Possession: a game of negotiation & ritual

Material Information

Possession: a game of negotiation & ritual
Ypsilanti, Daniel
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla
College of Fine Arts; University of Florida
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Project in lieu of thesis


Subjects / Keywords:
Adhesives ( jstor )
Art exhibitions ( jstor )
Board games ( jstor )
Boxes ( jstor )
Chalk ( jstor )
Colors ( jstor )
Dynamic games ( jstor )
Gameboards ( jstor )
Rituals ( jstor )
Volunteerism ( jstor )


“Possession” is investigation into interpersonal social dynamics by way of a board game. The board game, as well as supplementary materials, are designed to serve as a negotiating tools to facilitate discussion between the players of the game. The audience for the game are people who share personal space but not necessarily common possessions. In short they are people who live together, but may disagree about each other’s belongings. ! “Possession” aims to make evident the link between popular gaming mechanisms (dice, cards, etc) and ancient divination rites through an investigation of the use and purpose of arrows as both physical and symbolic objects. Arrows, real and symbolic have related to concepts of hunting, ownership, sight, authority, and presence throughout history and it is my purpose to bring these concepts full circle by creating a situation through the board game where players can address concerns about each other’s possession. Thus the game returns to the ritual, the hunt becomes a discussion and ownership is succeeded through negotiation.
General Note:
Graphic Design terminal project

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
914466520 ( OCLC )


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Acknowledgements I'd like to thank my committee, Brian Slawson and Craig Smith or each bringing their own particular insights and perspectives to my process and without a doubt enriched it. Thanks to my studiomates or your sharp eyes, critical minds and sound advice. To the many others along the way who have helped guide me and inspire me thorough this process, both technically and conceptual; Maria Rogal, Murphy Zheng, and Dori Gri n in Graphic Design, and Matt Chandler at the Fab Lab, to name a ew. To all o! the play testers, riends and amily who contributed to my research, especially to Neil Lorenzini who helped me along every step o my project, rom building shelves to building rules. To my wi! e Samantha, or your in inite patience, support and love, and to my two boys Rainer and Townes who made me realize just how important play really is. POSSESSION 2




Summary o Project In Lieu o Thesis Possession is a game or two players who share personal space, but not necessarily belongings. The game was originally conceived out o a personal need to address my own habits o consumption, collection, and negotiation o personal space. Yet through my research I ound that these issues were not just particular to me and that my idea could become a tool or those who shared a similar ate. More speci ically however, Possession addresses not only issues o consumption but those o interpersonal dynamics and personal identity by way o ownership o objects. As individuals go through li e the objects they bring into their personal lives may not only satis y a unctional need but an emotional one as well. Personal possessions o # en carry history and meaning or those who keep them, but when kept in a shared space can cause tension with in that space, whether an apartment or a home or any kind o space where at least two people live. To it's owner a personal belonging may act as a mnemonic device to a private world o memories while outwardly the same object may seem decrepit, childish, or unnecessary, creating visual clutter. At it's heart, Possession was designed to help players to negotiate and acilitate a discussion that could arise rom this disconnect while in the process stir up doubt and cause both players to question their motives, either or keeping the object or or addressing it in some way. To put it bluntly this is not just a game about stu$. It is about the objects that clutter our homes, ill up our shelves, collect dust when they are unused, get stacked in piles by the door until a convenient time comes along to sort them out. It is about the objects under your couch, behind the door in your bathroom, on top o your re rigerator. It is about space, both physical and psychic, ownership, both POSSESSION 4 FIG 1 Still rom the stop motion animation. FIG 2 Sarah and Cesar Evans negotiate during play testing, Feb 2013. FIG 3 The game and it's dynamics illustrated by way o an exhibition in University Gallery, April 2013.


public and private, and emotion, both explicit and subtle. The game truly lives when the social dynamic between two players is in e $ ect, and as such needs two players both willing to address the issue head on knowing that they may lose at least one or more o their personal belongings as well as addressing their opponents belongings. Possession is a game o negotiation, give and take, and that dynamic is not dissimilar rom the way a chess player would sacri ice a pawn to capture a more valuable piece. Possession consists o a kit-like box that doubles as the board or the game. In this kit you can ind arrow shaped game pieces, chalk pencils, and specially designed adhesive notes. Each element was care ully selected and designed to relate and support the gameplay as well as some o the underlying concepts o Possession. Supplementing the game was a per ormance and exhibition to illustrate the game rules as well an installation that included a shel o objects tagged with pieces o the game, a poster which showed play testing o the game in a real world environment and a stop motion animation o the game in action. The purpose o these supplemental materials is to help illustrate the rules o the game a # er the initial per ormance ended. They are as essential or understanding the rules o the game in a gallery setting as the live per ormance itsel !. Initial Inspirations My initial inspiration or this project came rom an article I had read about the ideomotor phenomenon and the game/toy known popularly as the Ouija board. 1 The article explained that while players may POSSESSION 5 1 Clare Wilson, Ouija board helps psychologists probe the subconscious. New Scientist. 5 July 2012. http:// FIG 4 Maria and Jorge discuss their options during play testing, Jan 2013 FIG 5 The game box open with some o the game's potential pieces. FIG 6 Players or per ormers? I had volunteers play the game during the opening night o the exhibition to show the game's dynamics.


