Conventional: a tile focused board game

I struggled quite a bit with this project but I am extremely happy with how it turned out in the end.

The original concept for this game was to design a tile based board game where players must advance, however they have the opportunity to determine their own future. Just like in life, there is a game of chance on how much progress will be made in each round, and they may become more successful or unsuccessful through their own planning and design. I wanted to design the game in such a way that playing collaboratively would help both players succeed, however inherently incentivized them to play selfishly. This part of the game was heavily inspired by the game (sorry I don’t know the title of it), where the players were supposed to work together to win, however the directions never explicitly stated they should do so. Similarly, through the design of my game, I wanted to see what emergent gameplay would develop through intentionally vague rules, and see if players would force themselves into expected boardgame behavior, or if they would manipulate the design for their own gain.

On the first iteration of my game, players could place tiles anywhere, there were no connection points, however despite this they believed they could only place their tiles on the preset board. This is why I added connection points to the pieces. It also adds more strategy where players can block tiles from being placed on top of certain tiles. Additionally, I realized the player who went last had the most advantageous position for altering tiles, so I added a line into the instructions about how the player who goes last becomes the new first player for the next round.

On the second iteration, players were more limited on their tile placements, increasing the amount players strategized, however players still never placed tiles outside the preset board.

After these trials, I realized I needed to define my directions more explicitly, and also hint in the directions without explicitly stating so towards this desired emergent behavior. One of the key lines I added was “Players must move forward, they may not return to the tile they just came from”. This instruction was confusing to the playtest group as they assumed there was only ever one path, and despite voicing this confusion, they still never placed tiles outside the path.

While I was developing the tiles for this game, I realized that the board for the game may give away the behavior I desired from the players too obviously if I designed a preset board then put indents across the board outside of the main path. While this was a solution to hinting towards having players place tiles outside the original board, it was more obvious than I wanted. Eventually, I realized I could simply make the starting board out of the same tiles I was designing for the players, since these were individual tiles, I would have players assemble their own board at the beginning of the game and hopefully the act of doing this would help them realize that the starting board was not set in stone. This new design for the board also meant that players who realized it, could also modify the starting board mid game which was not possible in the past tests. I really enjoyed this new design and playtested to see how it affected player behavior.

While several of my earlier iterations of this game were unsuccessful on the emergent gameplay front, I had confidence that I might be more successful after I prototyped a more polished version of the tiles for this game, and I was right! By the time the tiles were designed, I had also rewritten the rules a few times to best encourage players to do more unexpected behavior and I think the design of the tiles also encouraged this. See end of post for the final game rules.

While playtesting this game I learned that players could alter the intended way to play if I did not word my directions very clearly so after each iteration, I attempted to modify the rules so they would be as clear as possible for the intended game play, while still leaving parts intentionally vague where I wanted players to discover they had more freedom then they may expect. As altering the starting board is an unexpected behavior, many of the people who playtest this game for the first would often only place their tiles on top of the starting board, and never mutated the shape of the board.

Another result of these playtests which was unexpected is that players were always ‘selfish’ in that they would play the game so they could win and no one else could. While this game is designed to be easy to win between 2 people, players never collaborated. Maybe because its completely possible to win on your own. I think its interesting to watch how players strategize in this game. Since the players designed the starting board, it was interesting to find that some players would isolate themselves and collect points in a 2×2 tile area, while others tried to determine the shortest path from the start to the end and place their tiles along this path. Additionally, players are hesitant to touch other players tiles or move the start or end.

I worry that depending on how much freedom the players realize they have, it becomes very easy to win this game, however because this is the case, players who play this game several time seem to enjoy how the strategy mutates along with their discovery of different interpretations of the rules.

I really enjoyed our discussions in class of games with ‘loose’ rules. We had discussed another students “graveyard” game and also I was inspired by how many designers of art games modify the way players interact with the pieces in order to change the expected interaction between players and the game. Thinking back to Mary Flanagan’s ‘giant joysick’ and how increasing the size of the controller forces people to move a single controller collaboratively, I wanted to design my pieces in a way where the core focus of the game is on placing the tiles and modifying the game space instead of acting on top of a designated board design. I also enjoyed how players had interacted in my score from the first project and wanted to return to that idea of mutating the game as you play. Additionally I wanted to continue with the concept I had for the intervention assignment where I tested if people would act different given signs in a test setting or if we have become so conditioned by tests that they wouldn’t even consider another action then simply taking the test. I wanted “gamify” this concept more where it was more replayable when players discovered their freedoms. I really enjoy games with greater player freedom and wanted to design a game where the players own freedom is determined by themself, similar how in life we are expected to follow a certain path, however people have more control over their direction then they know, and are often fearful to stray from what is expected of them. Just like in life, the only thing the player can not do is remain stationary, every turn they must move forward, even if it is just one tile. Even if they are not moving towards the “end” they are still making progress, often with a side goal (like collecting coins) before making their way to the end.


