Match Game: Racist Tetris?

I posted a video of my latest Critical Gameplay game a few weeks ago. One of of my former students...

I posted a video of my latest Critical Gameplay game a few weeks ago. One of of my former students called it Racist Tetris. While I’m  not sure that’s exactly right, I can see the analogy.  The idea was to create a game that highlights the game design pattern of match-associate-simplify. I mostly wanted to frustrate the match simplification by creating in-game items that can’t be matched to anything, including themselves. I wanted to created something that reminded people that sometimes there is no category for someone or something, and that’s okay.  I think games and software drive players and users toward categorizing.  It’s nice to practice “uncategorizables” again.

This work in progress is the 8th game in the Critical Gameplay project. The game seeks to challenge the game design pattern of matching and categorizing. Players are tasked with matching objects, with people, then people with people, and finally people with a single representative object. Each time the player successfully matches, the pair is removed from the screen. Each time a player fails to match, the item is stacked. If the player stacks too many items, the game ends.

There are a few catches. There are 4 races that must be matched. Each race has several characters within it. There is another collection of characters that cannot be matched with anything else. They are not a part of the 4 races. These other characters have no pre-established stereotypes and contain a mix of characteristics from each of the other 4 races. There is nothing to be done with these characters. You can choose to push them to the side and allow them to stack, or you can put them in the middle and hope they don’t cause your game too much trouble.

Unlike elfs, orks, gangsters, good guys and bad guys, there are times when there is no match, and that’s okay.

The game was completed in 8 hours using a previous draft Critical Gameplay project on diversifying sets instead of matching. I really couldn’t get that game to come together in an interesting way, but I think this game offers a bit more fodder for discussion.

The concept is an execution of this common pattersn – symbol to represent people, people reduced to an iconic concept (brains, soul, money, work). Where are the problems, why do we keep doing it (simply because it’s easy?), and what happens to those people who don’t fit in that scheme?

Here’s a little about Critical Gameplay:
ow do games effect the way we problem solve, socialize, or even view the world? When we shoot do we learn to destroy obstacles instead of work around them? Does the binary world of enemies and adversaries teach us to ignore the gray in the everyday? Do games encourage us to ignore consequence and wait for second chances at the same problems? Are we forgetting how to play with each other, because playing against each other is more fun?

Critical Gameplay is a collection of “strategically designed” video games. Each game asks what common game mechanics teach us. The games in the collection are designed to help reevaluate our perspective on gameplay experiences. As Critical Cartography changes the way we perceive the world, Critical Gameplay seeks to offer alternate perspectives on the way we play.

Critical Gameplay does not attempt to answer these questions. Instead it seeks to open the dialogue with demonstrative experiments in gameplay. It attempts to fill the space of what if, with something tangible – a game. What if that avatar did have a history before you destroyed it? What if you couldn’t read the game world by stereotyping characters? Critical Gameplay is simply about raising questions that encourage critical reflection on gameplay experiences. A Critical Gameplay game is valued in intellectual profit.

The Latest Exhibitions:

Games from Critical Gameplay have been shown in North and South America as well as Europe. For more information please visit the schedule page for location and venue information.

On April 17th, 2009 the first Critical Gameplay exhibition hosted approximately 70 visitors in a public gameplay environment. Four Critical Gameplay games were displayed at 1100 West Cermak Gallery, Chicago, U.S.A. The space was designed to facilitate discussion about the games and the dilemmas they propose.

The games of Critical Gameplay will be displayed in academic and art venues throughout 2009, 2010 and 2011. As new Critical Gameplay games are created, older games will be distributed. Visitors to a Critical Gameplay exhibition or event will generally have the opportunity to take a copy of the games home.

The goal of Critical Gameplay games is “intellectual profit.”

More information at

About admin

Lindsay Grace is a teacher, software developer and designer. He has served industry as an independent consultant, web designer, software developer, entrepreneur, business analyst and writer. Lindsay has a joint position between Miami University’s Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies and the School of Fine Arts. His research areas include human-computer interaction, creative and critical gameplay, and web design. He writes regularly about interactive media design and education.