go into the game with no expectations or the outcome o a Ouija board session the participant's subconscious desired expressed themselves through subtle movements in their hands on the planchette. This is the essence o the ideomotor phenomenon ideo meaning idea and motor re erring to muscular action. I ound it ascinating that there was hard science and psychology behind this innate eature o the game that has historically been attributed to supernatural orces. When conceiving my own game, Possession, I imagined two players, planchette pulled between them, both obviously and passive-aggressively insisting that spirits were telling their opponent that they should get rid o their grandmother's handknitted socks because they never got washed and were stinking up the whole apartment. The ridiculousness o this hypothetical situation was not so over the top that I could not imagine it happening in real li e. Based on my realization I decided that a more circuitous approach would be needed to help players breech this potentially volatile topic. This initial spark did set me o $ in the direction o investigating the link between games and the supernatural, and it proved to be a much stronger link than I had previously thought. Games and the Supernatural I started my urther investigation into games and the supernatural by looking into the history o tarot however tarot as it's known today, a divination tool or reading one's uture by looking at what cards you draw rom the deck, is in act an invention o the 19th century 2 and the deck and name itsel is derived rom tarocchi an Italian card game. I also looked into other divinatory practices such as I Ching, a divination ritual originally involving objects POSSESSION 6 2 Paul Huson, Mystical Origins o the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. Destiny Books. 2004. FIG 8 Engraving o a planchette in action. via FIG 7 an "English ouija board" via


called yarrow sticks, to tell your ortune. The practice o using yarrow stick is most common in East Asia and small currency, such as pennies are used in the United States to the same e $ ect. This process o chance reminds me o the incredibly simple game o "heads or tails", perhaps so simple that it would be a stretch to call it a proper game. In any case I elt this link between divination and games and chance was very strong and that eeling was ully justi ied once I came across the research o Stewart Culin, a cultural anthropologist and author who has investigated the origins o games by way o divination rituals involving arrows. 3 Looking back at my initial investigation into the Ouija board I thought it interesting that the shape o the planchette, where players place their hands when using the Ouija board is so similar in shape to arrow heads. While the planchette's purpose is meant to show the intention o the supernatural, in reality it shows the secret intentions o the well-meaning participants. Compare this to a real arrow, which is shot with the utmost and direct intention by it's user. It is this discrepancy between chance and skill through a common orm, as well as the subtle connections between intention and purpose o the arrow that led or it's orm, as well as that o the target to be eatured so prominently in my game. Why a Game? I games are so rooted in ancient rituals then perhaps the power o games could be leveraged in the way the rituals are utilized. Amy Alkon, an advice columnist who o # en incorporates evolutionary psychology wrote in her book "I See Rude People..." about a comparison between the average amount o POSSESSION 7 3 Stewart Culin, Korean Games: with notes on the corresponding games o! China and Japan. University o Pennsylvania. 1895. FIG 11 the "Mystic Hand" planchette, 1940s via FIG 9 An original card rom the tarot deck o Jean Dodal, 1701-1715, via FIG 10 "Divining splits" rom Stuart Culin's book Korean Games.


Facebook riends a user had and the number o people that made up a small rural pre-modern community, a "tribe" i! you will. 4 All in all the number came to about 150. According to the article this was due to the act that our brains, despite time, history and cultural di $ erences were and still are "wired" to be able to keep up socially with as many people that could potentially be in a tribe. This link between ancient social structures and modern social habits expressed itsel via an investigation o Facebook, the social networking site. I wonder i games and the ritual spaces that they create and the objects commonly used in games are an expression o the human need to hunt. I the rise o agriculture in the ertile crescent created a shi # rom hunter/gatherer tribes to sedentary agricultural communities then it is possible that habits such as hunting and gathering, so engrained in our collective consciousness (not dissimilar to the tribal/Facebook study), might express themselves via consumerism as well as games. Research has shown that many slaughter rituals, common in pre-Christian times and even incorporated into early Christian practices, arose out o a need to express the urge to hunt a # er hunting purely or sustenance waned a # er the rise o agricultural man. 5 Games do not only create a ritual space but many o the objects and devices used in games are derived directly rom hunting rituals, and Stewart Culin writes about the role and trans ormation and stylization o the arrow into contemporary gaming devices. It is my aim to bring these two elements together and help readdress the issues concerning POSSESSION 8 4 Amy Alkon, I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners into Impolite Society McGraw-Hill Pro essional. 2009. 5 Walter Burkert, Homo Necans: The Anthropology o! Ancient Greek Sacri icial Ritual and Myth. University o Cali ornia. 1983. FIG 12 Possession's game pieces, blue and yellow


consumption, ritual, arrows, hunting, and games, expressed through an exhibition o my game, where players hunt each others belongings, not or consumption and ownership but to help address the excess o a habit o consumption. Rituals have commonly been used to recti y unbalanced or un avorable situations in a community, a popular example is the rain dance o! native american cultures, meant to invoke rain during untypically dry seasons. Perhaps this game could act as a ritual to recti y the situation o owning too many possessions. Fluxus Too In addition to the concept and theory o divination acting as a wellspring or contemporary games and their devices I also drew inspiration rom the world o o ine art, particularly the work o George Maciunas associated with the Fluxus Group, and Guy Debord, associated with the Situationists. Both groups, I eel, share many commonalities, especially that o questioning the everyday realities and experiences that ill our lives. This critical eye expresses itsel through the Detournemonts o the POSSESSION 9 FIG 13 illustration by Tony Burnett rom World o! Games, based on research by Stewart Culin


Situationists, long walks with no particular destination, as well as through the game boxes constructed by various members o Fluxus. Many o these Fluxus games are not games in the conventional sense but act as devices to create situations by imploring the player to ollow nonsensical rules. Through experiencing the the con lict between the rules and possibilities in any particular game box, Fluxus games leverage the power o games to question the purpose o rules as an ends unto themselves. The example o George Maciunas' game "Spell Your Name with These Objects" (citation, image) consists o a box o assorted objects and instructions which are also the title or the work. There is a di culty implicit in this suggestion when contrasted with the box's contents. Another game with the inherent incomprehensibility o the Fluxus games is Guy Debord's "Game o War" (citation, image). The rules are alleged to be absurdly complex in an attempt to recreate the real actors o war. 6 I eel that this provocation to the player(s) expresses itsel in my game through my use o typography on the board, asking players to question their own, possibly sel ish, motives while playing the game. The Name o the Game I chose the name Possession or the double meaning that it carries as well as it's association with cult practices. O course something you possess is an object that belongs to you. Additionally to be possessed means to have an outside orce act upon you, as in the case o this game where your opponent suggests actions or you to take regarding your own possessed items. POSSESSION 10 6 Nathan Heller, "What Is It Good For?" Book, Feb/Mar 2008, accessed April 2012,! FIG 14 George Maciunas: Spell Your Name with these Objects. 1976 FIG 15 Alice Becker-Ho and Guy Debord playing the Game o War, 1977


