency or using real change but changing its value. I also decided to make it harder for those who choose to start a career earlier on to make as much money as those who choose to go to college, because in the first iteration, players had a 50/50 chance to “get lucky,” which I simply don’t think is realistic.

Paper prototype


I was highly inspired by Peter Thibeault’s appropriation exhibit at Gallery 360. After learning about his work and the way he employs game pieces to have a specific artistic meaning, I decided I definitely wanted to use a preexisting game and all of its pieces as the basis of my appropriated game. I decided I wanted each piece to have a very specific and thoughtful meaning in the context of the rules of the game and the statement it makes, which I think I accomplished.

I was also inspired by Yoko Ono’s White Chess, which I think makes a very powerful statement by making very small but thoughtful changes to a preexisting game and keeping all of the mechanics the same. This was my main goal in mind when creating my game— I wanted to make small changes that did not drastically change the game and its mechanics but entirely changed the game’s meaning.

Appropriation Show & Tell: From “It Must Be Jesus” to “Gold Digger”

Some people know that the song “Gold Digger” by Kanye West appropriates the song “I Got a Woman” by Ray Charles, using the same melody and lyrics. But what a lot of people don’t know is that “I Got a Woman” is also an appropriation, taking its melody from a song called “It Must Be Jesus” by The Southern Tones but completely changing the subject matter of the song. Through two different appropriations, “It Must Be Jesus” becomes “Gold Digger.” I think this is a prime example of how something can be appropriated and essentially repurposed to take on a completely different meaning than what was originally intended.

A Self-Perpetuating Piece

Artwork #1 (Score): A Self-Perpetuating Piece

Read this one line at a time. Do not move paper to reveal the next step until you’ve completed the instructions in the previous one.

Walk up to somebody.

Ask if they want to play a game.

If they say no, keep asking new people until somebody says yes.

When they say yes, cover up all steps except the first with the paper sleeve, hand them this piece of paper, and walk away.

(This score is meant to be written on a small piece of paper that can be slipped into a paper sleeve to cover up each step. See pictures below for reference.)

Artist’s Statement

In total, I made three copies of this score, all slightly different and with slight but insignificant modifications. One was written on a medium sized piece of paper in thick black marker, the second was written in pen on an index card, and the third was written in blue sharpie marker on an index card. I like the idea that there exists only three copies of this score, each slightly aesthetically different, and that I have absolutely no idea where any of them are.

Most people looked at the score, did not follow the first instruction and read the entire score, and then did not take immediate action. In fact, many did not take any action at all and simply went about their work as if nothing had happened. This was an interesting result— I learned that most people aren’t very likely to follow a set of instructions given to them by a stranger. This made it feel especially exciting (for me) when somebody actually did follow the instructions.

While I did find inspiration in many of the scores we examined in class, I was mostly inspired by what I did not see in the preexisting scores we looked at. I wanted to see a score with a sense of recursion, but I did not really see this in any of the scores we discussed in class. Because of this, I decided I wanted to make a score that was self-perpetuating. I wanted this score to be able to exist not just when somebody read it, but for it to always be active and alive and to give itself meaning. Simply, I wanted to create something that, by its very nature, didn’t have an end.

I also wanted to capture a sense of uncomfortable, awkward social interaction in this score. I wanted to bring people together but not in any significant way, simply just for a brief and awkward interaction. This score forces two people to share in something and interact but only for a brief moment in time, and the way the player is affected by this interaction is entirely up to them. It could leave them wondering why they were chosen to receive the score, and who they should pass it off to. It could leave them with no thoughts at all. It could make a small impact on their day and make them laugh, make them go on a brief and annoying detour, or mean nothing to them whatsoever. The score that most directly inspired this was Yoko Ono’s Stone Piece. I was inspired by the way Yoko Ono includes her friends in this art piece without them really even knowing they are a part of an art piece. By a lack of an explanation, she is forcing them to make their own meaning out of receiving an unknown powder, which I think creates a beautiful sense of artistic ambiguity that I truly admire and hoped to replicate through this piece.

As someone watching the events unfold and watching the paper as it was passed from person to person, I found it interesting that the paper linked all of these people together without them even realizing it. None of them could possibly know how many people had the paper before them, and I think that the element of mystery and unknowingness surrounding this score is one of its more profound and meaningful components. Even now, not even I, the creator of this score, know where it is, who has it, or all the places it has been. And I love the fact that I never will.


Below are videos of the game being played.