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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.

Artwork #4: Experience – Understudied

The inspiration for this experience piece came from playing the game Overcooked by Ghost Town Games Ltd., which roughly simulates the stresses of being an overworked cook in a complex kitchen environment. The stress one experiences from playing this game can be very closely related to that which we all experience over the course of our college experience, which is exactly what I was going for in my parody game Understudied. Just as Takako Saito would take the game of chess and modify it to convey a completely different message, I wanted to modify overcooked so that it would accurately simulate the stress of trying to complete many tasks at once in a small amount of time.

Understudied can be played by 4-5 players with one player being the moderator, and the rest either working together or against one another to complete tasks. The goal of the game is to complete ten assignments back to back with the least amount of grade deductions possible.

Rules as the Moderator:

  • Begin by allowing the players 30 seconds to prepare and complete tasks before the first assignment is released.
  • Release the first assignment by rolling 2 dice (for vs) or 4 dice (for co-op) and announcing whichever corresponding tasks are rolled from the assignment creation box (marked in blue).
  • Upon releasing the first assignment start a timer for a minute (each assignment is due after a minute), releasing the next assignment 15 seconds before the current assignment is due.
  • When assignment timers run out, check that the players have either recorded their completed assignments (for vs) or are all present on the school tile space (for co-op). If they have not completed all tasks or all players are not on the school tile, a half a letter grade must be deducted from their current grade.
  • If a player crosses the red boundary at any time during the game, their piece should be moved to the “timeout box”. You must roll a d6 and assign this player a timeout time corresponding to a border event (marked in red).

Rules as a Player:

  • Start at any tile on the board. *You should optimally position yourself in front of an assignment so that you can get started on it immediately when time starts*
  • To begin tasks all you must do is use the arrow keys to move your piece to a tile adjacent to whichever task you would like to complete. Once adjacent to a task, begin a timer associated with that task. While this timer is running, you may move around freely and/or start another task if you would like.
  • When a task timer ends, you must return to a tile adjacent to that task to complete it.
  • *For Co-Op Only* When assignment is due, you and all of your teammates must be on the school tile in order for any of your tasks to be counted.
  • You must not cross the red boundary lines at any time unless you are willing to accept a small time penalty.

Game Board for CO-OP and VS:

Short Video of CO-OP Gameplay:

Gameplay Video

Link to Parodied Game:


Artwork #4: Day In The Life-Anxiety Edition

The initial idea for this game began with the game Depression Quest on Twine. I remember playing it and thinking it was insanely sad but somehow insightful into the life of people who struggle with chronic depression. I was trying to make choices I would make in real life, in the game. But the game had other plans and followed its own separate path. I also tried to think of things I most struggle with in my day-to-day life. I then decided I wanted to make a game on Anxiety on Twine. This game is thus an appropriation!

There was also part of the Reading Works of Game that really resonated with me: “Central to this type of work is ambiguity— of function or purpose, of operation, and of the role the objects play in our lives. 15 While these ideas may be familiar to artists, they are uncomfortable for most designers. With games, however, ambiguity is already a large part of the design process. The design of the system of a game-defining its actions and goals, creating the tone of the overall experience, and so on— shapes the space of possibility within which players complete the game through their play. Design-wise, the designed space of possibility leaves itself open to exploration and interpretation, which by its nature results in uncertain outcomes. The play experience cannot be known until the game is played. And even then, players are left to make sense of and determine their own intentions and the meaning of their experiences.” It felt absolutely crucial to make a game that was uncertain in outcomes, which is why I made a story based choice game on Twine!

The first iteration of the game was just different choices and not much description in the story! The feedback I got this round was that while the message of the game came across, it would be funny to use humour to add a light aspect to the game. Initially, I was apprehensive. The point of the game was to be hard and dark but on thinking and playing through it more, I wanted a side funny story!

The final prototype had three different story endings!

I’ve also attached the link to the game on Canvas since the link is HTML style and can’t add it onto here!


Sharp, John. Works of Game : On the Aesthetics of Games and Art, MIT Press, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Mental Health Art Game – Final Project (Joey)

Mental Health Final Project Game:

Description: The Mental Health Game is a 2-4 player semi-cooperative game where players have to survive a total of ten weeks, representing a real-life shortened college semester, by completing tasks each week. These tasks will represent what any normal student would go through where if the tasks aren’t completed, there will be some sort of punishment, whether it be your grade being lowered or your mental health being lowered. The main goal of the game is to complete all the tasks every single week and survive ten weeks without reaching a failing grade, or 60%.

