LIFE: Asian-American Version

LIFE: Asian-American Version stems from my personal background growing up as an Asian-American, along with the stereotypes and traits that come along with it. Growing up, playing the board game LIFE was fun, however taking a second look at the game, the inconsistencies of it versus real life were great. LIFE was intended to be casual and aimed to convey rules among the “middle-upper class” (players would start with cars, college would guarantee a larger salary, the goal is to happily get married and buy a house). My version of LIFE:AAV, attempts to recreate a scenario nearly identical to the life I experience first-hand (one has to pay rent, pay for child expenses, and most importantly deal with strict Asian parental expectations).

Unlike the actual game of LIFE, I’ve changed it where the players start off as siblings under the same Asian-American family. It is also a co-op game (represented through the differences between American culture where individualism is key and success is through achieving the most money, against Asian culture where familial bonds are everything and members stick together through thick and thin). The goal of the game is to survive and make it through life together under the same family, while maintaining the familial bonds (or in this case “disownment” otherwise). The players lose when all of those bonds are broken or when they all run out of money.

Some particular differences that LIFE:AAV include:

The only option is going down the college route. Choosing your college major may break parental approval, which then influences whether college will be paid for. Rent exists and housing prices are extraordinarily high. Players can also now date, however with the caveat that dating must be successfully maintained before marriage (the dating candidates I’ve provided are extremely stereotypical under the lens of Asian Americans, which further exemplifies the experience as a whole). Who you end up marrying depends on parental approval. Event cards will contain snippets of the Asian-American lifestyle.

I tried to most accurately capture the differences that Asian-Americans experience, which would differ growing up as any other ethnicity. Through the process of modifying this version of LIFE, I’ve come to learn about the game “Oy Vey!” which is a board game based off of the life of a Jewish mother. The gameplay rules and mechanics also intend the highlight the stereotypes of Jewish culture and themes. It was interesting to learn that a personal project about my own ethnicity would introduce the process of finding other games with similar purposes.

Design Iterations and Testing

Initially, I knew my game was going to surround the theme of growing up Asian-American. I thought the idea of creating an original tabletop RPG was the right way to go, however, I realized that modifying the game of LIFE would serve its purpose better. I was already familiar with a lot of Asian-American themes and ideas, so the only barrier was to convert it onto the board game itself. For every “stop sign” in LIFE, I’ve included my own version of rules that would change the gameplay. I would also create a large number of event card and conflict cards with Asian traits. I’ve also modified the imagery of the board itself. After the play-tests, I ended up modifying some of the rules that were unclear and cleaned up any mistakes I made. 

Reception of the game went well. While observing a playtest, I’ve noted complaints from non-Asian participants about having to “take care of their siblings” and being “disowned from the family”. The idea of cooperation amongst family without particular benefits was amusing to watch, as it is a common thing I’ve personally experienced growing up. The addition of themed gameplay cards also made the experience more immersive.

NEU Confessions

NEU Confessions was designed with an idea centered around the question “how does one feel knowing that the safety of a private event is stripped away for an exchange of a secret of another?” Well the answer to that is compassion. Knowing that someone out there has experienced something so impactful in one’s life that it should better be left hidden leaves a powerful message: vulnerability exists in everyone. Surprisingly, after personally participating in the event, I feel less “alone” knowing that someone else has voluntarily offered a peek into an event that in a public space will fall scrutiny to judgement.

NEU Confessions is designed to be a nonintrusive intervention that relies on the trust between individuals through anonymity. The rules are to write down one confession or secret that one is willing to share in return for an exchange of a secret from another random participant. The ideal location for this activity is in a public space with a lot of university students (individuals who are most likely within the same age range and are more “free-spirited” and willing/comfortable participating in public interventions).

After some research, the intervention has similar bearings with the popular ongoing PostSecret mail art project, created by by Frank Warren wherein participants mailed their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard, which would then be revealed to the public online and in a book. Warren’s intention was to empower both the participant of the project and the reader, as well as create inspiration or healing for those who write the secrets and give hope to those who identify with the stranger’s secret — in effect, creating ‘an anonymous community of acceptance’. Both his and my interventions also draw from fundamental ideas of the new games movement. Public participation, cooperation, and the emergence of communities are some of the ideas pushed behind the movement, and NEU Confessions attempts to do the same in our Northeastern school environment. I believe many students are naturally drawn to the curiosity of belonging, which is something that is commonplace in social media (in the form of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, questionnaires and polls on ASKfm, Quora). Media sites such as Buzzfeed provide a list of questions that one answers to determine traits and preferences (ranging from favorite foods, Disney princesses, star signs) aimed to provide amusement like tarot cards. NEU Confessions provides an exchange that differs from the one-way exchange that occurs on the internet, as writing with pen and paper is more personal and intimate.

