Artwork 4: Detective Game

While reading through John Sharp’s Works of Game, I thought a lot about his comments on affordances in games, specifically experiential affordances. I wanted to experiment with that concept, to try to both fulfill and subvert the player’s expectations of the typical detective game. I think both fulfilling and subverting expectations is a valid way to engage a player. The player feels comfortable playing the game, as they find that the game is familiar, yet also is encouraged to think critically about their experience when they encounter subversive elements.

I created a Twine game in which the player takes on the role of a police detective investigating a suicide. The detective can choose to investigate the case further, questioning suspects and looking for clues. This is what the player expects from a detective game. However, I also gave the player the option at any time to choose to end the investigation, even right at the very beginning. I chose to have this option to comment on the ineffectiveness of the police system in our country, and its willingness to ignore domestic abuse. I attempted to subvert the player’s expectations of what a mystery game is in order to make a statement that the player is encouraged to reflect on.

The process of writing this game was emotionally draining. I had to put myself in the perspective of both the abused and the abuser in order to accurately capture the essence of domestic abuse. I wanted the game to be short and quick and within a reasonable scope for this class, so I had to cut a lot of elements I originally planned to add. For example, I could have added a neighbor commenting on their perspective of the relationship, and given the player the option to either believe them or ignore them. I also thought about adding a journal written by the domestic abuse victim as a clue, but I thought commenting directly on the experience of domestic abuse might be too on the nose. I attempted to be more subtle with the hints in this game.

Below is a link to a zip file containing my game.


Artwork 3: Overwatch Intervention

For my intervention piece, I chose to play as a pacifist in Overwatch. I was inspired by the World of Warcraft group we spoke about in class that healed both sides of a PvP fight, acting as a neutral party in a game that typically pits people against one another and encourages you to take a side. Overwatch is similar – players are grouped into teams of six and fight each other to win capture points or push payloads. I had seen individual players act as pacifists before with varying success, and occasionally everyone would catch on and act friendly, but I was interested to see what would happen if an entire team refused to fight.

I gathered a group of friends to team up with. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and busy schedules, I could only gather four friends at a time, so we had to ask the randomly assigned sixth player to help our cause and act as a pacifist. One person actually left the game before it started since they were not interested in not fighting. We played three games, each time using a predetermined formula. For the first round or point of each game, we would go to the capture point and only use our emotes or voice lines to communicate with the other team. We acted as nonviolently as possible, and did not shoot at the other team. A few people from the other team caught on in the beginning, and acted friendly and nonviolently towards us, but for the most part players on the other team just killed us. We then typed in the match chat and told the other team our intentions, and again waited to see what they would do. A few more players acted nonviolently, but most still shot at us.

I can conclude from this intervention that the few games of Overwatch I’ve seen in which every player acts as a pacifist are rare. Just because a team acts friendly doesn’t mean that everyone will respond in the same way. Many of the players just want to play the game as intended. Those rare moments of pacifism usually happen organically, and everyone must agree, either through chat or through nonviolent actions, to not shoot. I think this intervention showed just how compelling the rules of Overwatch are, and the competitive nature of the players who are unwilling to subvert the expectations of the game. In the future I would be interested to see if playing as a pacifist in other competitive games would be more or less successful than this attempt.

The documentation of this intervention can be seen below in three videos.

Indie Game Show and Tell: Stories Untold

Stories Untold is an indie game created by No Code that features four short horror experiences. I focused on The House Abandon, in which the player plays a text-based adventure game about an abandoned house on an old PC. It is essential that the player can see and hear their immediate surroundings, as the game eventually restarts and actions the player takes in the game begin to happen within the house the player is in. The horror of the game comes from the duality of the player character – is the player character the one sitting in front of the computer screen? Or is the player character the one being controlled in the text adventure? The text adventure player character encounters the player character sitting in front of the computer, and the uncertainty of who the player is actually controlling gives the player a strong sense of unease.