Rules and Setup: 

    • 2-4 players
    • Sheets of Paper for keeping Mental Health, Score, and Energy every round.
    • 2 6-sided dice for energy 
    • Every week, players randomly receive 3 tasks that they must complete or they will receive some sort of punishment
    • Players start at 100% for grades. If the students grades reach 60%, they are out of the game
    • Mental Health starts at 5 where the highest it can reach is 10 but can go lower than 0
    • Players can bring over a maximum of 2 energy per week
    • Players can trade 1 Mental Health for 1 energy unless your Mental Health value is less than 0.
    • Players gain 1 Mental Health each week


    • Each Player rolls a 2 6-sided dice to decide their major at the start of the game. Players with the greatest roll value can pick their major first. These will give small bonuses or negatives towards the players depending on the tasks.
      • Business 
        • Projects and Homework tasks take 50% less energy
      • Pre-Med
        • Tests and Quizzes tasks take 50 % more energy and failure means taking 1% more.
      • Computer Science
        • Projects and Homework tasks take 50% more energy
      • Psychology
        • Mental Health benefits give 50% more. Mental Health negatives are 50% less.

Code for Game (Randomizing Tasks Every Week):

Tasks: List of Tasks: Anything with Group in front can be split between two or more players. Anything with Finals in front is for the last week of the game.

Name: Energy  Failure
Homework 1 -2%
Project 3 -4%
Group Homework -3%
Group Project 5 -5%
Daily Chores 2 -1 Mental Health
Classes 2 -1%
Labs  1 -1%
Quiz 2 -3%
Tests 3, -1 Mental Health -5%
Study 1, (If you study on the same week with the test, you don’t lose mental health) Nothing
Cumulative Studying 1 (Each time you perform this task, the final week tasks would cost .5 less energy. Nothing 
Finals: Test 4, -2 Mental Health -10%
Finals: Project 6 -10%


Mental Health Tasks: List of Mental Health Tasks that the Players can decide on doing whenever they want during the game.

Activity Energy Mental Health Gain
Hanging out with Friends  1.5 1
Hobbies 1.5 1
Sleep 2 1.5
Exercise 2 1.5
Read 1 .5
Meditate  .5


Winners: The students that survived ten weeks of the college semester graduate. However, they soon realize that they will either have more semesters or graduate and go into the real world, facing the exact same issues of balancing their energy, mental health, and grades or work life wherever they go. They still see the sacrifice in mental health for better grades or better job opportunities or workload where they must constantly sacrifice mentally to essentially “survive” in a stereotypically world.

Artist Statement: 

One of the most important aspects of an art game is that the game’s mechanics speak in some way to the player, creating some sort of underlying message that can somewhat criticize or shine light on a certain topic. While brainstorming ideas, I realized that I wanted to create a game that has some sort of impact on my daily life, specifically about a community that I am heavily involved in, while also including commentary on that community about its stereotypical norms. Thus, I created the Mental Health Game which wishes to speak about stereotypical college norms and how that affects any student’s daily life which then ultimately speaks about the mental health of students in college. This idea was inspired by reading about the ending of the art game Braid and the meaning behind Braid where I also wanted to create an impactful game that can be applicable to many people. Braid speaks about the obsession of people when working towards a goal where they can become so obsessed to the point of not understanding the circumstances of some of their actions. This is further reinforced with its main mechanic of time travel where the main character sees the mistakes that he made and only focuses on correctly performing the necessary actions to continue yet he still doesn’t realize the fault in even trying to continue. Many more games that we discussed in class and from the book Works of Games, such as The Marriage or the Passage, contribute to creating some sort of art game that can attribute or comment on a certain aspect of daily life or a controversial topic. The Marriage talks about the relationship and connection between couples while Passage also sneakily talks about the same message but in another way. Learning about all these different art games inspired me to create the Mental Health Game where I want to solely focus on the mechanic of trading a mental health value for an energy value. I wanted my game to somehow speak to the way many college students feel where they have to sacrifice their personal well being, whether it be mental or some other factor, to maintain their grades up to the standard they want them to be. To further create a realistic game, creating effects for picking majors creates the stereotypical feel of what many people believe what some majors actually feel in terms of mental health. Overall, I believe my message that sacrificing mental health becomes a key factor for any college student where sometimes maintaining their energy, mental health, grade, or any other factor becomes challenging. Furthermore, as college students graduate, they realize that they are stuck in a cycle of sacrificing mental health with other aspects of their lives.