first playtest

tile development! I learned how to 3d print and vinyl cut while making this project!

first playtest after tiles were designed/printed

first playtest after players were able to design their own starting board


- players should connect 17 tiles to make the board, this should include the "start" and "end" tiles. All pieces should be connected; no islands
- all players should choose a color and place their player on the start tile
- all players begin with 4 tokens, ensure that there are 8 tokens left in the pot
- players should roll a die to determine who starts. 

rounds consist of 2 phases. all players should complete the first phase before moving to the second phase
players must choose one of the following actions:
- place a tile
- move/rotate a tile
- remove a tile
- skip your turn for this phase

* tiles with a player on them may not be modified. 
* adjacent tiles must lie flat, 2 male connections cannot be adjacent. 
* adjacent tiles must be on the same plane
* if you must lift tiles to complete your action, this action is invalid. 

each player should roll the d4 and move that many spaces
* players may not move backwards (back onto the tile they just came from)

if a player lands on:
- THEIR OWN COLOR TILE: take your dice roll X2 tokens from the pot. if there are no coins in the pot, do nothing
- ANOTHER PLAYER'S COLOR TILE: give your dice roll of your tokens to the player whose color the tile matches to
- NON-COLORED TILE: pay 2 of your tokens to the pot

@ END OF EACH ROUND: player that went last, should go again and begin the next round

This game ends for each player when they land on the "end" tile. At this point, they no longer take a turn even if other players continue
If a player finished the game with 9+ tokens, they win.

A Critique on Grades

For this project I wanted to design an experience that would make the people participating break their typical behavior. Through schooling we are taught in a way to pass test, not in a way that teaches us things for long term memory. I wanted to create a test that would incentivize the users to abandon the exam for some other behavior, so I created an image, like a “wheres waldo” where the test takers had to memorize things in the image then answer questions about it. (see images and quiz below).

Because creating the image would take quite a while, the first iteration of this project for me was playtesting the idea with other people. I explained the concept of my project and wanted their input for if they thought it would actually work. From the few people I described it to, they agreed that it was an interesting idea however many people expressed concern that people would be unlikely to take the action I expected. I agreed and considered what I could do to make this idea more obvious but still subtle enough that it would still be the playtesters on choice to take action. I decided that I would test this on my roommates and depict our house in the image so they were already familiar with it. I showed a candy bag in the kitchen in the image and the test takers in the living room.

I noted to the players before the start of the “exam” that only the person with the best score would get a piece of candy. Despite the playtesters noticing that the bag of candy was in the kitchen, after they had finished the ‘exam’ they explained that the thought of leaving the “testing room” would never have crossed their mind, nor do they think there was anything I could have done to change their behavior.
One funny note, one of the testers was so conditioned by exams that they put their name at the top of the page despite me not adding that as a prompt on the exam page.  (there were only two of them and they were writing in different colors)

Ultimately, I think most people would show the same behavior as my roommates did if placed in the same position. However, despite this intervention failing, in some ways I think that it actually is more successful because it failed, showing the testers how schools have conditioned them in such a way.

This artwork was somewhat inspired by the Barbie/G.I. Joe swap, in that some experiences are not always as you expect them to be from their surface image. Like the Barbie/G.I. Joe swap, I wanted to create an interaction with the users that would make them reconsider their behavior with familiar items/experiences, and hopefully make them see these experiences differently in the future.

Image given to testers:

the testers studying the image:

the testers taking the test:

Quiz questions:

  1. who is in charge of the “bath” chore?
  2. who is currently #4 on the leaderboard?
  3. how many carrots are in the image?
  4. what day of the week was the 1st of the month?
  5. What is the current time in 24 hour time?
  6. Where is the bed located in Anna’s Room? Give your answer in cardinal directions.


A Drumming Party Game!

