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Candy Crusher – Boston FIG 2015

Of all the sessions of the game we’ve held, this one was the smoothest and most manageable. The presence of more hands to help out was as always a major plus. The demographic presence, fond of board games and therefore highly conducive and eager to take the time to pick up the rules, also worked to our favor. A system of execution that had organically emerged from our experiences with numerous past iterations, more than anything, helped set up a rhythm, a flow, that helped the long 10-5 session seem far more manageable than the past shorter sessions we’d dealt with.

To our surprise the children present themselves were also highly eager and willing to sit down and learn the rules. Some as young as four would pick up the rules and easily best a parent, one that wasn’t intentionally playing dumb. Some would grow intensely absorbed, playing for long sessions in an attempt to strategically best their opponent. All in all the crowd, in its eagerness for games of some depth, was a good fit for our primarily strategy-centric game.

Learning from the Come Out and Play fiasco, we utilized just the chocolate dragees, which work great. I believe too, that the presentation of just the dragees help to minimize focus on the candy and smashing! The dragees also resemble Go tokens, which I believe also helps to emphasize the more strategic side of the game.

There were a few rules that we found we need to make explicit, such as the fact that no diagonal rows count, and that a swap cannot be immediately undone by a player on the next turn. Apart from that this particular iteration went very smoothly.

It was a privilege and great luck to have been included as a last-minute alternate. This particular session was highly enjoyable and I find myself more conducive to the idea of future presentations of this game. To our surprise quite a few people knew of the game. I find myself wondering how many more will already know of the game in the next iteration we present.

Suite for Overhead Projectors – Come Out and Play, Night Games 2015

This was, I believe, our second iteration of the playful light guided scores. We had the addition of two wonderful people to help out (the same two that also helped out with the Candy Crusher session we held the day after), and some know-how from our first iteration.

Learning from our first iteration, we did away completely with one of our scores, an Ice Cube based score where melting cubes floating atop the projector top would in theory generate a swirling abstraction of colors. Sadly… the amount of dye needed to let even a bit of color shine through is too great, and the mess too much of a hassle to make its inclusion worthwhile.

We did not bring the portable projector screen that we had at our first iteration, which we ended up finding regretful. The reliable smooth surface afforded by the portable ensured that the instruction outputted by Tiny Projector were always readable. Sadly the stone surface of the legs of the Manhattan Bridge proved too rough. It took away not only from the quality of the images streaming forth from Main Projector, but rendered Tiny Projector’s instructions difficult to read. From henceforth, Portable Projector Screen shall have its part in the main ensemble next to our two starring projectors.

Another absence I felt rather quickly was the lack of the loud, thumping music I’d detested at our first showing. That ‘caustic, delinquent dub step’ I’d abhorred had played a very important part in getting players into a more improvisational, playful mood. During that first showing, many people would suddenly start playing with parts and pieces from different scores, merging them together to create a fascinating, hypnotic mash of light and colors led dazedly by the beats of the music. I believe for the next iteration a series of music ‘scores’ need also to accompany the instructional scores that grace the visual screen.

Apart from these two grievances, the event went fairly well. The effect that a different crowd and an alternate ensemble of materials had on player preference was interesting. There was more favor for structure, the kind afforded by the first score. It was by far the most popular, followed by the shadow puppet. In the first showing, this first score had been the least popular, as people preferred free styling with the materials at hand. Perhaps the availability of liquor also had a hand. Tipsy people are more likely to get engrossed in the interplay of abstract shapes and colors on a wall.

Overall the flow went well. It was a bit loud and the grainy instructions rendered explanation a must, so we found ourselves yelling out instructions to groups at a time. Following the event, we went on a search for a megaphone. If we plan on including trace-inducing music in our repertoire from now on, the acquirement of a megaphone or mic may be a must.

I am also a bit curious about how the game would be received and played with by different crowds now. How would a drama theatre play with the materials and the instructions? How would a crowd of primarily children play with the pieces?

I also feel that perhaps the inclusion of some kind of timer may not be a bad idea. Many people would come in and see one score playing out, and believe that one score comprises the entire game. With the use of timed music that signifies a switch to another score, those in the vicinity would understand that the game comprises of multiple pieces by just hearing the musical switches alone.

I also feel that as I am now familiar with the laser cutter it is imperative I finally design a shadow puppet more conducive to input from multiple angles. I think the shadow puppet could be expanded to have more props and the like.

Candy Crusher – Come Out and Play 2015

For this particular iteration of Candy Crusher we incorporated a Victorian era theme, complete with costumes and era-appropriate sweets to mash on.

Rather than buy candy in advance, as we had usually done, we instead opted to visit a nearby store during our stay in New York. The summer heat, our rationale insisted, made the transportation of candy preemptively procured a risky and possibly worthless endeavor, as its warm and grubby hands could melt and ruin our goods during transport. Little did we know that this seemingly innocuous foe had far more woes in store for us, more than the simple transport mishap we’d cleverly foreseen.

