Xuanshuo (Stone) Zhang – Cyclic

Pieces: 4 circle with the numbers 1, 4, 2, 8, 5, 7 printed on them in a clockwise sequence, cards (regular playing cards), 4 sets of labels (numbers 1-6 each in a cutout of the 4 suits in cards)

Players: 4

Mechanics: Only Ace, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8 cards are used in this game. All cards played or swapped will be face down so no one can see the card. Shuffle the cards, then deal 6 to each player. Each player needs to put their labels down in front of them in order. They can play 1 card each turn in any position in their own spots, or swap two cards in any positions (their own cards as well). They are not allowed to look at the card before a swap, but they can look at it once the swap is complete. If the player is swapping with another player, both players can look at the cards, but only after the swap. To win, the player needs to have a combination of any of the cyclic numbers in their slots (142857, 285714, 428571, 571428, 714285, 857142), which would be presented to them in the circle. Once a player thinks they have the winning combination, they can flip their cards over to show everyone. If they do, they win. If they don’t, the player can flip their cards back, but they would be at a massive disadvantage.

I’ve always felt I have a certain vicinity with numbers. Finding patterns in things, especially number related, has always been very intriguing to me, perhaps one of the reasons I like puzzles so much. There are a lot of numbers that demonstrate very cool patterns, and we see them all the time, but we do not really use or care about the patterns. One of these patterns is cyclic numbers, particularly 1/7. It is the only cyclic number in decimal, and we use it decently frequently because 7 is not an uncommon number. 1/7 = 0.142857 repeat, and these exact digits are repeating in all its whole number multiples, except the starting digit of the sequence is different. I’ve been talking to some old friends and new friends recently about their recent experiences, and I keep observing a same sort of pattern in their experiences as well. We came to a conclusion of sort that some things will keep changing, but as long as a core part of things stay the same, some elements will also stay the same. During quarantine and the spread of COVID, most of us have to stay in at different times, and we are all dealing with different issues that contact with each other just slowly fades away. Some of my old friends that are in college choose to study abroad or go on a mission with their church, and their communications would be even more limited. Some of my friends who are not yet in college but will be very soon fears that they might lose their old friends. But all in all, if we all try to remain in contact with each other, and our feelings are neutral, we can always be friends and support each other in our own ways. I think some of the game pieces that we learned about earlier in the semester could definitely convert similar feelings into a mechanics that can express such a feeling of everything changing but nothing changing as well. The scores we learned about, especially some of the Yuki Ono pieces that use extremely simple mechanics, and white chess, a game where it is extremely difficult to play because of the change of mechanics came to mind. I also wanted to feature things people have access to fairly easily in their lives in the mechanics, because this feeling is not something rare, but rather something that just comes up once in a while when I am alone or talking to someone I am close to. Therefore I chose to use cards, and their suits to represent the players. I really enjoy the suits of the cards because they are easily accessible, and trying to create a combination of the number with different suits and different colors can make the player feel the change more than just all cards in the same color. I wanted randomness in the game as well because I think a certain degree of randomness is very fun, and life is filled with surprises. In the end I think the game ended up at a good place, and the playtests went pretty well, and players even came up with different play styles.

Xuanshuo Zhang Intervene Project: Escape the Room

Instructions: Label pieces of a “key”, Hide them in a room, Ask the players to find the key, Ask the players to piece the key together

I came up with this idea when I was playing some escape room games on my phone. I am a huge escape room fan, and I’ve experienced a variety of them. I think the fun of participating in an escape room comes in form of solving creative puzzles, interacting with interesting mechanisms, and sometimes enjoy partially immersing in a story. However, recently, there is a trend of escape room games that focus a lot more on quantity than quality. By that I mean rooms are designed to be small and puzzles are designed to be extremely easy to solve, and basically the only part that requires the players to think is to find specific objects to place, and the placements and use of the objects are extremely obvious. Those games are designed to insert ads between each room to gain profit. I think those games completely defeat the parts that are fun of escape rooms. I came up with this idea to create a game that is an exaggeration of such type of design. It intervenes how regular escape rooms are being played because it takes a lot more people to play this version of the game, and the focus of the game shifts from solving puzzle to just finding the pieces of the puzzle. I decided to include more players because I liked the ideas in the institute to give the players a different experience to this “escape room”, and more people contributing to the chaos of the gameplay partially benefits me because the inherent chaos makes the game more difficult and fun. In the end, both runs of the game went really well, each with its own surprises. The first time having an NPC and having the pieces at unexpecting places really amplified the surprise element, and the second time with expectations of where I could hide things the players still had trouble finding all the pieces in a short time, albeit the first few pieces were discovered much faster. Overall I think the intervention was pretty successful, the game was played how I intended for it to be played and the players had fun.