Players deciding on how they should spend their energy depending on their major, amount of energy given, and the given tasks for that week. The laptop shows the tasks and the players write down the three values of Mental Health, Grade, and Energy.

Jackson Faletra Intervention: Post-Game Interview

Initial Ideas

For my project, I had decided that I wanted to something within a game whose community I considered myself a part of. Unfortunately, I don’t play a ton of online multiplayer games, which limited my options to pretty much just Hearthstone. The other problem with this decision was that Hearthstone does not have a built in chat feature to communicate with your random opponents, you can only chat in-game with people on your friends list. There is a feature that allows you to send a friend request to your most recent opponent, but most people who use that do it to trash talk or harass their opponent after a frustrating game. Thinking about that possible roadblock gave me the idea of creating a scenario with that expected/implied interaction, and flipping it on its head to see what would happen. From there, the Post-Game Interview was born.

The Process

The idea was to add my opponent after a game and, if they accepted, I’d ask a small series of questions about our game: “how long have you been playing today?”, “how much did you enjoy our game?”, and “did you feel we ere evenly matched?”. I wanted to be able to discuss our game in a calm, civilized manner, completely counter to what usually happens in this situation. I felt that this premise was simple enough to be able to do many times, but still be able to create a meaningful interaction. It’s a good thing it was so easy to repeat, because, unsurprisingly, not many of my opponents were willing to participate. Of the 20 or so games I played during this stretch, only 5 of my opponents actually accepted my friend request so that I could actually conduct an interview. The low participation was an interesting, albeit expected, point of data, but I was luckily still able to find out some pretty interesting things from the other data I collected.


Firstly, I was only added back by opponents who had beaten me. This was a bit surprising, as I would’ve guessed that most players would expect a losing opponent to send a friend request with hostile intentions, but these 5 seemed to either not expect that to be my intention, or just not care. Another interesting thing I noticed about these opponents had to do with the in-game emotes. I, and many others who play Hearthstone, usually like to give a friendly Greetings to our opponent at the start of a game, but not all players do this. However, all 5 of my interviewees had returned my Greetings which I found interesting. Finally, from the interview questions themselves, most of these players had only been playing 1 or 2 games so far in this session, and they all ranked pretty highly in their enjoyment of our game and felt we were at least somewhat evenly matched. Overall, I would call this Intervention a success. It was fairly difficult to get participants due to the nature of my idea, but I feel that the people who did participate were given a nice experience in a usually hostile situation, which was really my whole goal. On top of all that, I was also able to collect some interesting data about a game I really enjoy, which was a nice added bonus.


One of my interviews

Artwork #2 Appropriate Reverse Poker

For this assignment we were tasked with creating a playable game that involved the use of appropriation. For my game I essentially took Texas hold ‘em style poker and made a single change to the gameplay: the way the cards are held is reversed. The change makes it so that instead of players taking the cards and holding them in a way that stops the other players from seeing them, the cards are held so everyone but the player they belong to knows what they are. I dubbed this version “Reverse Poker”, or simply “Rekop”

The simple act of reversing the way hands are held completely changes the way the game is played. In a conventional game of poker players make decisions based on their confidence in their own hand, and can only theorize as to what other players might have. With the hands reversed, the game is now about weighing the strengths of other people’s hands while trying to figure out how good your own is. In my test games the first few hands felt like shooting in the dark, as without knowing our hands it felt like we lacked vital information needed to make decisions, but as we got more comfortable, viable strategies began to reveal themselves. At one point I was convinced to fold by another player’s confidence in their own hand only to find out my hand was actually much better, and another time I began to play uncharacteristically aggressive because I had figured my hand was statistically the winning since I could see everyone else had complete junk. Effectively the core of the game had changed from convincing others of the strength of your hand to convincing them that their own hand was weak, whether or not it is true. In one memorable instance, one player had three kings —an incredibly strong hand— causing every other player to fold immediately, much to the winner’s bemusement. This led me to discover that unlike in regular poker, where you want your hand to be as strong as possible, in reverse poker the ideal hand is good enough that it beats everyone else’s, but not too good as to discourage other players’ confidence in their hands or to risk using mind games, as the longer the game goes, the bigger the winnings that are up for grabs. I had decided to use the Texas Hold’em variation of poker after comparing it with other variations of the game for two reasons: The first being that I felt that having only two cards in one’s hand would make determining its contents easier for the players, and the second being that Texas Hold’em is very simple and by far the most popular variation of poker which would make it easier for players to pick up my take on it.

