Weeks 3-6: Office Hours at ITP

Each of these meetings provided very helpful feedback during the initial stages of the project’s development. Here’s a summary of my takeaways.

Allison Parrish • Feb 22
Back in the old days of wandering in nowheresland, I visited Allison to follow up on comments she provided to an earlier iteration of my thesis statement (I’ll post a more current one soon). At the time I was envisioning a playground of chat rooms through which folks might experiment with unconventional translations of their texts. Her mention of conversation analysis opened up an avenue of inquiry that I was excited to explore.

She pointed me to an essay by sociologist Erving Goffman titled, “On Face-Work: An Analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction,” in the The Discourse Reader. This essay in the broadest sense, frames conversation as a ritual exchange that follows '“ground rules of social interaction.” Conversation requires a commitment by all parties to achieve mutual understanding, of which a crucial aspect is working to maintain your self-respect as a speaker (saving face) as well as that of your recipients:

"Much of the activity occurring during an encounter can be understood as an effort on everyone’s part to get through the occasion and all the unanticipated and unintentional events that cast participants in an undesirable light, without disrupting the relationships of the participants.” (p.309)

My game directly pushes against this project of maintaining a sense of order in the interaction. By assigning the agenda to sneak words into the conversation, all parties must engage with caution and suspicion without an outward display of such.

Subsequent research has lead me to the work of Goffman’s students, Harvey Sacks and Emanuel Schegloff, who are among some of those accredited with the emergence of the conversation analysis.

Jenny Lim • Feb 25
As soon as I realized that I wanted to reboot this project, I headed straight to Jenny, who also created the conversation game for her thesis in 2018—watch it here!

I met with her before my first playtests of the semester, and our discussion certainly informed my approach to those.

We addressed some useful questions that have been in the back of my mind ever since:

  • What is the goal of my game and who is the target audience? Is it an ice-breaker to get strangers talking or for friends to have fun?

  • Might I consider incorporating themes of words?

  • What would happen if I introduced increasingly difficult words as a game mechanic?

  • People like to know where they stand in a competition, so how can players check their progress?

    • In it’s current digital form at the time of our meeting, players receive random words on their mobile devices, yet the game initiates from a separate, central machine that displays a conversation topic and the winners’ words at the conclusion of the game.

    • If I keep the “big screen” then perhaps I might augment it to display participants’ scores.

    • However, in an analog version, players could visibly turn down their cards at the end of their speaking turn.

  • What other games might this share some similarities? Off the top of her head she mentioned: Jack Box Games, Taboo, Fun Employed, Snake Oil, and Eric Zimmerman’s The Meta Game.

She also gave me the low down on what to expect at the NYU Game Center’s Playtest Thursdays events. Thanks, Jenny!

Mimi Yin • Mar 8
Of course I had to visit Mimi! This game originated in her spring 2018 course, Collective Play. It’s also worth nothing that we visited after two playtest sessions but before the midterm thesis presentation.

Based on my experience at the Game Center’s Thursday night playtest event (about which I’ll detail in a later post), she suggested that I focus on the tone and setup of the game. For example, maybe players need some type of sentence starters or a script to get the conversation going. Maybe I consider some type of practice round for new players?

I love this question: what research exists that speaks to how our brains process the dual activities of listening and formulating responses. Might this inform how I’m thinking about the pacing of the game and the amount of time required for listening, comprehending, thinking, and responding?

She also recommended the Game Center’s Eric Zimmerman as a resource, and indeed he visited our final class of Collective Play as a guest critic, so I hope to follow up with him soon.