Design Iterations and Testing

Initially I was intrigued with the idea of random acts of kindness as an attempt for a public intervention. I also preferred non-intrusiveness from the act (more similar to a score rather than performance art in comparison to the Fluxus movement). The combination of the two led to me creating a secret exchange, which transformed into confessions. To set up the activity, I initially wrote a couple secrets of my own and had a few friends write some (to start off the initial exchange) and placed them all in a box, secret folded up on paper. I then sat outside in a busy area on campus and waited to provide students with the opportunity to share their secrets.


The results of the activity were harder to document, as my first initial test made it so I did not participate in the activity for anonymity purposes. However, I did observer amusement from a few individuals who participated. My second playtest was in the classroom, which went much better as the additional fact that the participants “knew” one another (the secret is tied to one out of the ~20 people in the room). From my observations, I heard comments such as “Wow, I got a good secret” and other individuals who wanted to see more. From observation, some of the secrets could range from taboo topics such as crime, sex, and drugs, all of which come from a personal place. I definitely felt as if NEU Confessions created the reaction that I hoped it would, and it would be interesting to see if an iteration where every secret would be revealed for all the eyes (similar to PostSecret) would be a prefered option.

Cards Against the Internet

With Cards Against the Internet, I am trying to recreate a scenario that explores individual humor through a social party card game with an objective reflection of the best and worst that the Internet has to offer. The game rules play out similarly to the actual Cards Against Humanity card game, however with changes to the answer cards (which are now Google Image results) as well as an additional “Bamboozle” mechanic. With the trend of memes of dogs in costumes that “Bamboozle” (or senseless dog pictures with the main purpose of “startling” its viewers), this unpredictability and spontaneity of the Internet is integrated directly within the mechanics of the game. Players can recreate an instance of online media culture, except share their own personal opinions and interpretations in a physical space. The question of what collectively is humor and what things can be accepted in a social setting (without the usual sense of security and anonymity behind a computer screen) is the crux of this game.

The game draws characteristics of Dada art, where one of the underlying motifs is generating questions about society, in this case posing the question of whether the unrestrained freedom of the Internet creates a culture where people are accustomed to instant gratification, randomness, and the profane. A specific example can be drawn from artist and co-founder of the Dada movement, Hugo Ball and his 1916 poem Karawane, one that is made up entirely of sounds (Dada: Zurich, Berlin, Hanover, Cologne, New York, Paris. pg 43). The performance of Karawane was meant to instigate unconventional ideas at the time to its audience, in this case the experimenting with the limits and communication of human language. What is interesting is the fact that Karawane still relies on the fundamental structure of syllables, rhyme, and prose, however changes only the meaninglessness of words through sound. In essence, it is appropriation. With Cards Against the Internet, the rules and questions have not changed drastically based off of the original Cards Against Humanity, however the answer content has shifted towards a representation of random Internet searches. An observed response to my game is the randomness and wide response of choices that is provided due to the nature of Internet pictures. Ideally, it is meant to question our association and reliance to the Internet, our browsing, and how it influences us in a public setting.

AllCards (PDF)

Design Iterations and Testing

Initially, the idea was brought into consideration after playing Cards Against Humanity and observing the rise of Meme Card games. They are both games I enjoy playing, but both lacked an element of “dark humor” due to restrictions as well as the fact that the randomness came from an unnatural place (answer choices that were purposefully made to sound drastic, yet the exaggeration makes it worse). Combining the aspect of a “humorous” party game and appropriating it with the wide honest results of Google Image searches (from history, people, items, events), the list is endless. The Internet drives the humor in the game, and surprisingly people are usually very drawn and open to the idea of Internet humor. I’ve personally given it a second thought and consider the Internet to be a “wild and lawless” place where profanity is left unchecked, and realized its effect on how it has started to normalize the youth of this generation.