To possess something means to imbue it with your spirit. The objects we own possess us emotionally while we possess them physically. These objects also possess space physically (o # en a source o rustration and a potential impetus or the game to be played) and when we are not present we possess that space through them, their presence serving as a kind o avatar or us. Additionally the latin or the word object can be read as a thing that is "in the way", or that stands between a user and the inherent concept behind the object. This makes the object the medium or an idea or concept in both de initions, where as a medium can be a physical orm such as clay wood or stone. The term medium is also used in re erence to a psychic who allows themselves to be possessed in order to communicate with and or the dead. Interesting that these connections arise rom a simple teasing out o the language. I these "objects" themselves are similar to mediums in that they can possess a concept o their creator (as in the intention o their design) then there is a space where that original intention can live with a secondary intention, o the owner in that those concepts inherent in the objects one possess lend themselves to a sense o personal identity. They too are mediums, channeling the spirit o their designed intention (whether that is to entertain, beauti y, kill, or heal) as well as vessels to contain our intentions. Additionally we can look at the term belongings in relation to items you might own or possess. To belong means to be an accepted part o a group and is de ined by psychologist Abram Maslow as an emotion distinct to humans. 7 So where might this POSSESSION 11 7 Abram Maslow, "A Theory o! Human Motivation," Psychology Review 50(4): 1943. Retrieved rom http:// FIG 16 Title rom stop motion animation FIG 17 Still rom intro scene to stop motion animation


human emotion it into our inanimate objects? Do they need to belong amongst us and ul ill particular emotional and practical needs? What happens when we ail to de ine ourselves through our possession? Does it cause our belongings to su $ er? Do our belongings help present the sel we wish to be and help us belong to the groups we think we should belong to? Possessing the Arrow In this game the arrow came to represent the intention o each player, the colors o! each piece akin to letching, eathers ound on the ends o arrow, used to determine ownership. As the shape o the arrow in divinatory rituals became more abstracted di $ erent elements o the hunters arrow become di $ erent elements, o # en central elements in contemporary games. The sha # o the arrow becomes the yarrow sticks which becomes dice, the tip o the arrow becomes game pieces, the letching and eathers used to adorn the arrow become the suites on cards. It was my goal to create game pieces similar in shape and purpose to o an arrow and let the other elements o the board game support and supplement this aesthetic and conceptual direction and by doing so bring a level o awareness and re lexivity into the game. It was with this intention that the design o the pieces began as well as how the pieces could be utilized to support the other concepts embedded in the game. I started my process o creating iterations o the game piece's design by looking at the I Ching POSSESSION 12 FIG 18 Logo development, letters and game pieces At an early period in culture the arrow, marked with the designation o its owner, by which he recognized his quarry or the oe that ell be ore his arm, came to stand as his symbol and representative. Stewart Culin 8 FIG 19 Cutting the pieces out via laser engraver.


practice, at least how it is practiced in the US. Whereas traditionally yarrow sticks have been used I wanted to use coins, or their size in regards to human scale as well as the act that they were money, a direct correlation to ownership in Western capitalist culture. Pennies are o # en considered worthless on their own but valuable once collected, analog to the concepts in Possession regarding value. The irst wooden pieces I designed and built were round and had two sides, one with a black arrow on a white ield, the other with a white arrow on a black ield. My intention was that both players could lip a piece and depending on which side the piece landed the player whose color landed ace up would get some kind o points or reward, depending on the design o the board. When I tried this with a potential board design the pieces bounced o $ the board and lipping these wooden pieces proved to be an issue to overcome. I also tried a di $ erent approach, this time with no board and pieces made rom paper, not wood. The paper pieces were larger and shaped like the point o an arrow. When thrown in the air they would lit down, land on a side corresponding to a player's assigned color and point in a particular direction. While I enjoyed the physicality o these paper pieces their pointing raised many questions. Would an object they pointed towards be an object to be used in the game? How could the pointing o the arrow be made more speci ic? What i all o the arrows pointed in a single direction? These questions and more made me realize that a better balance between chance and skill through use o the pieces would be needed and through this iterative process came to the pieces utilized in the game. The inal pieces take the original arrow shape o the irst wooden pieces but remove the rounded hal !, POSSESSION 13 FIG 20 & 21 Early iteration o the wooden game pieces, designed to be lipped like a coin FIG 22 Early iteration o arrow shaped pieces, made rom paper and designed to be thrown in the air


letting the edges create a point. Each piece is painted ully a single color, either blue, yellow or red. These primaries were chosen with a particular intent which I'll explain a # er my general description o the pieces. The size o the pieces is slightly larger than the original wooden pieces as they are meant to be licked with a inger across a wooden board. The board has a target engraved on it's sur ace, as well as point values or each concentric circle making up the target shape. As the pieces land on the board the value they earn or the player depends on where the piece is pointing. I the body o the piece is in the 5 point zone and the tip o the piece is in the 6 point zone then that player earns 6 points. By simpli ying the pieces and making their use more speci ic by designing them to be licked across the board it helped delineate speci ic rounds o the game as well incorporate the skill o the players to balance the element o chance so prominent in earlier iterations. By honoring the skill o each players "shot" they can become emotionally invested in an outcome they are creating instead o eeling like a passive recipient o ate or chance. This level o skill also creates an environment o competitiveness between each player. It is my intention that the emotional connection to the outcome o this irst o three rounds would bleed over into subsequent rounds and energize the otherwise dull task o tagging and valuing each others belongings. Each Round Be ore I continue with a description o the game I eel it's necessary to take pause and recognize the rules o the game, as well as the rounds that delineate and make each set o rules a distinct element o the game. A challenge in designing a game is that it is not a direct or sequential process. It is circuitous and o # en changes in the rules mean changes in the pieces or board. I think that author POSSESSION 14 FIG 23 The inal design or Possession's game pieces. FIG 24 The pieces were designed to be licked across the game board, here is one in action. A still rom the stop motion animation.


