The methodology I was following through the spring was something I've called 'errant gaming'. It's a way of exploring the relationship between jokes and what I'm very crudely calling anomie. By anomie I just mean zones of indeterminacy, areas outside of social norms or formal rules. And by jokes, well, the rough formulation I'm working with is nonsense that makes sense, or mistakes that work. So something crazy which seems to have coherence, or taking it less linguistically, it could be when you kick a broken computer and it starts working.
The above diagram divides these interactions into two 'zones'. The first is jokes as agents of subversion, of detournement. But what I want to focus on is joking as a means of dealing with indeterminacy. If you think about it, once the rules break down, nothing you do is going to be right so you need some other strategy, and joking represents one of them.
Errant gaming tries to generate these zones of anomie in game contexts, in such a way they can be resolved by the players using different means. A errant game therefore needs two properties – it needs a hole, it needs indeterminacy, but it also needs a way of being shifted or changed to run, there have to be forces outside the game you can bring in.
So my first conception of an errant game the a card game I called 'Anomie', which I described some months a go. It's a card game whose dominant feature is that playing the joker that lets you do anything. So you could burn the cards, eat the deck, whatever. And in one game where I tested it, this card really became the point of the game – no one could follow what was happening, but everyone wanted a chance to do something silly.
My second experiment was quite different. It's called 'automata chess' - it's played like normal chess, but each time you take a piece you set it a rule – almost pseudo-computationally – which governs its movements. They're the pieces with the blue thimbles on them.
And here are the rules at this point.
The main thing to note with the game was the sheer level of mental exhaustion caused by having to constantly invent rules – and how this caused us to start cross referencing rules in order to retain sanity.
Now, at this particular moment of the game we had a bit of a weird situation – I'm in check, but automata 1 will block my check at the end of the move. So do I have to move out of check? We had no way of resolving this, and in the end had to resort to a randomised system – guessing what colour counter was in her hand.
Those two, and other minor tests, constitute what I call the basic model for Errant Gaming. And I then moved to working on the temporal model – which is an attempt to introduce this indeterminacy into game time. Why the shift to time? Well, I'll explain later...