In invitations to play, even when there are constraints, we can find ways to answer both personal and community challenges. And our solutions can be art; they can open the doors to other solutions, rather than close them. They can create moments of possibility and defy rigidity. And our art can “plural”; a solution can find itself in combining images, sound, words, math — and the spaces between and across.
In 2014, creators came across a game board installed at the intersection of a cobblestone street in Dumbo, during the Dumbo Arts Festival. The board laid out about 500 unique events and 300 unique hand drawn symbols on adhesive vinyl, scattered across the cobblestones in blue red, and silver. Some of the written events were mundane, others were fantastical, some were about family, others were about sensory experiences. Similarly, the symbols ranged far and wide, from a flying cape, to a mushroom cloud, to a roller coaster, to a rocket, and more.
At the beginning, creators picked a penny with a number on it. They knew the number stood for one of about 900 emotions, objects, or symbols, but they didn’t yet know which one. They were invited to put their penny down on an event on the game board. Some people picked events that were connected to real experiences; others related to things they wished for; others purely imaginary. Many picked symbols.
At the other end of the board, they found out which symbol, object, or emotion the number on their penny stood for and were invited to write a simple story or equation making sense of the two together. Creators then added their story to the game board using green vinyl. Over the course of the day, the game board filled up with people’s stories and became increasingly green. A kind local resident invited us to take photos from his apartment of the view from above.
People who chose to play Level 2 of Visions of the Future blind-selected a card from a deck with an unfinished sentence on it, such as: “Your feelings will change when…” or “The next step is…” They were invited to respond to a story or equation written by a creator from Level 1 or an event or symbol from the original board, contributing to a growing web of dialogue designed in creative constraint.
After playing Level 2 a few times, some creators came back and asked me for a Level 3, which I hadn’t formalized into the game rules, assuming that people wouldn’t want to stay that long on a beautiful fall day. In Level 3, creators were invited to visually connect symbols, events, and responses across the board to create the backbone of a complete short story. A handful of people did so, writing out and emailing me complete short stories, composed with time and care.
Visions of the Future was a variation on Micro-Fiction Game and Random Fortune Generators, which go into detail on the underlying purpose of play and where it came from.
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