and game designer Eric Zimmerman describes this relation between games and their aesthetics quite well in this quote rom his book Rules o Play: I've divided the game into three distinct rounds. In the irst round players compete or points by shooting their pieces across the board. Like I previously mentioned they gain points when the points o their piece land in a particular space in the target engraved on the board. It also bears mentioning that points are counted a # er both players shoot all o their pieces so it is possible to use your pieces o $ ensively as well as de ensively, knocking your opponents pieces o $ o the board while creating a barrier to protect your own pieces or prevent your opponent rom getting to a certain zone, not unlike marbles or the winter sport o curling. A # er all points rom the irst round are tallied the second round begins. In this round both players use the points they earned to value their opponents objects, speci ically ones that they want them to address in someway. These objects are tagged by way o specially designed adhesive notes to be illed out and placed on the object. On the note there is space or each player to write the name o what it is they are tagging, why they are tagging it, a suggestion on how to address the object they are tagging and inally the value their opponent can earn by addressing it. This value is o # en points earned with the intention o winning the game but these points can also be supplemented with avors such as doing chores or giving other rewards outside o the scope o the game. Each note is POSSESSION 15 FIG 25 Round 1, Shoot pieces, gain points FIG 26 Round 2, Value objects and tag them "Rather than depictions o pictorial space, game boards are diagrams or interaction so it's impossible to consider their visual aesthetics apart rom the system o rules that they embody. 8


colored to correspond to each player's pieces while the in ormation is illed in by the opposing player. A # er the shooting and valuing/tagging rounds both players go around their designated space and collect their color tags. These are all brought to the board and both players take turns reading their notes and discussing their intentions and potential decisions or these objects. Negotiation is the central theme o this round and it is the time where players can come to a consensus or stand their ground about particular objects. It is also up to the players to decided whether points are earned once an object is addressed (i.e. thrown out, renovated, donated, etc) or i points can be earned (and a winner decided) based on good aith. Print & Play Test To guide my process I ound a number o volunteers to play test my game as I developed it. This play testing was invaluable, and my volunteers helped me gain insights to how the game and it's dynamics play out between real people with real stakes. While some o the play testing provided insight into how the pieces and board could be used the rules are what bene itted most rom this exposure to a wide variety o players. This experience play testing showed me where some constraints on the players could be loosened or tightened depending on responses and questions asked by the players during the game. For example, some rules like the instructions on where to shoot the piece rom, how to shoot each piece and how to calculate the score o each piece were too ambiguous at times or players and these questions came up again and again during play testing. This response not only encouraged me to clari y the written rules but also to incorporate a zone on the design o the game board or each player to shoot POSSESSION 16 FIG 27 Round 3, Discuss, negotiate, and act FIG 28 Print and play board, ully assembled. Photo: Cindy Ypsilanti


! rom. This response also guided my process o re ining the game pieces rom round shapes with the symbol o the arrow to small representations o arrows themselves. A print and play version o the game was designed and developed to share many o the same design elements o the physical board and pieces but to allow or the game, including the board and all o the pieces and instructions to be distributed digitally, printed on a home inkjet printer and assembled with tape and scissors. The board prints out as our separate sheets to be taped together and includes game pieces to be cut out and taped to pennies. So ar I've discussed my initial inspirations, how through my research I've uncovered the links between games, ownership, rituals and the occult, how I've incorporated elements rom this research into various elements o the game itsel !, with special attention given to the name and pieces o the game and how through an iterative process o play testing modi ications to the game elements and rules have come about. In the ollowing pages I will be going into more detail regarding some speci ics o the games elements as well as how I chose to show the dynamics o the game via an exhibition in a gallery setting. Color and Opponent Process Theory As I had previously mentioned primary colors were chosen as part o the color scheme or this project. The colors came to represent a speci ic player o the game and this color as representation o identity extended throughout the various elements utilized by the players, rom pillows to adhesive notes to chalk pencils. Be ore I came to primary colors I had originally designated blue and yellow as the two colors to POSSESSION 17 FIG 28 Family members helped a lot with play testing, here is my mother's cousin, Jane. Photo: John Fleischer FIG 29 Oppositional colors, blue and yellow


represent each player in the game. I tried many color combinations and I wanted colors that contrasted but didn't have explicit connections to schools or holidays, such as orange and blue being a color combination associated with the University o Florida. I wanted to have some color involved because I knew that the board would be a space or players to leave marks with chalk. I will explain this decision in more detail in a later section o the paper, but the act o the matter is that the board would be black and as the space on the board is space to be won through competing against an opponent it wouldn't make sense or one player's color to match the color o the board and another to contrast. I shared my trouble about inding two colors to choose with a colleague and he cautioned me against choosing red and green due to issues o accessibility, red and green being indistinguishable to those who are colorblind. I hadn't considered this reason or not choosing green and red, I already wrote them o $ as a potential combination due to their association with Christmas. But this other reason perhaps was more valid. Instead o looking at cultural associations to guide my process I turned my attention to biological and psychological reactions to speci ic color choices. The logic behind this is sound and consistent with my use o arrows as a cultural signi ier in this game. I the purpose o a hunter's arrow is to kill, or injure or the purpose o hunting then it can be said that it's use is with the utmost purpose and intention. Hunting by bow and arrow had provided sustenance or human kind or many generations and even today you can see this link to the past via the rediscovery o "stone age" tribes by modern anthropologists. A connection between the prominence o arrows in early culture is most notable via a popular image o tribesmen pointing POSSESSION 18 FIG 30-36 Trying out many color combinations


their bow and arrows at planes used to ly over to photograph them. 8 I we look at the arrow as an extension o earlier hand weapons o stone age civilizations, and consider those weapons as augmentations o our limited biological acilities (ie hands and limbs) in order to make hunting easier then perhaps it is this crystallization o the concept o intention in order to possess and consume (whether that is ood via a hunt or by purchasing and owning, ie consumerism) that the arrow represents. So, i the physical and symbolic arrow are derived rom the limits o our biology it is with this same logic that the colors yellow and blue were selected to represent opposing points o view. The colors yellow and blue were selected a # er I had done research into opponent process theory, in relation to color and the biology o the eye. The theory states "The three types o cones (cells in the eye) have some overlap in the (perception o ) wavelengths o light... it is more e cient or the visual system to record di $ erences between the responses... rather than each type o cone's individual response." 9 The colors in this theory are called opponent colors and they are paired as black/ white, red/green and blue/yellow. This means that these colors are literally in opposition to each other when perceived by the human eye. This makes them ideal colors to use as my own theory o human physiology as related to the arrow, the hand and human intention relies on physical properties o human biology. The choice to use these colors is not merely an aesthetic decision but one that ties into the purpose o the irst round o the game, that is to promote competition and opposition and in turn generate an emotional "buyPOSSESSION 19 8 "Isolated tribe spotted in Brazil," BBC News May 30, 2008, accessed April 22, 2013 9 Ewald Hering, Outline o a Theory o! the Light Sense. 1964 Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. FIG 37 Modern tribal people, arrows at the ready FIG 38 Rods and cones o the human eye, the organs with which we perceive the world


in" or the players, to spur them to action and or this action to be trans ormed into motivation in later rounds to engage in negotiation. Also worth noting is that opponent-process theory is related to studies in the ields o psychology and physiology. According to one particular case study opponent-process theory was used to explain why certain processes that may be aversive or unpleasant can eventually become rewarding. In the experiment, test subjects showed an increase o physiological signs o well-being a # er immersing their hand in an ice water bath. 10 Dealing with an object that has perceived potential use value, or carries emotional meaning but clutters personal space could be seen as a similar situation, where a player might be adverse to addressing (or discarding) their stu $. Dealing with these adverse situations, initially through a game environment, perhaps can help the act o decluttering become a positive experience that transcends the ritual o the game and becomes a part o everyday li e. As the game's development progressed I realized that there was an inherent challenge in how to show the game being enacted. Diagrams, photographs, animations or display o the game boards and piece would I elt would only serve as relics o the game while the real essence o the Possession, the game play, would become an underwhelming a# erthought or a potential audience. I wanted these objects to serve the goals and theme o the game and not the other way around. It was rom these realizations the design o a per ormance and per ormance space or the game to be enacted in was necessary or an audience to experience the game as ully as they could and even choose to participate i they wished. I will discuss speci ics o the per ormance and the space urther in a later section but I mention it now POSSESSION 20 10 C. E. Deuter, et al, E # ects o Cold Pressor Stress on the Human Startle Response. PloS one, 7(11), e49866. 2012.


because I realized that a third color would be needed so I could have three sets o players and really show the dynamic the game creates when in action. As blue and yellow were chosen, red seemed a logical decision, creating a primary color palette. Green would carry the implication o some middle ground between blue and yellow, and purple or orange would contrast too much with either yellow or blue both making pairs o complementary colors that would exclude the third and again imply some level o kinship between players, when the game in it's current orm is designed to be played by two players at a time. So red it was or my third color so that I could ully lesh out my exhibition. The Board I'll start with a description o the board in parts. First I'll explain the various elements o the inside o the board, then the outside with special attention given to the typography, symbols and purpose o! each section and it's various elements. On one side o the board you'll see two hinged doors, and upon opening them you'll ind the inside o the board which I will describe here in detail. One the inside o the board there are two distinct spaces, the irst being the cork board and the second being the spaces on the back o the open doors titled "yet to do". On the cork board you will ind two bags pinned to it with simple push pins. Inside each bag you'll ind the a orementioned game pieces, a chalk pencil o matching color and a stack o specially designed adhesive notes, the color o your opponent's pieces and pencil. A # er removing these bags you will see an engraved saying on the cork board. It says theres no time like NOW ". I came up with this phrase out o personal rustration. I knew that a sense o immediacy is o # en necessary in order to complete tasks, and procrastination can POSSESSION 21 FIG 39 & 40 The game box open, ull and empty


o # en have dire consequences. I like however that with a subtle emphasis on certain parts o the phrase it could just as easily be read as "theres no time now" or with the way it is ormatted with the NOW being so prominent in the design that it could also serve as an immediate call to action and then later the nuances o the typography could come out or the viewer. It was my goal with this turn o! phrase to illustrate the duality and uncertainty that one might eel when taking on a task that arrises rom the the situations the game creates. Being on cork board it's use is tied to it's message, o # en cork boards are used as places to put a household's "todos" or extra scraps o ephemera to be used later, such as coupons or event liers. While there is a section dedicated to "to-dos" rom the game itsel !, the board can be hung on the wall by it's handle and can serve a secondary purpose as a cork board to keep reminders a or participants outside the realm o the game. On the inside o the doors you'll ind the "yet to do" section, which contains squares outlined by dashes and illed with various quotes related to negotiation, con rontation, and ownership by amous theorists, scholars and authors, among others. These spaces are where players can put their adhesive notes a # er or during the game or objects they have yet to address or are not willing to address. The typography or these quotes could be described as subtle and understated, and through their engraving into the wood and coating with chalk board paint help create a tone and voice to the game. Through their size, ormat and content it's my intention or these quotes to whisper to the player, or act as moments o insight during the process o dealing with potentially emotionally charged objects. Turning the board over you'll see a target shape engraved into it's sur ace as well as two zones marked out in the shape o the game pieces in POSSESSION 22 We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. Marshall McLuhan FIG 41 the game boards, under constructon FIG 42 cork or the inside o the box, hot o # the laser engraver


