Written by a volunteer collective of designers, publishers, manufacturers, and climate researchers, the Green Games Guide is a freely available guide for making card and board games more sustainably. It details best practices for material selection, approaches to design and packaging, and discusses how we might shift the culture of games to a more responsible place.
As an activist gesture, the Green Games Guide seeks to intervene into the production processes and culture of the entire tabletop industry. This project has been a real learning experience for me and it has been a pleasure to collaborate with such a brilliant team (Ben Abraham, T. Caires, Carlos Flores, JF Gagne, Jessica Metheringham, and Eric Price).
Director Stephen Ives of Insignia Films contacted me to be interviewed for the film Ruthless: Monopoly’s Secret History, which appeared on PBS’ The American Experience. The film looks at how the game fits into larger cultural politics of Capitalism and the tangled history of how a politically radically board game became the epitome of global capitalism. I appear along with a wonderful cast of game designers and scholars.
The Rules We Break is a book of recipes for teaching design. Filled with hands-on exercises and micro-essays, the book uses games and play as the method for understanding fundamental design concepts. The Rules We Break will help you brainstorm ideas, understand how systems work, creatively solve problems, design interactive narratives, and engage with the collaborative process of prototyping and iteration. It is a book for all kinds of designers, artists, and others who create culture and manage organizations. Published by Princeton Architectural Press with the collaboration of editor Jennifer Thompson
A conversation with Doug Rushkoff on his podcast Team Human. Taking a cue from The Rules We Break, we discuss how game design can offer a model of critical systems thinking as a survival strategy for the 21st century.
A conversation with Emma Larkins and Gil Hova on the game design podcast Ludology. We explore how the systemic quality of games might help us understand systemic problems in other contexts. This is also the episode that launched the Green Games Guide: we discuss games and sustainability in detail and after the interview I was contacted by several folks who became the initial members of that initiative.
Play the classics. In Dear Reader, the text from public domain literature becxomes the raw material for procedural word puzzles. Team: Peter Berry, Eddie Cameron, Anna Garbier, Diego Garcia, Mehak Khan, Alexander King, Colleen Macklin, Toni Pizza, Karina Popp, John Sharp, Michael Sweet, and me.
Published by Apple as a launch title in Apple Arcade, Dear Reader has received finalist and nominee recognition from the IndieCade festival of Independent Games, Games for Change, Indie MegaBooth, and the Wordplay Festival. We are particularly proud of being the only videogame to receive a review in the NY Times Review of Books. Available for Apple and iOS platforms.
The Manifesto for a Ludic Century is a brief essay about how games are a lens for understanding media, art, and culture in the 21st century. It outlines the importance of SYSTEMS, PLAY, and DESIGN to the present moment and how games are particularly good at engendering the literacies that the Ludic Century requires.
This playfully bombastic piece was written for The Gameful World, edited by Steffen Walz and Sebastian Detering. Prior to the book’s publication, I worked with Heather Chaplin and Kotaku.com to publish the essay online.
Waiting Rooms is a building-sized installation that is series of interconnected rooms. Inspired by Nathalie Pozzi’s experience of immigration bureaucracy, each room has rules that visitors are instructed to follow - rules that are often unfair and ambiguous. Waiting Rooms is a frustrating series of social spaces that encourages players to cheat the system as they work with and against each other.
Thanks to Tim McHenry at the Rubin Museum for commissioning the initial verison of the project and to Lisa Monrose and James Wetzel at the Boston Museum of Science for the second run. Thanks to production coordinator Ember Suthers and all of the many playtesters, Visitors, Guards, and Attendants.
I was thrilled to be a featured guest on one of my all-time favorite podcasts, 99 Percent Invisible. The episode focuses on the strange history and quirky design behind Monopoly. The show has a special focus on The Landlord’s Game, Lizzy Magee’s politically radical game design which was later stolen and in a bitterly ironic twist of fate, became Monopoly - the icon for greedy American capitalism.
An epic struggle over the known universe. Each die is a starship, and with a quantum-inspired roll, can make a radical change into a different form. Quantum comes with several pre-made star maps and encourages players to design their own. The aesthetics harken back to mid-20th Century science fiction and the story is a reverse fable of destructive colonialism, where everyone gets to play the villain.