But before recollecting the strike of woes from the summer heat, are a number of serendipitous finds and ideas. In a last-minute costume rush, we found that era-appropriate attire for our new assistant was difficult to find. I had the idea to stop by Party City, a place that after my advent out of cheesy themed birthday parties had slipped completely out of my life.

Upon visiting I saw lining one particular aisle a series of pinatas… and the stuffing its vital innards are made of. The heat also seemed to have placed pressure on the store as well. It held a 15 for $1 deal for a series of those old, cheap candies most people pass over for the more chemically altered, hyper-sweetened new, popular stuff.

Those cheap candies, however, were perfect for our era-conscious iteration. For all the old stuff, like strawberry candies, peppermints, butterscotch disks, all had their debut during the Victorian era. It was in the Victorian era that the very concept of candy could take off. And so, in its desperate heat-driven drive to sell these less-popular old-timer candies off quickly, we found a gold mine from which we could swiftly procure vast amounts of era-appropriate fare. In addition to all the wonderful sugar-glass-based candies we then, at the last minute, grabbed a number of m&m style dragees, a move that would save us later during our fight with the heat.

For this particular iteration it was also imperative that we do away with all that new-fangled plastic stuff, so the cheap floor tiles we’d used in our last two iterations were finally ditched for a new, fancy, stained wood board. It was pleasantly not as difficult as I’d imagined it would be. I learned during an attempt to make a checkered board that the cutting and pasting together of separate parts of different wood types was the only way to accomplish that particular effect. Nevertheless, the gold-pen lined dark-stained wood boards was not only a major aesthetic boost, but far easier to clean up. They also last far better, and we will definitely be using them in other iterations.

During the event itself, we originally were placed out in the sun. Though the first few initial runs went relatively fine, we then slowly found a number of candies did not respond well to smashing. As the heat continued to hang about our awesome wooden picnic basket, the candies not only had its internal structure affected, but began to visibly melt, gluing itself to one another and the cups they sat in. The chocolate dragees withered in the heat, giving way to a goopy interior with a single touch. All our wonderful sugar candies were like glass, stubbornly adhering to the board, and to the hammers, and refusing to shatter. The brittleness that we depended upon was gone, dissipated and morphed into a lethargic melt.

We finally had our station moved over under a tree, into the shade, and the effect of the addition of a bit of shade was enormous. The heat-driven frenzy and irate energy that was present before was gone, replaced with a calmer energy more conducive to our strategy-driven game. People were glad to have a moment to finally relax and sit in the shade.

The surviving chocolate dragees pulled themselves together in the shade, and in the end, they were the staples we could depend upon for the game. It was lucky that we had thought to pull a variety of different colored bags at the last minute. The second half of the run was much more pleasant, calmer, more together. The effect just a few degrees could have are impressive. Many who had played once would come again a second, even a third time to play again. We had to turn away people once the event had closed.

Temperature has definitely become one of many variables we will consider from hereon out for future iterations. We have now found a very reliable means of attaining candy in bulk at a very nice price point. We had fun presenting the game in costume, and had a lot of good memories. And we have very nice boards we plan to use in future iterations. Speaking of temperature and future iterations, incorporating dry ice or liquid nitrogen sounds like a fascinating way to ensure optimal candy brittleness for smashing!

Even the infamous Gummy Bear can’t resist the brittle-izing effects of bitter cold!


Paidia Studios was formed in 2014 by Dr. Celia Pearce and MFA student Jeanie Choi at Northeastern University to develop multiplayer artgames and cultural experiences that engage people through play and creativity. We view our games as “social sculptures” that create fun, meaningful and sublime experiences between people.

Paidia studios came out of our work with Emergent Game Group {egg} at Georgia Tech, which explored emergent behavior, including creativity, in virtual worlds, online multiplayer and pervasive games. We continue to develop multiplayer games in a variety of different genres, now expanding to physical and board games.

Our work is inspired by 20th Century Art movements that embraced play as part of their oeuvre, including Dada, Fluxus, Happenings and Performance Art. Drawing from these traditions, we use tactics such as scores (a set of rules or parameters), appropriation (reframing and reconceptualizing found objects and assets), and intervention (inserting art into real-life contexts).

Paidia is a Latin word, introduced to play studies by Roger Caillois, meaning open-ended play, in contrast to the competitive, “ludus” or goal-oriented style of play often seen in sports and video games. Paidia is also a genus of moth, which provides the inspiration for our logo.

Celia Pearce is an award-winning game designer, curator, professor and author of papers and books including Communities of Play (MIT Press 2009), and is also co-founder of IndieCade and Ludica. She currently holds a position as Associate Director of Game Design at Northeastern University. She previously directed the Emergent Game Group {egg} at Georgia Tech.

Jeanie Choi is a graduate of the Georgia Tech Computational Media Program and a current MFA masters student in Interdisciplinary Arts at Northeastern University. She has experience in development of mobile games and apps from Primal Screens, based in Atlanta.