Originally, I wanted to appropriate the movie Blue Giant which came out recently, its about teenagers who want to play jazz and one wants to become the best jazz musician in the world. This movie has an incredible soundtrack and I wanted to appropriate it for this project so that people could feel that excitement of playing together as the teenagers did in the movie and the same way I have in previous bands. I started out with a concept about jazz music where each player would be playing a different instrument and after learning the play their instruments in the gamified way, they would be able to play together. Upon presenting this idea to my class, the lack of enthusiasm made it clear to me that my idea for the mechanics was uninteresting and the concept too confusing so, I scrapped it and started over. At its core, I wanted people to enjoy making music together when I remembered that during a vacation I went on, the staff of where we were staying, gathered us for a drum circle night of playing and dancing and I remember, despite never having played with these people, you could still have fun however in a much more casual way than jazz typically is. So, for my in class playtest, I brought in a multiplayer rhythm game where players learn to play quarter, eighth, and sixteenth beats. Once learning all these types of rhythms, they had an opportunity to play together. It was during this playtest that I realized, many people who have never experienced reading rhythm notation may struggle with this game so I simplified it for the final version.
In the final version, after each time they learned a new “skill” ie. a quarter beat, eighth, silent or free square, players each got a part and had an opportunity to play together! This minimized the pain of learning each new type of rhythm because players had more opportunity to play together than the previous iteration which kept players more engaged.
I think if I were to continue working on this game, I would add in the sixteenth beats next for players that want a challenge and also allow each player to pick different difficulties so more complex rhythms can be created for those with more experience, and simpler rhythms for players that are new to drumming so they are not overwhelmed.

While I don’t think that my appropriation of drumming circles here quite parallels the readings about artists during the dada era, I think in the general concept of artists stealing parts from things that inspire them and want to use those things to create some emotion in their audience or share their perspective, we are similar.

View the final project here! –>

First draft of project party game–>

playtest notes–>

Roll for Role

I wanted to create a score that could be played in a mutable way by its players. By placing the ‘fun maintenance’ on the players, I think the players become more attached to the game. However, they still needed a starting point, so I designed the Crow and Collector roles to be easily cycled/repeated as many times as necessary.

This game should be played with at least 4 people, each person should roll a d20, if its even they are a Crow, if its odd, they become a Collector. All tasks for a players assigned roll should be completed. Players should take turns rolling a single die. once all players have rolled once, the Creator role should be added in. Once at least one person has become the creator, the eliminator role may be added in.

Current role tasks should be visible to everyone playing (like on a projector or TV).

At any point, if players get ‘soft-locked’, for example: all players become crows and get stuck; the game is over.

Starting Script:

Score A: The Crow
– adorn a feather
– find a shiny item
– bring it to The Collector
– roll for role (d20)

Score B: The Collector
– adorn a pin
– until a Crow delivers an acceptable item to you, find a chair.
– if a crow gives you a shiny item, exchange for a snack
– roll for role (d20)

Score C: The Creator
– read through current roles and instructions
– add or edit only one thing
– roll for role (d20)

Score D: The Eliminator
– read through current roles and instructions
– delete only one thing
– roll for role (d20)


Concluding thoughts:

  • This game in design as well as in testing works much better in locations where more than the starting number of players can be added. whether in a classroom or outdoors where more people can ask/be asked to join in, the more fun that this game gets
  • I would have liked to add in a rule to the crow roll where if they choose not to give an item to a collector, then they can do something else instead to move on, however I wanted the focus to be on the crows’ loyalty/reliability on the collector to eat. adding the components to include this feature i think would have made the game too complicated
    • maybe some rule like “either bring an item to the collector, or [some unenjoyable task], however each person playing can do [unenjoyable task] at most one time”
    • however i didn’t get a chance to playtest with this sort of rule
  • i feel like it could also be more interesting for the players to sort of “mad-libs” the original task so they feel more inclined/attached to it
  • current game design will often end with players all becoming either crows or collectors, while it is technically possible to avoid this, players often do not think of it/realize in time
  • One of the biggest issues with the creator role is that players can make rules that don’t make sense. whether it be to bad grammar or intention, this makes the game interesting but not usually in a good way because players don’t know what to do to complete their roles tasks
  • game roles/rules should be visible to all players at all times
    • because the rules can be modified, players can get confused when things are getting changed and no longer know what to do next
  • rerolling needs a queue, otherwise it gets too confusing. One solution is to offer more dice so people can roll at the same time but I think this is worse. 
  • “What is a thing?” This line for the creator/eliminator is intentionally left vague. As long as the person doing the action can justify it is only one thing, i think it is fine whether they decide to delete a single word, line or even role. 


Playtest notes and iteration: