Experience:Life is Absurd -Xinyi Ren

The inspiration for this artwork comes from Life is Strange – this is a game full of details. In the game process, players need to make many choices, but the game has only two endings and is only related to the last option. This usually makes players doubt the significance and importance of what they do. Some people may be unhappy with this design, but I think the experience reflects the nature of life in a way.

Usually, the games that players come into contact with emphasize that “small choices can also bring great changes.” For example, in another game I like very much, Papers Please, what players do is just seal the passport of immigrants, but in the end, it can determine the life and death of many people and even the future of the country. And I want to take this opportunity to bring people an experience that violates this “hidden rule of the game.”


Process: I prepared 40 unrelated two-choice questions and printed them on paper of different colors. Before starting, I told participants that this was a test (but would not disclose the purpose), asked them to choose among these options, and could stop the process at any time. During the process, I will record their reactions (the answers to these questions are almost irrelevant, and they do not lead to a specific result) and inform the project’s purpose after the participants ask to stop or the questions are exhausted. That is: not every choice will have far-reaching consequences, and not every option has important motives behind it.


In my observation, I found that participants tend to spend time thinking and choosing the option that best suits their actual situation. When finally told the results, the participants’ reaction is usually surprised – they think I will draw a conclusion based on these illogical questions, even if they have realized that these questions are absurd. This result can reflect people’s subconscious belief that all events and choices are causal and meaningful; But in life, this is not the case.

Intervention: It’s just a virtual game-Xinyi Ren

When I began to think about this intervention, The Jejune Institute I watched in class gave me some inspiration. I wanted to engage people in a kind of “weird” group activity. I chose the game Final Fantasy 14 as the basis. The process is like this. First, I recruit on the recruitment board and indicate that I hope someone can complete some of my strange requirements. I will pay them, but I don’t directly tell them what the specific requirements are. After players enter my team, I will put forward some strange requirements (usually embarrassing) to them. If they finish, they can get game currency in return. I conducted recruitment in the morning of three days (because my account is on the Chinese server, most players are active at this time). A total of no less than 21 players entered my team (a team of up to 8). In each test, players entered the team quickly, but most players said they join because of curiosity about requirements, and what attracted them was not reward.

I have made five requests:

Requirement 1: randomly find 10 Strange players to use emotional actions reward: 20W

Requirement 2: join in a random mission that has other players and quit immediately reward: 100W (no one completes)

Requirement 3: make no less than 5 stupid comments on the public channel reward: 30W

Requirement 4: take off all gears and dance in the main city for 5 minutes reward: 20W

Requirement 5: randomly find a strange player and chat with him for 3 minutes reward: 30W (no one completes)

Of the more than 20 players, only 3 successfully met my requirements and received remuneration (one of them completed tasks twice), while the other players said they just wanted to chat / thought the requirements were unreasonable / the requirements were very simple but did not complete them. It can be seen that players tend to choose activities that do not affect irrelevant personnel but reject activities that have a bad impact on others’ game experience (no one chooses the second item, even if it is very well paid, but this is a behavior despised in the player group). I think there are several reasons for this result. First, I didn’t directly show the requirements and remuneration in the recruitment, which made many players just curious and didn’t really want to participate. Secondly, players who choose to enter this “social recruitment” basically don’t spend a lot of gold coins in the game but care more about the social process, which also leads to their reluctance to destroy the game experience of unrelated players. In my imagination, it should be the reward that attracts players to the team, but in fact, it is their curiosity that drives them. This means that when curiosity is satisfied, they will not take the next step.

Appropriation: No Three in a Row-Xinyi Ren

This game was first inspired by Yoko Ono’s white chess. After seeing this work, I wanted to start with a board game, so I chose to learn from the simplest tic tac toe game. On the other hand, due to the central idea of “anti-art” of dada doctrine, I decided to make some reverse modifications to the core game mechanism of tic tac toe – but the finished product will still be a game, just as dada art is still art.

First, I expanded the chessboard from 3 * 3 to 5 * 5. The reason why tic tac toe is an easy and fast game is largely due to the size limit of the chessboard, and I want players to spend more time “hesitating”. Secondly, I modified the two core mechanisms of the game: how to proceed to the next step and how to win. In the process of the game, players should not only think about their next step but also think about how the other party will take the next step. The key is not how to control your own actions, but how to control your opponent’s actions. Finally, in the traditional tic tac toe, three in a row means victory, but in this game, it means failure. I think this is the most interesting part and can also bring the most novel experience to players: everyone will find ways to avoid the victory means they are used to.


Xinyi Ren Score: Trace


Turn on your computer

Fix a piece of paper on the mouse pad

Tape a pen to the mouse

Start playing games

Change the paper or stop when you want to stop

Observe the path of your mouse movement while playing the game recorded on the paper


Artist Statement

My inspiration comes from Yoko Ono’s grapefruit. The book’s content is simple and straightforward, but readers can feel a kind of romance and sincerity. These “Poems” are discovered from every corner of life, and even some unobtrusive things can be given important significance, which makes me choose to observe one of my most common things in life from an unnoticed angle. So I began to observe the computer keyboard and mouse because these are the props I use every day. After a long time of use, I found that several commonly used keys on my keyboard were obviously worn out, but I usually don’t notice that I often use them during play.

The results of these almost unconscious behaviors may be more evident than I thought. I want to use a visual way to record the use of the mouse. People will find that the mode of mouse movement in different game activities is also different, and there is a significant gap in the length and density of lines presented by high DPI and low DPI settings. Even if you play the same game on the same device, results can vary from person to person. At the same time, I think this will also change the behavior of “playing video games,” from short-term preservation to long-term preservation, from personal experience to an art form that others can understand.

When I was doing this score, it gave me a new understanding of my subconscious actions. When I was fully focused on the game, my actions were not what I thought they would be afterward. I originally thought that the moving track of the mouse should be smooth and coherent, but in fact, most of the turning points are stiff and sudden. At the same time, in the game, I pause the mouse in several specific areas more frequently than I thought. When I perform this score on the same game again after a period of time, the pictures composed of these separate and broken lines look very similar to the last time. From this I sensed a pattern hidden beneath the randomness, which is a very wonderful experience.