Xuanshuo Zhang: Rubric Tic Tac Toe (Appropriation project)

Xuanshuo Zhang

Appropriation game


Note: for convenience’s sake, the coordinates of a face are represented by numbers as below

1             2             3

4             5             6

7             8             9


Rules: Two players are needed for the game. The players play rock, paper, scissors to decide who goes first. The game runs similar to tic tac toe. The first player can choose to put their piece any place on the cube. Then, the cube rotates depends on where the player places the piece. If it is a corner of a face (1,3,7,9), the corresponding column of the cube gets rotated up if it is on top and down if it is at bottom (up 1,4,7 for 1), and then the row where the piece lands on gets rotated left if it is on the left side and right if it is on the right side (left 1,2,3 for 1). If it is placed on one of the blocks connecting to the center piece, that row or column gets rotated depends on to what position that block is to the middle piece (left for 4, top for 2, etc.). A face is won if before or after the rotation there are 3 connecting pieces on any face. The color of the face is decided by the center piece. For example, if player 1 gets 3 in a row with pieces on position 3, 6, and 9, and the center piece of the face is yellow, player 1 won the yellow face. Rotating a 3 in a row with the center piece would not win another face because the center piece is the same. If a 3 in a row that does not include the center piece is rotated, it would not score the player another face until the 3 in a row is disconnected at least once. After the rotation and checking for scoring, the other player takes their turn. They can only play a piece on the face that the first player’s piece lands on after the rotation(s). If it lands on a face that is won by any player, instead of having to play on that face, the player can choose to play on any face instead. The first player to win 3 faces wins the game. If there is a tie, the player who scored the first face wins. If both players scored the first and second face respectively during the same turn (after rotation(s)), the player that made the last movement wins.

Artist statement: I decided to do my appropriation game as a game combining tic tac toe and a rubrics cube. I really like ultimate tic tac toe (3 x 3 tic tac toe games in a 9 x 9 board, each move in a certain tic tac toe game determines where the next move will go) as a game, and I think it features some key aspects like strategy that is massively different from the original game. I came up with the idea because I wanted to make a strategy game featuring the base mechanics of tic tac toe. I really liked the idea of white chess, which is to make a game that is already complicated into something that is playable, but extremely difficult to play. For my appropriation project I wanted to make tic tac toe, a game that is known for being extremely simple, predictable, and unwinnable if both players use the optimal strategy, into something that is complicated, playable but extremely complicated. I decided to use a rubrics cube, because putting the 2D game into a 3D space would make it more complicated, and the rotational mechanics would make the game much more complicated and would potentially cause more confusion because pieces move, and one player’s move can potentially set themselves back and score their opponent a face. However, the game becomes really difficult to run, and there are quite a few issues to make the game balanced (in terms of people trying to score 3 in a row with the same 3 blocks). I decided to use stickers so that the pieces can be tracked easier as well, and they are easily removable and not expensive so the game can be run repetitively without destroying the cube. After a few play tests, I added some specific rules so that the game would not cause nearly as much confusion and much more playable. I think I reached my goal in a way that my game is runnable and playable, but is extremely complicated both to play and to win.


Xuanshuo (Stone) Zhang – Weather Piece


Check the weather forecast on your phone

Check the percentage for rain

If the percentage is under 7, pick a 20-sided die

If the percentage is under 13, pick a 10-sided die

If the percentage is under 20, pick a 6-sided die

If the percentage is under 30, pick a 4-sided die

If the percentage is over 30, flip a coin

If the percentage is over 75, stay home

Roll the dice

If the roll is higher than one or the coin lands on heads, proceed with your day

If not, stay home



Artist Statement:

As a wannabe game designer, I always look for ways to make my life fun. I think that randomness can usually be a pretty fun aspect. As someone who has difficulties making choices, I would sometimes use methods such as flipping a coin or rolling a dice decide whether or not I would do an action, not unlike in a table-top role-playing game. One of the things that we do most regularly is check the weather report to see if we would want to participate in any outdoor activities. Part of the scores that I’ve read including Yuki Ono’s works and works in the archives of the blog pages that interests me is that some of them are really simple instructions and based on things we do mundanely. I wanted to create my score based on something we do regularly and incorporate randomness to make it fun. So I decided to incorporate both of those elements, something I do regularly and random element that is common from games. I ended up deciding on weather, because it is one of the things that my life depends on, and it is easily associated with probability. For the randomness part I chose dices and coin flip because they are pretty easily accessible. One of the goals of my score is that it should be something that is easy to do, so someone might want to just do it for a bit of fun one day. Personally, among the scores I read either in class or as homework, the ones that are doable and easy to do strikes with me the most, because being able to participate in them helps me understand them a bit more. Some of the examples are Clock piece, and Wood Piece, which involves actions that I would sometimes do (except not with wood). When combining what I want to put into my score and the concept of these scores as explicit instructions, I decided to specify what to use to decide the probability for each precipitation range closest to representing the probability of the dices. My score does not have any deeper meaning, but I hope it is something that people would find at least a bit fun.