The chief inspiration behind my idea was Yoko Ono’s white chess set. This artwork is a game of chess in which every piece and square on the board is painted white. I really enjoy the concept of changing a familiar game so that it adds an extra dimension to it or changes the experience completely. Ono’s change doesn’t render the game unplayable, rather it changes the experience so that players not only have to outmaneuver their opponents, but also remember whose piece is whose. When I was first introduced to this artwork I began to think about how I would have altered the game of chess, and started applying that thinking to other games, eventually coming up with reversed poker. Another inspiration behind my idea are the many different “formats” for playing magic: the gathering, a trading card game. Aside from the standard way to play as prescribed by the official rules, there exist a number of variations that toy with the game’s mechanics, like deck size, life totals, card colors, and creature types. My favorite variation is called commander, which is a format meant for large groups of players that makes massive changes to the standard game. Commander was originally created by fans, and I’ve always enjoyed the fact that actual players have put their own spins on games that they love, which inspired me to put my own spin on things.  

The Poker Chips we used in our games were generously provided by my classmate Jackson, who also created a poker based game.



Artwork #2: ABCDEFGHIKeyboard

A keyboard that is remapped so that the keys are laid out as abcdefg like in the picture below (both keycaps and the actual inputs).
Some typing test website ( for example).

Perform a 60-second typing test with the keyboard.
You may restart as many times as you would like.
Try and get the fastest speed you can with this new layout.

Artist’s Statement:
The game is meant to critique how as a society we sometimes implement things without considering why they were done that way just because “it’s always been that way.” We currently don’t know who or why the qwerty layout was invented. A common theory is that it was to slow down typists so that a typewriter wouldn’t get jammed, but there is no supporting evidence for that theory. There are other layouts that have been invented since, such as Colemak or Dvorak, that are more efficient ways of typing on a keyboard. Unfortunately, we don’t pick up these layouts simply because its not worth relearning how to type, and most of us already are accustomed to the qwerty layout.

This game is meant to poke fun at that by asking you to type in a comical layout: the order of the alphabet. It was heavily inspired by Yoko Ono’s White Chess, which is where the idea of taking a game and making it more challenging by messing with the components to drive the message across came from. I think the game ended up being actually very fun to play. It provided a lot of friction but felt very possible and that the next time you attempted the challenge you would do better than the last. The game itself felt fair, even though it was very difficult to get a good time, which ended up making it quite popular among other students. I was also inspired by a video I watched called “How I went from 10 to 130 WPM in 3 months” from YouTuber pinguefy in which he talks about swapping to a different keyboard layout. The initial struggle he showed of learning it and having to retrain the muscle movement in his hands played inspired the keyboard aspect of this piece


Intervention Project: Pacifist Valorant

For my intervention, I decided to try and go into a game of Valorant deathmatch and make friends with people by peacefully running around and not hurting anyone.

This intervention project was initially inspired by a YouTuber named Ymfah who is well known for his challenge runs of games such as Skyrim and the Dark Souls series. One of his most popular ones is to complete these games “pacifist,” in other words to complete these games that the developers designer around the idea of you killing enemies, He would intentionally find ways to bug out the game so that he would be able to beat it without having killed anyone himself. One of the jokes that he makes about this concept while he plays is that pacifism is having other people do the killing for you. I’ve attempted pacifist runs of these games in the past, and it’s a very fun additional challenge. I like the idea of trying to play the game with an added rule included to make it incredibly difficult. Combining this idea of “pacifism” and also inspired by previous posts such as Pacifist Apex, I wanted to try making friends with people I encountered in the game. I was also a little inspired by the Jejune Institute by trying towards the end to get people to basically “sign up” to being pacifist by joining me in the act. It felt similar to the way the Institute would rope in random people who were just getting on with their day into something else, even though this was on a  much smaller scale than that of the institute.