I first created a list of potentially funny questions keeping in mind the idea of making them generic enough that both nouns and verbs can potentially be an answer choice. I then created a large list of images that I could use, and went ahead to find pictures of all of them on Google Images, along with as many pictures of dogs in costumes as I could find. I printed the images on a size of half an index card as the standard and attached them to color-coded index cards.


The game rules were easy enough to pick up and play and required little to no explanation for those who have already played a similar game. Overall, the results were mixed to my surprise, but after later consideration I deemed the results to be correct. My first playtest in a private setting garnered a lot of laughs and a general acceptance of the profane humor. However, playtesting it in class, I noticed the general hesitation to the humor when participants were placed in a public setting. I feel as if this game may even have a bigger impact when played in a general setting. Internet browsing history is usually a private matter (along with dark humor), where players obviously tend to reserve themselves in public. I hope that playing this in such a setting will really make a person think twice about the Internet and their behaviors.

Score “Sound of Sharing”


The Sound of Sharing

Take a blank 8.5 by 11 white sheet of paper.

Find a partner.

Tear off a piece of the paper to hear its fibers.

Hide your pieces but share the remaining paper.

Have your partner do the same.

Continue tearing to never make the sound end.


Artist Statement:

With my score “The Sound of Sharing”, I am experimenting with human sociological behavior. Humans naturally have evolved to be either altruistic or egoistic. However, commonly within today’s business-oriented power-driven society, egoistic individuals have found it easier to achieve. The feeling of altruism is intuitively a humane trait, which I would love my audience to re-experience, that of a place with humility and humble beginnings. When presenting the audience with the dilemma of tearing paper without no end, which could be taken literally or figuratively, I am waiting to see if the rules of “hiding your piece” would be broken, and if the activity will end when all the paper is torn into pieces that can’t be torn anymore. In essence, it is a test between individuals — when one has a large amount of resources, would one share them for the sake of keeping the deprived content? And a more philosophical question, when the tearing stops and the resources completely depleted, what happens then?

This activity draws some inspiration from Fluxus artist Yoko Ono in the way common household objects are the medium for the activity. Using terms such as “tear”, “hide”, “hear” create a powerful, vague, yet satisfying action for the audience to experience, words that derive meaning with the flexibility of intention. I have specifically chose to use tearing paper as the activity, as though a seemingly boring activity, I try to appeal to the satisfaction of the human impulse through action. It is therapeutic in a way to see impulsive action be immediately rewarded with an expected result. I chose a specific form of paper, the 8.5 by 11 standard white paper, for all of the characteristics that paper is represented to be. It could be taken as a form of breaking restrictions from the norm — the white paper is meant to be printed on, used for assignments, school, and anything corporate. “Tearing” that is a way of straying from the norm that confines us in society. The paper is also is blank, white, empty, and meaningless, yet if the audience has the capacity to create value and share “nothing”, then they would have the capacity to share anything.


Design Iterations and Testing

Initially the piece was tested in a large classroom with a large number of students, but the intended effect of sharing was not implemented. Therefore, I limited the activity to just two people and pairs. The line “Find a neighbor” is now changed to “Find a partner”, limiting the activity to two people.

The biggest problem with the score was the line “Hide your piece but share the remaining paper”. Many groups hid only one piece, and then stopped hiding the rest of the pieces, and assumed it was only supposed to be done once. As a result, I’ve clarified it by changing it to  “Hide your pieces”, making it known that you should be keeping all of your pieces.

The results:

My ideal results were two endings, where the first would be the activity ending with a very very small piece of paper that could no longer be torn, but with the participants leaving the large pieces that were “hidden” alone. This had happened twice with many iterations.

The second result was when the piece was no longer able to be torn, the participants would tear up all of the remaining paper until every bit was torn. This is the ideal result I wanted to see from the piece.

An interesting third result was displayed which had interesting implications. Participants would tear the paper in a loop-like way to avoid tearing off a piece, but continue one long strip to maximize the amount of “tearing” that could be possible. I find it an ingenious way of problem solving and thinking to create a way to create as much sound as possible without losing the integrity of tearing off pieces. In my opinion, this third result goes to show the mental capacity of participants who enjoy thinking out of the box for solutions, rather than accepting the proposal that I gave.