The Institute invented five new board and tabletop games for CAFE, an installation at the Phillips Collection Museum in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2009. The one catch: no rules were provided, people had to make up their own game structures. The games on offer: a Bernie Madoff board game (like Monopoly but with no money), a tabletop hurling game, Computer Dominoes, a Soviet era boardgame called Capitan Loshad, 36 point: a wagering dice game, and Conundrum, which was just a solid wood box with the label Conundrum stuck on it.
Hatchjaw and Bassett is a performance writing game that takes the form of a criminal trial. Players assume the roles of lawyers and must rack up points, not by necessarily winning the trial, but by being creative and persuasive with words and text. The first game was an exhibition in the project room of Conduit Gallery in Dallas, TX, where the hon. Russotti presided over three different hotly contested trials.
The three parts of the game are: Pre Trail, Trial, and Final Summation. In Pre Trial, players select an Accused card: the “particular individual” to go on trial. They then must attempt to guess the three crimes charged to the Accused with bonus points going to inventing the best name of this defendant. The trial round is a card game using found photographs as Witness cards; the game is an intricate yet inabsolute series of trumps that must be argued correctly in order to be victorious.
The final round, Summation, is actually the main point of the game, a creative writing exercise where players must write a passionate plea for their case. At the art opening players wrote for over half an hour, exceeding my own expectations of how engaged they could become in the game. This could be a sad testament to the fact that competition is truly the driver of most human action, or that art openings are generally boring affairs. Most likely it is a testament to both.
Photowalking is a new competitive photography game inspired by the great American postwar street photographers. If Garry Winogrand is the ultimate extreme of the genre, randomly taking thousands and thousands of pictures while ambling the streets, then a game is the next step. Objective: Players attempt to take the best pictures while continually walking around. Equipment: Digital cameras and memory cards Beforehand players agree on time of walk, area of walk, and memory card size. Rules: Players continuously walk around an area taking pictures. They may never stop walking, even when taking a picture. Players may delete photographs while walking if they desire. At the end of the agreed upon time players must be back at the start of the game. Players may play for best photograph or best overall memory card. We played the first game at a workshop at the Cologne Media School in 2010, to mild success. The game could be tweaked a bit more to be more fun, maybe with some more specific shooting requirements specifying interactions with people. The joy of many street photographs is the communication between the photographer and its subject matter; a game might allow people the structure to more fully pursue these encounters.
The Institute was commissioned to make a competitive performance for the Disarmory Show, an alternative to the Armory Show, held at OpenHouse Gallery, in March, 2008. The theme of the show was Armed and Dangerous; a duel seemed like a natural contest to organize. As t he start to the Institute’s investigation of games as creative constraints, drawing was selected as the medium. To make the event more challenging, however, contestants were given a quill peacock feather and ink. At the beginning of a duel, each player selected a card which gave them their fighting personality, for example, The Coach, Kurtz, the General, the Cardinal, etc etc, and donned their respective uniforms. A card was selected as their subject matter, in this case, they needed to draw a weapon. After two minutes, an unwitting bystander was corralled into the unenviable duty of judge, and a winner was chosen. More importantly, the works were hung in the gallery, and by the end of the night, filled two walls with some very interesting visual interpretations of deadly weaponry.