Notes from the Point – Team FLIM FLAM

IMG_0183General Observations & Questions

– We had one super-fan; people generally had fun
– The game meandered with larger groups (> 4-5)
– Do wildcards stay wild for the next player if they’re the last card played, or do they stay as the thing that they were said to represent?
– How related must stories be? (referring to Shakti telling three stories from her childhood that were basically only connected by virtue of being about her childhood.)
– How do we make the game end?
– How much time does a player have to prepare a story? (referring to me and this one other kid who sometimes stalled for more than 30 secs.)
-Everyone definitely learned new things about other players. Personally, I felt like I got to know people better – not just through the stories they told, but the general interactions that happened.
-The game still leans more towards fun more than moments where we challenge expectations or provoke thought.
-Some behavior and strategy emerged although perhaps more structure might aid with this. Some that I observed included: including a lot of detail in your stories (whether or not they were true); checking with other players who might know someone better before calling FLIM FLAM; trying to max out the number of cards used in a turn.

Suggestions from Players/Melanie:
– Consider cards that are ending cards, maybe those are in a separate pile and each player gets one, and if you use one of those cards, or three of them total, or something, you win
– Consider allowing people to interrupt?
– Consider another mechanic, like card swapping or something, to add a bit of variety, or something to do when you’re not telling the story

VR & Empathy – A Small Rant

I am incredibly skeptical about claims of creating empathy through VR experiences on multiple levels although on further examination, it seems that I’m more so skeptical about the way it has been heralded and accepted as more of a game changer than it actually is.

My first skepticism with the VR hype is that there seems to be an assumption that our empathy and ability to “walk in another persons shoes” is derived almost solely from a visual experience. As someone who learns and internalizes information (and maybe emotions) through the physicality of things (touch and movement), this seems like a stretch to me. How much more does VR let us walk in another person’s shoes than seeing an intimate play or participating in a LARP? I mean, teen pregnancy rates dropped dramatically after a couple of shows (16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom) around that topic came out on television and that makes no overt attempts to put viewers in the shoes of the pregnant teenagers. Yes, VR (meaning oculus, cardboard, morpheus, etc.) can be paired with other sense creators, but as a piece of technology and how its commonly referred to in popular culture, it is mostly limited to a visual experience. This is especially true given that no one has really fully addressed physical controller interaction in a satisfactory way.

The second is that I’ve found that many of these projects over promise. Yes, perhaps a virtual experience makes me think about an event or perspective in a different way and yes, that is the first step to actionable change. But I’ve seen news articles covering VR and empathy and projects make pretty grandiose claims of the impact that their project(s) will have on actions or larger systemic change (this is also one of my gripes with “games for change”). I think this has been improving, and I’m particularly interested in the Stanford VHIL studies because they’re actually applying some sort of scientific method of evaluation to this field of practice.

I often question VR in the context of the larger user experience. Duration of user interaction is one question I would pose: Can empathy be created in a medium in which the average use time is probably around 3-5 minutes? Although it is improving, the graphic quality still lags behind what I would call a photo-realistic environment (and maybe you could argue that this isn’t even necessary since our brains can make those kinds of cognitive leaps). Furthermore, as of yet, VR is not mainstream accessible, which also kind of limits its potential and brings up all kinds of questions for me about WHO is getting to experience another perspective? Maybe there should be a little more critique around not only how we represent and simplify certain perspectives, but also for whom we are designing.

I think the final critique I would express about using VR to create empathy and change perspectives is there’s the danger of getting too self-congratulatory about how we’ve helped someone step into another person’s shoes. There are limitations to this. For example, even if I dressed up like a homeless person and sat on the street asking for money (which is more VR than the VR we’re generally talking about), that role playing experience would still be limited by the fact that I can easily change my clothes and go back to my comfortable living. In the same way, if I saw through the eyes of someone of a different skin color, that doesn’t mean that I can understand what it’s like to be black or white or hispanic. Again, I think there’s some merit to VR in that it is a good introduction to this idea of empathy, but I worry that it has become trendy to make claims of what it does or can do beyond this incremental knowledge/awareness shift.


The Power of Play Response – Joanna

I think the most interesting conundrum articulated in this piece was how to balance the pressures and expectations of players/consumers with a responsibility by game creators to be more racially and culturally representative and more thoughtful about choices around race and gender.

To me, there were two big ideas about the way that youth relate to race through video games articulated by the piece: 1. that there are not enough minority groups represented in video games and 2. that those games which show big groups of people of color in very over-simplified and misleading terms. I felt like the author focused on the later more in relation to the focus groups for GTA: SA, but I actually found evidence of the way that the former is shaping young minds more disturbing.

Quotes like: “#4: I’d like a white or Italian guy. I’m black but for some reason, I don’t like playing video games as black people. Playing as a white guy makes the game feel more normal…” (157) speak to the way that white-washing has so drastically affected our perception of not who we are, but who we want to be. As an Asian American who grew up in the U.S. I definitely identify with this as most of the media that I consumed growing up featured blond haired, blue eyed white girls/women as the female protagonist. Compared to showing groups of black men as gang members, I feel like this is more insidious. Playing GTA, I understand that it is intended to be over the top in its representation of being a chauvinist, hyper “masculine,” gangster; however, it is not evident that the intent of many video games is to project whiteness as neutral or as connected to being the hero/protagonist of a story. That white characters remain front and center with people of color serving as their side-kicks and human props to me is much more dangerous than outrageous shows of hyperbolic urban culture.