opposite corners o the board. With the doors open the board lays lat and the ront o the doors serve as a space or each player to take notes, doodle, keep track o points or use as they see it. The typographic language rom the inside o the board is extended to the outside as well, all muted with the dense black chalk board paint. Beneath each arrow shaped zone near the target you'll ind the phrase "aim true" telling each player to put an honest intention behind each shot. On the ront o the doors is a horizontal line dividing a section or players to keep track o objects (obj) and the other to keep track o points (pts). On the OBJ side o the line you'll ind the phrase "To treasure one's trash or to trash one's treasure?" and on the PTS side the phrase "What is it really worth?". These phrases, when paired with the typography, engraving and chalkboard paint creates a muted language that asks directly yet discreetly the players about their intentions regarding this game. The chalk board paint, in addition to contributing to the tone o the typography serves many unctional purposes that tie in well with the concepts embedded in the game. The chalk board paint allow the players to mark the board literally marking their intentions in regards to the game and subsequently their opponents belongings by way o chalk pencils. This also leaves their markings to be smudged or ruined through repeated use o the game or kept as a record through by the games disuse. The matte black sur ace that the chalkboard paint creates not only gives the board visual weight but also helps to emphasize it's orm, bringing to attention it's "objectness". Like I previously mentioned when discussing the quotes on the inside o the doors the paint obscures the text and creates multiple levels o comprehension or the game box's purpose. At a distance it is a black box, but at a closer more personal scale the subtle eatures o the board come out or the players. I eel that these levels o POSSESSION 23 FIG 43 & 44 "aim true" FIG 45 "to treasure one's trash or to trash one's treasure? ---what is it really worth?"


engagement in many ways mimic the way that a personal object can create an internal dialog with it's owner, especially in regards to personal history whereas at a distance, both emotional and physical, the same object could be seen as nothing more than an object cluttering space. The box itsel also contains a rope that comes out o the top which like the paint serves multiple purposes. For one it can be used to carry the box. It's use as a handle and the width and material o the rope as well as it's placement alludes to it as an object designed on a human scale, to be carried, to be taken rom one place to another, to be moved rom home to home or easily grabbed and taken rom storage. The rope also makes the game easy to hang on the wall or players who want to extend the inal round o the game and utilize the cork board as well as the space on the inside o the door to store adhesive notes used in the game as reminders o tasks yet to do. Adhesive Notes The inclusion o adhesive notes in the game as as way or players to mark their opponents possessions came about rom early exercises in visualizing ownership and space. I knew that this could be achieved threw color although I had yet to discover a orm that would work well within the context o a game. An early concept had me using colored bags, so that the object they were covering was obscured and all that could be seen would be a mass o color occupying space. Obscuring the object ully made it di cult or the game to have the dynamic I wanted although I did like the way it created a particular sense o space through marking. A closer connection to the use o the bag beyond simply marking space was investigated in tags that were not colored but contained letters that when collected and placed together read "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be use ul or POSSESSION 24 FIG 46 rope study FIG 47 the hanging game board


believe to be beauti ul" a quote by William Morris, the ounder o the Arts & Cra # s movement. This interest in quotes related to the concept o possessions and personal space as well as the use o markers to signi y ownership eventually led me to the use o custom designed adhesive notes. The could be easily placed on and removed rom objects and have the primary color scheme linking the tagging o the object to player who possesses it. The chalk pencils used or the game board are also included to be used on the adhesive notes. This creates a macro and micro reading o the tags, which is especially pertinent or the purposes o the exhibition space. From a distance the tags signi! y ownership but up close the relationship between each opponent in the game is made more explicit by looking at which color pencil was used on which color tag. Printed on the tag are zones to write in the name o the object being tagged, why each player is tagging it, what do they propose their opponent do with it and what will they gain in the game i they ollow through on their suggestion. On the tag I tried to keep the language simple so that the space could be read as a long sentence instead o some kind o quasi-bureaucratic orm. Turn Your Junk Into Art! To announce the exhibition o! the game I chose to create liers similar to yard sale lyers complete with tags to be torn o $ and saved as a reminder. The liers were hung up around the School o Art and Art History buildings. The purpose o these liers were to announce the show but also to get viewers to participate by bringing their own unused stu $ to be used in an exhibition o the game. I used humor to attract attention with the phrase "Turn Your Junk Into Art" large and central on the lyer. Although the lyer took a more humorous approach than the language ound on the board I kept a consistent tone through the typography, using small point type POSSESSION 25 FIG 48 color and space study FIG 49 translucent notes as puzzle pieces FIG 50 the inal design or the adhesive notes


and phrases such as "It'll be worth something someday" and "I'm not a hoarder, I'm a collector" have the eeling o being whispered. I even called attention to the tear-o$ tags themselves through the use o a subtitle underneath "take one" that says "more clutter". Challenges in Exhibiting a Game This game was not designed with a gallery audience in mind so there were many challenges to address when considering how to show the various elements o the game, rom the bare bones o the rules to the interpersonal dynamics that emerge rom those rules. As I see it games are the quintessential ephemeral objects as they exist one when their rules are realized and expressed through use and direct engagement, non-existent when disregarded or neglected. A board, it's pieces, cards, adhesive notes rule books, etc, only serve to help players while playing the game. Outside o the game these objects can act as relics but they are simply mnemonic devices, simple reminders o the ritualized interpersonal dynamics that the liminal space created through the play o a game a $ ords. I I were to stand on a ootball ield, dressed in all o the gear and hold up a ootball to someone who has never witnessed the game be ore they could make many wild assumptions about the helmet, shape o the ball, size o the ield, etc and perhaps guess the purpose o these various elements but a much more salient way to express the rules o the game would be to watch the game itsel !, see the various elements in action and through that experience understand the dynamic behind ootball, or any other game or that matter. It was through this realization that a per ormance o the game was conceived. The per ormance contains as many, i! not more, elements than the game itsel POSSESSION 26 FIG 51 a call to action FIG 52 Close up o tear o # tags


