Love Life

A Game is Worth a Thousand Words: What would one of your favorite pieces of non-interactive art look like if it had been created as a game first? May’s topic challenges you to imagine that the artist had been a game designer and supersede the source artwork–whether it be a painting, a sculpture, an installation, or any other piece that can be appreciated in a primarily visual way–to imagine a game that might have tried to communicate the same themes, the same message, to its audience.

It doesn’t take long to realize that among my favorite pieces of art is that of Félix González-Torres’s Untitled (Perfect Lovers).

González-Torres was known for a wide range of interactive art, though this one remains largely non-interactive. For instance, one of his installations is (posthumously) piling a 175-pound mountain of his lover’s favorite candy into a room, the invitation is to take away more and more of the candy, eat it, share it, and watch as the representation of his lover keeps losing weight and withering away.

Untitled (Perfect Lovers) follows a similar vein. Two clocks are synched up, but owing to differing battery lives, they will start to wind down and fall out of synch. During the time of problems with what could be represented by the NEA and explicit photography by Mapplethorpe, González-Torres managed to fly under the radar. When asked who his audience was he had one response: Ross, his lover.

It’s no secret that I’m becoming more and more interested in representations of relationships in games. Hence comes this thought for a board game, and trying to imagine how Love Life would work to inspire the installation of Untitled (Perfect Lovers).

The board would be individual set pieces that form a circle when put together. In all, there would be one-hundred and sixty-eight, though only twenty-four would be placed down to start, indicating a day’s time cycle, and having enough to represent a full week. After each passing around of the circle, another circle would be started right next to it, which players would move to once circling the previous tiles. After all players finish circling a particular path, those cards are reshuffled into the pile.

Each tile has two results on its face, split down the middle in a vertical line, which I will further explain in a moment.

Starting players would have to be of an even number and paired off–this is a cooperative game. They would select their token and place it next to a partner, one left and one right. Movement is determined by one of the pair’s die roll on a four-sided die. Following the die roll, both partners would move forward the requisite number of spaces and follow through with the results of the tile.

The possibilities on the tiles themselves would yield four consequences: personal, professional, relationship, and random. All of the tiles would interact with each other and attribute to one score: love. There would be varying point values, both positive and negative, and the real difference is in the flavor text. When landing on a tile, one is encouraged to elaborate: yes, you may have beaten a personal record, but which, and why is it important?

Through all this, your partner is going through similar changes, though perhaps in a different avenue (perhaps professional). Players, upon consensus of those around them, can earn extra points if their stories are worked through together. As the storytelling portion of the game is optional, it would be left in the players’ hands as to what they is allowed.

Then there are the random events on which one can land. These are things such as finding yourself accruing large bills, destroyed property, et cetera. . However, a good number of them (say at least 1/3, though this would have to go through testing) will have a terminal illness consequence.

When this tile is reached, the partner who obtained the illness starts lagging behind the other. For every die roll, the partner with the illness starts falling behind one tile per change of the circle (i.e. 1d4 -1 first twenty-four tile cycle, 1d4 -2 the next). They are no longer in tandem, and once the ill partner reaches the fourth circle (which would result in a die roll of 1d4-4), that player will be finished.

This is the suggested ending for the game. The surviving partner would tell a story of how he or she reacts to the death, and if in accordance with the manner in which they had been playing and sharing their story, can be awarded additional points (again, based on consensus vote of the other players).

The alternate ending would be for those with a particular interest in storytelling, as accruing love points would still be possible for the lone partner, but would require adding that to the tales told when landing on tiles.

I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions, as I am contemplating making a rough copy of this gameboard and testing it.

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About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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5 Responses to Love Life

  1. Chris Lepine says:

    Honestly, I’ve read through this three times and I’m having a hard time picturing the gameplay. Is there a chance that you could scrawl down some drawings and add them here? :) Would be glad to comment after I figure out how this “looks”.

  2. KirbyKid says:

    I agree with Chris Lepine.

    If you can’t draw some pictures, could you at least just write out the rules as if they were written in the instructions of the actual game?

    I’m intrigued.

  3. Denis Farr says:

    Thank you for the interest, both. I believe I’ll attempt to make a prototype of the game board and write out some concrete rules.

    Which means I’ll probably playtest it and report the results.

  4. Chris Lepine says:

    Great! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. I’m a very visual thinker.

  5. Pingback: Love Life, Run 1 | Vorpal Bunny Ranch

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