Quantum received critical acclaim, including the Game Design Award from IndieCade. Thanks to Philippe Nouhra and FunForge for the striking graphic and production design. Thanks to John Sharp for crucial design collaboration on the original “version, Armada D6.
Five hanging steel walls, each a millimeter thick, are the vertical playfields for a game installation designed in collaboration with architect Nathalie Pozzi. You play a 2-player game on a small area of one of the walls, but each move you make requires you to interfere in the games of others. Evoking organic systems like angry beehives and messy bodily organs, Interference erases the normal boundaries between who is and is not allowed to play in your game.
Thanks to curators Lynn Hughes, Heather Kelley, and Cindy Poremba, who along with la Gâite Lyrique Director Jérôme Delormas, commissioned Interference for the exhibition Joue le jeu. Made possible with design collaborators Rebecca Jones Sterling and Tim Szetela. Steel walls manufactured with Caino Design. Interference has been exhibited in Paris, Los Angeles, Dublin, and St. Petersberg.
A social card game that helped inspire Cards Against Humanity, in The Metagame you and your friends argue and debate about media, art, technology, and design. The Metagame is not a single game but a kind of game OS. It comes with rules for several ways to play with the deck and encourages players to invent their own ways to play.
The design has undergone many evolutions over the years, from a massively multiplayer conference experiment to a product sold at Target and Barnes & Noble. We have released a number of expansions, including a Game-themed deck with Shut Up & Sit Down and a limited edition Queer Culture Booster Pack. A project of Local No. 12, co-designed with Colleen Macklin and John Sharp.
A fictional archive of 200 board games, Flatlands is a theatrical game about the sometimes perverse meanings of play. Players seek out game boards based on randomized criteria and then defend their selections before the authority of the Director.
Flatlands was originally commissioned by Babycastles and has been exhibited in New York, Atlanta, and Paris. These images are from the 2017 installation at the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris. Flatands has been acquired by the Centre national des arts plastiques, the French institution under the Ministry of Culture and Communication that manages the collection of the Fonds national d’art contemporain (National Foundation for Contemporary Art).
The Rules of Play Reader is a book that Katie Salen and I put together as a follow-up to Rules of Play. It contains 24 essays from designers, scholars, and researchers working in and out of games.
Designers like Richard Garfield and Marc LeBlanc share their process and working ideas of how games work. Game Studies giants like James Gee and Henry Jenkins write about how games connect with people and culture. Classic game scholarship includes chapters from Johannes Huizinga and Roger Callois. Essays outside of games from authors like folklorist Linda Hughes and philosopher Gregory Bateson expand how we can look at games. And there are treats like New Games Journalism by Tom Chick and Ian Shanahan and Mochan’s unforgettable Evil Summoner FAQ.
Katie and I are grateful to all of the contributors whose works are included. Thanks also for support from MIT Press editor Doug Sery. Graphic design by Katie Salen.
Rules of Play is an influential game design textbook from Katie Salen Tekinbas and I that takes a deep look at games on and off the computer. It is a standard textbook in the design and study of games and has been translated into several languages.
The book looks at games as formal systems of rules, as the human experience of play, and as works of culture. Each chapter is a “schema” that acts like a lens for understanding what games are and how they function to create meaning. Includes an introduction from Frank Lantz and commissioned games and essays by designers Reiner Knizia, Kira Snyder, and James Earnst.
I’m greatly indebted to Katie for our years of collaboration on this book and support from MIT Press editor Doug Sery. Katie is also responsible for the book’s smart graphic design.
A multiplayer game inspired by classical game theory, the outsider art of Henry Darger, and the scars of childhood. You play a little girl in a social conflict on a playground, trying to reduce the self-esteem of the other girls and be one of the two survivors. The success of your actions depends on what others do: teasing, for example, only works if two or more players all tease the same target together.
SiSSYFiGHT 2000 was a feminist intervention into game culture, the first browser-based game with real-time chat, and a retro-pixelated indie game before “indie games” became a thing. In 2015, Ranjit Bhatnagar, Naomi Clark and I kickstarted and re-launched the game to work in contemporary browsers.
Design by studio lebleu
Lead designer • Amélie Lebleu
Designer • Zoé Langris
Development by Claude Perdigou
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