I chose to present this game in class because it plays with perspective in an interesting way. We often think of the player character as an extension of ourselves, our way of interacting with the game world, our lens through which we view the game. But when a character in a game like The House Abandon has to play a game themselves, who really is the player character? Who is the player really controlling? The House Abandon asks this question, and forces the player to confront their expectations about perspective in games.

Artwork 2: Lost in Google Translation

For this artwork, I chose to focus on the appropriation of technology. We use technology to assist us in our work and so design this technology to be used in a certain way. For example, Google Translate is intended to be used to simply translate text from one language to another. This is typically used in situations where we need to interact with those who do not speak the same language as us, so that we may communicate with them. I was inspired by the works of appropriation from the Dada movement, especially works like Raoul Hausmann’s Mechanischer Kopf (Der Geist unserer Zeit). In this piece, Hausmann adorns a wooden head with a variety of objects that have specific purposes, such as a ruler used for measuring. This use of objects with specific, everyday purposes to create art is what inspired me to use Google Translate in a way that was not intended by its designers.

This work is a game in which one player chooses an English sentence or phrase with a certain theme and translates it between various other languages, about 10 or so at least, and then translates the sentence back to English. Because certain words or phrases do not translate perfectly from one language to another, the original sentence becomes modified in the translation. The other players must then look at this translation and write down what they think the original sentence was. The player that comes the closest to the original sentence wins the round. This game can be played for as many or as few rounds as the players desire.

In the original iteration of the game, there was no theme for the sentences, so it was difficult to discern what the original sentences might have been referencing. With a theme, such as famous first lines of books, the players at least can draw from a specific set of knowledge, rather than randomly guessing.

The original sentence

The modified sentence

Appropriation Show and Tell: Countdown (Snuggie Version)

For our appropriation show and tell, I chose a video made by YouTube user Ton Do-Nguyen. He performed a full rendition of Beyonce’s “Countdown” music video wearing a snuggie. The video, and a comparison to the original, can be found here:

I chose this video to showcase appropriation, as it is transformative, yet not so much so that it parts ways completely with the appropriated work. In the video, Do-Nguyen replicates not only Beyonce’s actions but also copies the editing of the original video perfectly. This presents the viewer with a very recognizable work, which allows the contrasts between this video and the original to shine through. The fact that the subject of the video is a boy in a snuggie sharply contrasts with the iconic pop star of the original. The backgrounds of Do-Nguyen’s version look very much like a basement/parts of a house, giving the video a charming, homemade look, as opposed to the vibrant, polished backgrounds of the original. I think this video is an excellent example of how to appropriate a work and make it your own while still giving tribute to the original.

Artwork 1: Drink Piece


By Julia Smead

Pour out a glass or mug of your favorite drink

Each time you take a sip, write down a positive affirmation on a piece of paper

Do so until the glass or mug is empty

Hang this paper on a surface you will see often


Artist’s Statement:

This piece is inspired by my struggle with mental illness, particularly depression. I often have negative thoughts about myself and find it hard to drag myself out of these thoughts. This piece is intended to encourage the reader to really think about what they like about themselves and think positively. One of the things I do when I’m having negative thoughts is drink tea or coffee. Drinking a warm drink is a comforting action to me, and I thought it would be a good way to both enhance the experience of thinking positively and limit the number of affirmations the reader needs to write to a reasonable and doable number. I specifically wanted the reader to write on paper rather than type their affirmations for a couple of reasons. The first is that writing is a much more intimate action, and it feels more personal to me than typing. The second is that I wanted the affirmations to be hung up. The hanging of the sheet of paper on a surface you see often is to remind the reader to think positive thoughts on a regular basis.



A mug of coffee and blank sheet of paper

A half-full mug of coffee and some affirmations

An empty mug and a paper full of affirmations

Hanging the affirmations on a door



Original iteration:

Pour out a glass or mug of your favorite drink

Each time you take a sip, think of one thing you are grateful for/one thing you like about yourself

Do so until the glass is empty