Tootsie Pops – for Science!

Okay, so given some of the responses I’ve gotten in other forums, I’m going to put this out there as a possible example of crowd-sourcing.

My students need YOU to lick tootsie pops for science!

Research Question: How many licks DOES it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?

Methodology:

  • Each tester takes one tootsie pop of a randomized flavor.
  • Tester records the flavor of the pop.
  • Tester begins licking, recording each lick. (“Lick” is defined as a swipe of the tongue, bottom-to-top, applied to the smooth side of the pop.)
  • Tester continues licking and counting on a single side until the tootsie is exposed (determined by either flavor or texture change).
  • The tester may not eat or drink while licking (must wait five minutes after drinking or eating before commencing the test). The tester should not pause in the process. The tester should not put the pop entirely in the mouth.
  • Please report flavor and number of licks by commenting on this post – if you are so inclined, you may include gender and approximate age (10 or under, 10-15, 15-20, 20-30, 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, 60+).

Dead Cats, Dead People

Today’s post is about two things. The first is Peter Molyneaux’s Curiosity, the second – entirely unrelated it would seem – is Tombstone Hold’Em. Both are cooperative. One is played on a cell phone. The other is played in a graveyard. Both do something interesting with gaming – namely, asking people to work together on something that is not at all an obvious game.

Curiosity (besides proverbially killing the neighborhood feline) is a game about tapping squares. Each square one taps disappears (shatters) and can earn you virtual gold. Each removal of a square reveals the next layer of a cube. The collective – for everyone playing the game is playing together in a giant collective – has thus far removed a green layer with bubbles and is in the process of removing a maroonish-orange layer to reveal some sort of picture (I’m voting for either cherries or tomatoes) underneath. Now what’s interesting about Curiosity is that despite the collective working together, only one person can win. What they win is an interesting question, but Molyneaux has said that this is both a game and a social experiment, so for me the best part is going to be finding out what he was trying to determine at the end of it all.

Tombstone Hold’Em, on the other hand, is a team game, but one that’s played among a collective that is cross-generational. In short, you need dead people to play along with you. This game has been on my mind recently because the Unorthodox Arts Foundation is hosing a game in Boston at Copps’ Hill Burying Ground (so if you happen to live or be in the area on November 17th, head up there… it’s free!). I find it fascinating that it takes not only the facilitators and players, but the dead to successfully play the game. Dead people become your literal ace in the hole.

So why do I think it’s worth posting about these two games together? It’s the collective element. People are playing without actively cooperating (Curiosity) and even without being alive (Tombstone), but they are nevertheless a part of the game’s collective. That, I think, is what strikes me about both games: they’re encouraging cooperative, collective play, but they do so in a way that creates an unwitting community simply by being played.

Tag, You’re It!

The last five years or so have seen an increase in crowd-sourcing (from places like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo) and crowd-source gaming (like Improv Anywhere or city-wide scavenger hunts, like those sponsored by SVNGR). Today I received a tweet from KindnessGirl in Richmond for Tag, You’re It!

It’s a different kind of tag, and it’s a part of crowd-source gaming that seeks not only to involve a community, but to involve a community in something good – in this case, in committing acts of kindness. The game works like this: you find a “kindness tag,” and you are IT. You then have to perform an act of kindness and then leave the tag to “tag” someone else. It then passes on.

Tag, You’re It! is a game that’s participating in what Jane McGonigal calls “happiness engineering” – a way to make ourselves and our society happier. Performing acts of kindness and receiving them make us feel happier – therefore, Tag, You’re It! is helping us to “engineer” a little more happiness into our community… both short term and, hopefully, long term.

This kind of game is a form of guerrilla leadership (I’m not sure if that’s actually a leadership term, but I’m going to use it as one) in which leadership is being enacted (in this case, by the mechanics of the game) on individuals mostly without their awareness. They’re playing a game, but in the process of interacting with its mechanics – performing an act of kindness, in this case – they’re transmitting a transformative ideology (of kindness).

The aim of these games is dual: first, to cause people to “engineer happiness,” and, second, to cause people to transform their lives long-term to be a little (or a lot) kinder to the people around them. The ultimate aim of a game like Tag, You’re It! is to make people want to continue the mechanic (a random act of kindness) even outside of the scope of gameplay. By making it a part of a game, that mechanic (the act of kindness) becomes autotelic – fun for its own sake. And once the mechanic becomes fun, then it no longer needs the framework of the game (or such is the hope) in order to remain a positive influence on the life of the player.