The original concept for my intervention was to go into the standard 5v5 mode for the game with a bunch of friends and try to get the enemy to act peacefully towards us. However, this idea was quickly scrapped, because the enemy usually didn’t care for making friends and would just steamroll us to a very quick victory. So instead, I tried to do it in a game mode that people cared less about winning: deathmatch. In Valorant, deathmatch is a 14 player free-for-all where the first to 40 kills wins in an 8-minute timespan. If 8 minutes pass and no one has reached 40 kills yet, then the player with the most kills is decided as the winner. People take this mode a lot less seriously than the normal 5v5 game mode, and most people use deathmatch as a way to warm up for the real game. My plan was simple, I would run around with my knife out (a kind of accepted way to show that you’re not hostile) and spam crouch/jump as a way to try and communicate with the enemies that I’m friendly. I didn’t want to use the all-chat, as it felt like it would be too easy and would defeat the purpose of the intervention.

The results were much more interesting. Every game, there were a couple of people that would join me and act peacefully.  In one game, there was a moment when two other people decided to be peaceful and friendly, and we jumped around in a huddle for a few seconds. There were also some people who would pretend to be peaceful by pulling out their knife, only for them to attack me with it and get a free kill. There were also a couple of people who became invested in the idea of “protecting me,” which was also very interesting. Overall, this turned out to be a fun and surprising intervention, and I enjoyed playing it.

Gameplay footage of some games:

Aaron Cai’s Intervention Project – Squid Game in CS:GO

For my intervention project, I decided to intervene in the game of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). The game the way it’s normally played is as follows: players face off against each other in two teams of five, fighting with guns and grenades over objectives. I wanted to turn that convention around by constructing games within the game that mirror the games in the popular Netflix show, Squid Game. Squid Game is a Korean drama about people in enormous debt being recruited to play children’s games for eccentric billionaires’ spectacle with the prize being the equivalent of millions of US dollars and the penalty of losing being death. It is an interesting critique on the failures of capitalism. There are three games I appropriated from Squid Game: Red Light Green Light, Marbles, and Squid Game.

Red light Green Light was played in the show with a giant automaton turning its head towards and away from the players while singing a song that translates to red light green light. When it says green light and the head is turned away, the players are free to move. When it says red light and the head is facing the players, players are not allowed to move. The ones who are caught moving are shot. The players have to reach a line near the automaton, which is some distance away from the starting location, within a time limit. Those who do not make it within that time limit are also shot. For my project, I took on the role of the automaton and would turn away from and turn towards the player while saying red light green light correspondingly. The players started with their backs against a wall and their goal was to reach the wall where I was standing. During the testing, I messed up a bunch of times, saying the wrong thing, like green light when I was facing the players or red light when I was facing away. Thankfully, the testing gave me enough practice that I was able to execute my part without a mistake during the actual thing.

Marbles was played in the show by pairing up the players and giving them ten marbles each. They were told to play whatever game they wanted, but one person had to end up with twenty marbles at the end of a certain time limit. The one without any marbles was shot. One pair in the show did this by betting all ten marbles on one game, they threw a marble at a wall, and whoever got it closest to the wall was the winner. For my project I had the players throw decoy grenades at a wall, and whoever got it closest was the winner. The decoy grenade was a good choice because it stayed around on the ground for a while, unlike the other grenades, so we could see where each one landed clearly. I did not have enough players to have them pair up (there were only three left at this stage) so I had them all do it together as a group. The player with the worst throw was shot.

Squid Game was played in the show on a pattern on the ground shaped vaguely like a squid. One player was the defender and one was the attacker. The attacker had to try to get to the head of the squid, and they would win if they were to do so. The defender has to prevent that from happening and try to get the attacker to step outside the squid. If the attacker stepped outside the squid, they would lose and the defender would win. The two contestants were also given knives and it basically devolved into a knife fight to the death. For my project, I had originally wanted to draw the squid on the ground with bullet holes, but the pattern proved too elaborate for the game system, which would erase bullet holes after a certain number of other bullet holes has been created. I would draw it partially and the first couple of bullet holes would start disappearing. So I figured just a knife fight to the death with no boundary restrictions was close enough to the show.

We played my version of Squid Game in Counter-Strike with four players. One player was eliminated from each game, resulting in a winner being determined by the end. Unfortunately, I had an issue with my recording software and my voice was not captured in the videos.

Video clips from the testing:

Video clips from the final iteration:

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.