and in the ollowing paragraphs I'll go through each o them, explaining their purpose in relationship to the game and how they served to illustrate the concepts o the game. Players or Per ormers? I never assumed that any people who opted to play Possession would not want to do so or were playing it out o some sel -assumed obligation. All participants in the play testing were very orthcoming about their interest and had a level o interest in helping me troubleshoot hiccups in my game. This was truly a boon to my process and I am grate ul or it. However I was unsure that an audience in an art gallery setting, surrounded by ine art such as sculpture and painting as well as various installations would be as willing to participate in my game as I would have liked them to be. As I wanted to make sure that I had volunteers to demonstrate how the game worked I gathered volunteers prior to the exhibition to play the game, albeit with a bit o prompting rom me to help them understand their role as demonstrators o the rules o the game. Gallery viewers were o course welcome to participate i they wished. Many o the objects that were used in the game I selected mysel !, again to insure that the game play could occur un ettered by the reservations o the audience or even potential volunteers. As this is a game with real risks and rewards it would be easier or me to get volunteers i that risk was mitigated by having preselected stu $ or them to use in the game. Furniture Pillows, whose colors correspond to the player's color, were utilized to create a space or the player to occupy and thus urther emphasize the POSSESSION 27 FIG 53 Volunteers playing the game FIG 54 Neil and Cindy discuss the merits o an empty jar FIG 55 Red chalk on a yellow tag to show ownership and intention


connections between the players and their actions in the game. Not only were the colors related to their intentions and belongings but to their locations while they played the game. The tables and shel o the game were both a natural wood, a neutral color to create a cohesive environment. The light wood was a deliberate choice in order to draw attention away rom the urniture and let the objects, game elements, and players be the main ocus o the exhibition. However the shel does have a purpose and that is to create visual hierarchy via a typology o objects, each column assigned to particular color and each row to a di $ erent point value. The higher up the object the more it was valued during the exhibition o the game. This valuation is re lected in the adhesive notes a xed to each object and this display o the objects on the shel contributes another level to a macro reading o the shel !. This typology di $ ers rom the typical anthropological use o the term in that the typology is not constrained to physical characteristics but to a perceived common value or a set o objects. The Midden The term midden comes rom old Norse or trash or re use pile. The midden exists in the exhibition in the space created between the three tables. It is at this site that the players dug through the piles o stu $ placed be ore them to play the game with and determined their values. A # er the exhibition the midden exists as a space or unused or untagged objects. Perhaps the players considered them trash? Again this ties into the concept o a typology o objects according to the perceived value by the players. POSSESSION 28 FIG 56 Pillows create a space or players and stand in or them a $ er the exhibition FIG 57 The understated, simple wooden urniture lets the elements o the exhibit be the main ocus


The Door When I was originally assigned my exhibition space I was not aware that I was to be placed in the corner, right in ront o two large doors that lead to a back storage area. I saw the use o the doors as a potential element o the exhibition, as a way or the game to link itsel to the world beyond the gallery and allude to the process o objects coming and going rom an interior "personal space" to an exterior "public space" akin to how objects may be utilized when the game is played in a domestic context. Through discussions with the gallery directors I was given access to the storage room during the course o the exhibition and I utilized it as a staging area, which helped emphasize my role as a acilitator or the per ormance and opening exhibition. Rules and Context To the right o! the hanging game boards you can ind a small poster hung to the wall via magnets. This poster was included to show various imagery rom the initial play testing, o which there is many. Since play testing was such an important part o the creation o the game I elt it would be appropriate to incorporate the imagery rom that experience into this exhibition in some way. The purpose o the poster is to help give more context to the game, helping re er to it as an object that lives outside o the gallery setting. This purpose is stated explicitly on the poster itsel or the bene it o the gallery audience. Additionally the poster contains a basic outline o the game's rules. The poster has prominent olds in it and in act was designed to old into the shape o an arrow, as well as it into the game box itsel !. This makes is use ul to give context to potential uture players o the game in it's inished orm. A sense o history with the game can help lend credence to the experience POSSESSION 29 FIG 58 The "midden", ull o trash or potential? FIG 59 The door acts as a site o entry and exit FIG 60 The door also served re erenced the li e o the game outside the gallery


o the players and enhance their game. Newsprint was consciously selected as the paper o choice or this poster. Newsprint is a very common and inexpensive paper and most explicitly relates to newspapers, o # en kept around the home or collected. It is also very common to see newspapers (and newsprint) as trash in the street. The use and value o a newspaper changes rom importance to triviality much quicker than an average object, by virtue o it's purpose and requency. The use o! low quality paper re lects this rapid change o value by virtue o the ephemeral nature o newspapers. This change in value is linked to the ephemerality o newsprint and in ormed my decision to use it or the poster. Hanging Game Board When designing the exhibition I knew that the per ormance would only happen on the opening night. As I wouldn't be able to sustain it or more than a ew hours I built in ways or the exhibit to showcase various elements o the game to viewers during the duration o the exhibition. To hang the boards on the wall, as opposed to leaving them on the table would allow a viewer to get a better view o the various elements o the board, both inside and out. Le # on the table, a viewer in the gallery would only get to see the outside o the game board. This also, I eel, makes the boards more approachable. From my experience viewers are more apt to look close at a painting or drawing hung on the wall rather than a sculpture or installation. Hanging the boards on the wall puts them in a position that gallery attendees might be more amiliar with. This display o the boards also shows how they could be displayed or stored in a domestic setting. POSSESSION 30 FIG 61 & 62 Incorporating imagery o play testing as well as the rules to help give context or the audience