Reconsidering the Margin Response – Joanna

There were quite a few points in this that I found interesting. The overarching one is the importance of CHOICE in marginalization, particularly relating to questions of power and agency.

This reminds me of one misguided project done by some Stanford students when I was an undergraduate. They wanted to point out how we ignore homeless people when we pass them on the street, so they dressed up as homeless people in order to prove this point. There are many many issues with this, many of which are articulated by Jodi Rios and her experience with her students. One, there was no knowledge or connection to actual homeless people and their experiences. The students who did this were very much coming at the issue of ambivalence towards homeless from their own privileged perspectives. They did not consider the very fundamental difference from their experience and someone who is actually homeless, which is that they made that choice. Similar to celebrities who have done the poverty challenge, the key difference in this is that they have CHOSEN to experience the experience of being marginalized with the full knowledge that they can return to their previous privileged position. Furthermore, the environment in which they chose to stage it, the Stanford campus, also invalidating the thing that they were trying to prove – that we “privileged” do not see or treat homeless as people – because there was an unfeasibility to the premise that a bunch of college-aged homeless people moved onto the Stanford campus overnight.

I found interesting this quote: “The appropriation and use of space are political acts” (46). While Rios talked about it primarily from an architectural perspective, I think it also speaks to our spacial relationships, which stem from the physical space that our bodies take up. When we do sit-ins and march, we use our bodies to take up space in a way that is extremely political, but even the way that we positions ourselves in relation to other people in a room (a classroom for example), says a lot about the politics of power and marginalization within a social group and environmental setting.

My thinking around problems of race and class and gender often come back to something that Rios says: “There is a difficult balance to strike between the transformative potential of opening oneself up to different ways of understanding the world and the tendency to essentialize difference in order to define, describe, and ultimately consume it” (46). I find fascinating that the way that we connect and abstract hard to pin down things like experience or a world view has an inherent danger to oversimplify views in a way that is somewhat arbitrary other than many others also use the same mechanisms and categories to oversimplify. How we balance the use and necessity of abstracting complex concepts so that we can internalize them AND the dangers of oversimplification is a very salient and important to reflect on.

Police and Arts Initiative Precedent

Art At Work by artist, Marty Pottenger, is a national initiative to improve municipal government through strategic arts projects with municipal employees, elected officials and local artists.

Her starting point for the initiative was a project, called Thin Blue Lines, working with the Portland (ME) police department to improve relations with the local community through a multi-year, sustained creative exchange.

Thin Blue Lines is a project where police officers/detectives partnered with local artists, photographers, and poets to create pieces of visual and performance art about their experiences on and off the job. The primary form was poetry, which was featured in a calendar and also shown and performed in public spaces. Here’s a good overview of the project:

From a process and impact evaluation standpoint, this is a good overview of the project: In general the project has gained a lot of recognition for its quality of community engagement and attention to social impact evaluation through qualitative and quantitative means.

If you want to know more about the details of the plan for process and evaluation, you can look at:

Prototype for The Point Idea – Joanna

For my prototype for The Point, I would like to create an interactive experience where a player/user creates their senses from nothing.

The user would start with a completely dark, mute world. By searching around this space the user might find eyes or ears or other symbols of the senses that would allow them to build their view of the world. For example, up until I found a pair of eyes, I would only see darkness, but when I found eyes, suddenly a small room/world would appear and depending on what eyes I had found, the room/world would be different. Depending on what ears I stumbled on and chose to pick up, I would hear this things in this world differently also. There would be some task that the user would have to achieve (maybe escape the room?) and that task and their understanding of how to achieve it would change depending on the eyes and ears they’ve “chosen.” Not sure how taste or touch could be incorporated, but that would be interesting also.

I want to use this to explore how the senses and perspective that we are given through genetics and circumstance affect our understanding of and ability to navigate in the world.

Paper Prototype Idea – Joanna

I am broadly interested in the idea of blind spots, the assumptions and biases that we unconsciously carry into our everyday lives and interactions, and more specifically interested in how these intersect with issues of gender and race. I am interested in exploring how we attribute moral virtue to certain people in order to balance one life against another and the way that our moral calculations and blind spots might factor into who gets the benefit of the doubt.

For my paper prototype, I would like to create BANG BANG, a narrative exploration/game about split second decisions made by law enforcement officers and suspects/citizens. So far, I’ve started working on this “paper” prototype – – which might serve as a foundation for further prototyping.

Currently, this first narrative is from the police officer perspective, but I’m interested in examining the scene and consequences of confrontation between police and suspects from multiple perspectives (primary suspect, onlookers, police officer). I would like to base the scenario(s) on real life cases and incorporate actual statistics about shooting and outcomes in cases like these. I am interested in using this platform to collect further data about user choices and the amount of decision-making time to see if they point to anything interesting about our biases regarding race, gender, age, etc.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, Mahzarin R. Banaji
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

PRECEDENTS for “immersive experience” + “change perspective” – Joanna


The Monitor Celestra Larp

The Monitor Celestra was a technology enhanced science-fiction Nordic Live Action Roleplaying Game about cultural and personal conflict in the shadow of the destruction of the twelve colonies of mankind a la Battlestar Galactica.


Question Bridge

Iron Sunset