My Role During the opening night I too participated in the per ormance o the game, although as a acilitator or my volunteers, explaining rules, getting them drinks, answering questions and mitigating disputes regarding the valuing o objects. I eel that this experience re lected my process during play testing as I o # en ound mysel making the rules salient or play testers. In many instances during play testing I questioned i my role in guiding the play testing was in some ways in luencing the player's reactions to each other. I had designed the game to be played by two but ultimately there were three present or the play testing. I cannot deny my role in shaping the experiences o the people I brought the game to in person and this is why I chose to participate in the per ormance as well. Further interviews and comparisons between the in-person play testing and print and play experiences would be needed to truly gauge my in luence, however subtle or overt it may have been. Stop Motion Again, the inherent limitations o exhibiting the game and arranging a per ormance helped drive many o the decisions o what went into the exhibition. Another element to help illustrate the rules o the game or the audience was a stop motion animation. The animation was shot by digital camera on a tripod on a light wood table similar to the tables used in the per ormance/exhibition. The orm o stop motion was chosen because I could show the actual game board, pieces, objects, etc in action via scenes I constructed and photographed. Using the actual objects as opposed to an abstraction o them would only serve to make the animation less coherent whereas I wanted it to serve the purpose o illustrating the rules and POSSESSION 31 FIG 63 Three boards give three examples o how the game can be displayed a $ er it is played


actions the players take during the course o the game. The animation shows the rounds o the game, illustrated clearly, played rom the irst round where players earn o points in by shooting their pieces, to the inal negotiation and addressing o objects between opponents. The animation was played on an older tv purchased at a thri # store to better integrate it into the shel illed with objects and placed to be non-obtrusive in the scheme o the exhibit. Aestheticization Although personally I ind it a pleasure to decipher an unkempt situation, such as the one my exhibit was in a # er the inal per ormance, I elt it necessary to aestheticize my exhibit and make the connections or the audience clearer i they were to come away rom my exhibit with a clear understanding o how the game might work. The midden was arranged so all objects could be seen, the boards were hung up on the wall. Pieces and chalk pencils were le # on the table and the appropriate pillows were placed in their spaces. The objects on the shelves were arranged as well, according to color and value. Creating a coherent visual system was o utmost importance to me in having this exhibition and I eel that aestheticizing it a # er the opening helped this visual system come together. Where Will It Go? Originally when I designed the game I didn't ully consider where the objects I selected, as well as the objects players brought or me to use, would go. Upon consideration however I've determined several directions beyond simply returning the objects to their owners or donating it all to a thri # store. One potential direction could be to ollow the instructions on each tag, and document and display POSSESSION 32 FIG 64 Animating the rules o the game, one rame at a time FIG 65 Pieces start to pile up like clutter as they're shot, in these 3 stills rom the stop motion animation


that somehow. Another would be to keep them as part o the exhibition, which while a lot to keep, raises interesting questions about the change o value and use value regarding the objects. For example how would objects valued once in the game be revalued by a di $ erent set o players with the knowledge that the objects being used are in someway "art"? Originally the objects gained value through their ownership, use, or personal associations. Then a second level o value is ascribed to them, via an opponent in the game. However this exhibition o the game occurred not in a home but an art gallery, and obvious associations with Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" are springing to mind. Duchamp's "Fountain" is a urinal which challenges the status given to objects or works o art by virtue o being placed in a gallery setting. So when these objects to be addressed through my game, and potentially be discarded are placed in a gallery then are they "art"? Because they are now "art" in what ways does this new value jibe with the in game value? I an object is sold as "art" then used to play the game in a domestic setting how does this play out? These are all questions I have yet to answer, although they all provoke many interesting situations that I could devise or investigate. Henri Le ebvre writes in The Social Production o Space, "Space is a social product... it is not simply there', a neutral container waiting to be illed..." one that can encourage or discourage certain practices and behaviors. 11 Marshall McLuhan writes that "environments are invisible" and re ers to art as "anti-environments" as art calls attention to the environment and should provoke awareness in the POSSESSION 33 11 Henri Le ebvre, The Production o Space Blackwell, 1991, p. 26.


audience. 12 So although space actively shapes behavior it is the role o art to make the audience aware o this behavior by creating situations which they rethink their relationship to their environment, whether that is the outdoors, public space or in the case o Possession a shared indoor space, a public space illed with private objects. POSSESSION 34 12 Marshall McLuhan The Emperor's Old Clothes In G. Kepes (Ed.), The Man-Made Object (pp. 90-95). New York: George Brazillier Inc. 1966. FIG 66 A $ er the opening the objects were arranged in a grid on the shel according to point value and use o colored adhesive notes to create a visual hierarchy.


Bibliography Alkon, Amy. I See Rude People: One Woman's Battle to Beat Some Manners into Impolite Society McGraw-Hill Pro essional. 2009. Burkert, Walter. Homo Necans: The Anthropology o! Ancient Greek Sacri icial Ritual and Myth. University o Cali ornia. 1983. Culin, Stewart. Korean Games: with notes on the corresponding games o China and Japan. University o Pennsylvania. 1895. Deuter, C.E. et al, E # ects o Cold Pressor Stress on the Human Startle Response. PloS one, 7(11), e49866. 2012. Wilson, Clare. Ouija board helps psychologists probe the subconscious. New Scientist. 5 July 2012. http:// 2012/07/-is-there-anybody-there.html Heller, Nathan. "What Is It Good For?" Book, Feb/Mar 2008, accessed April 2012,! Hering, Ewald. Outline o a Theory o! the Light Sense. 1964 Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. Huson, Paul. Mystical Origins o the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage. Destiny Books. 2004. Le ebvre, Henri. The Production o Space Blackwell, 1991, p. 26. 13 Marshall McLuhan The Emperor's Old Clothes In G. Kepes (Ed.), The Man-Made Object (pp. 90-95). New York: George Brazillier Inc. 1966. Maslow, Abram. "A Theory o! Human Motivation," Psychology Review 50(4): 1943. Retrieved rom motivation.htm Zimmerman, Eric. "Rules o the Game: Boardgames" in I /then: play, ed. Janet Abrams the Netherlands: Netherlands Design Institute, 1999. 114. POSSESSION 35


BIOGRAPHY Daniel Ypsilanti was born on April 6th, 1985 in Miami, Florida and grew up in Key Largo, Florida. A# er graduating rom Coral Shores High School in 2003 he attended the University o Florida and earned his BFA in Creative Photography. Daniel worked as a reelance designer in Gainesville, FL or several years be ore he decided to go back to school to earn his MFA in Graphic Design. Outside o! school and design he loves to play the drums and spend time with his two children, Rainer and Townes, and wi! e Samantha. POSSESSION 36

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