Student Area

Misplay: Towerfall

Towerfall is an archery arena game in which the four players try to shoot each other in maps that may have special environmental obstacles or special arrows. You can die from being hit once by someone’s arrow, being stepped on, or from killing yourself from obstacles/special arrows.

How it should be played…


To misplay the game, my friends and I decided to play a version where the player with the most kills is the loser. The goal is now to either kill yourself quickly or force someone to kill you. In other words, last one standing loses the round. This required a whole new way of playing, because players now have to be very cautious about their arrows (no spamming), either run away from each other or try to force others to step on them, and in some cases, look for special opportunities in the map to die.






Six Years of Hard Work Down The Drain: A Funeral To Neopets

Neopets is a relic of early-2000s internet, a once-popular site whose heyday has since come and gone. The site is a shell of its formal self: beloved staff members are gone, weekly puzzles have been on hiatus for years. Advertisements pepper every aspect of the site in a last-ditch attempt to suck as much money as possible from its former glory.

I have had my current Neopets account for almost seven years, but have been playing much longer- a previous account I used for several years was frozen. I have participated in multiple site-wide events, I have meticulously customized each of my Neopets, I have submitted comics to the weekly newspaper. I also have spent hundreds of hours playing minigames, with which you can earn Neopoints, the game’s form of currency, amassing over 2 million Neopoints over the course of all these years. There are many reasons for hoarding so much money: saving for an expensive item, for example, or simply for the satisfaction of having it.

The economies of online communities operate in surprisingly complex ways and have actually been the subject of several academic studies. In the case of Neopets, money can be made by playing games, but the money isn’t being ‘taken’ from somewhere else. So money is constantly and easily being generated without being spent or destroyed; the amount of money circulating is almost always rising. Because of this, constant inflation is a problem Neopets (and many online economies) face. Neopets has implemented several features in an attempt to curb inflation, for example an extremely expensive wheel that almost never gives a return on investment (so proportionally it removes more value than it puts back into the economy). There are also options like donating money and literally throwing it down a well.

For my project, I have elected to throw away all of my accumulated wealth as quickly and senselessly as possible, removing myself from the Neopian economy and signifying a rejection of the game and its market. Arguably a project seven years in the making, I destroy a significant amount of invested time and effort (as well as emotional investment) in a matter of minutes- with no apparent gain in the process.

Rorschach Carcassone


The game Carcassonne is a tile based board game that players build one tile at a time to create the cities, roads, abbeys, and fields.  A tile is “worked” by placing a meeple on an area.  Roads, cities, abbeys, and fields are all scored differently with scaling included by the number of tiles.

I thought it would be a fun challenge to subvert the way a game is meant to be played, while technically achieving the ultimate goal (here to get the most victory points).  In this play-through, we did not score traditionally, but instead by what it looked like the outlines that the cities and roads made.  It made abbeys (usually a high point scorer) completely useless and made the game more like a party game.  To get points, one had to work a city or road and complete it. The way in which points were scored though differed.  One had to argue for your amount of points by convincing the other players that the city/road you created looked like a certain thing.  This essentially created a group rorschach test in which points were scored.  We had some relative scores to base off of (1 point for circles, 4 for hearts, 6 for dicks, 8 for animals).  It actually ended up being more fun than the original.

Ex. 1:  IMG_0030

Argued Circle: 1 Point.

Ex. 2: IMG_0031

Argued Heart: 4 Points

Ex. 3:


Argued Penguin Sitting Down: 8 Points

NPC in Club Penguin

Club Penguin is designed to be a social kids’ game where the main focus is interaction via chat, multiplayer games, and igloo hangouts. I decided to make a penguin and pretend to be a NPC instead, standing in the same place and repeating the same preset message, “Where are the magical snowflakes?” Some other players thought I was looking for a specific item or place for a quest and asked if I needed help, others got mad and started throwing snowballs at me.

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“I Just Want to Be Left Alone”

Sometimes, players have different ideas about what to do with their futures. Why go traipsing about on an adventure, when you can kill some nameless villager and live in his house?

Not many games allow for this kind of misplay, and even fewer are specifically designed for it.

The first time I played Undertale, I thought it would be a great idea to

    1. Kill Toriel
    2. Live in her house

I went back and played up to this part in Undertale, and killed Toriel. I then proceeded to go through the motions of ordinary life in the house.

undertale-depression from Ben Scott on Vimeo.

To record the video, I figured I’d just do a few “days” of getting up, going to the fridge, and pretending to live life in the house. In doing so, I noticed some really scary, awful things.

Most things about the house are the same, but having killed Toriel, lots of things take on a new context. Most of the messages are the same, which is almost more impressive.

There’s food, but you’ve lost your appetite.pie

There are toys, but you don’t feel like playing with them.

This message pretty explicitly notes Toriel’s absence.
The most chilling thing I found is that one message changes. Once you kill Toriel, this message changes to:range
I find this to be very innovative. Instead of doing something lazy, instead of having a magical elf appear and say “hey, think about playing the game properly”, Tobyfox instead takes pains to really elucidate the guilt and shame of killing someone who cares for you, and uses that to move the game forward.

Losing by Dumb Luck: Mario Party

The process of playing Mario party typically goes something like this. Everyone begins on even footing, a few players use their skill to win a bunch of minigames, tensions build as players struggle over the precious few remaining resources, and after the final turn, just when it seems like everything is set in stone, bonus stars come in and turn around all of the rankings.

To play Mario Party is to go in with the expectation that you control your own fate, only to be devastated by the RNG gods. In order to “misplay” Mario Party, I figured, why not skip all of the drama, and let the chaos of randomness do their magic.

To do this, I set up a bot which auto played Mario Party 7. In the true spirit of random numbers, the inputs that the bot uses are determined by the lottery results collected over the last 15 years. The lotteries used were Powerball (P1), MegaMillions (P2), EuroMillions(P3), and SuperEnalotto (P4). Because the bot only pressed functional buttons (A, B and the directions), accommodations were made so that mini-game instructions were never displayed.

The result of the bot controlling 4 players can be seen below.

The results of this are fairly entertaining on their own. We learned that remarkable skill is needed to play some of the minigames (in many instances the games timed out and ended in a tie), and that the developers though far enough ahead to ensure that players are never trapped in mini-game hell. In addition, without the instructions, many games were hardly recognizable, which perhaps speaks a bit about how forgettable some of these mini-games were.

That said, this on its own wasn’t quite satisfying. Since all the AI’s were equally bad at the game, there was no feeling that “luck” played a real role. I then ran another session of the game pitting the Powerball, MegaMillions, and EuroMillions AI against Mario Party’s Weak AI.

This provided a bit more excitement. For one, it was endearing watching the lottery AI’s struggle to compete with the weak Mario Party AI, and it was all the more satisfying each time they triumphed with the help of dumb luck. In addition during the partner games, it was equally endearing watching the Mario Party AI try to carry the lottery AI to a win. The excitement at the end was heightened even more, as even though the weak AI had a significant lead, the final bonus stars almost gave the Powerball AI the win.

Misplaying the game in this way revealed a bunch of things. For one, the investment in the game itself was the highest during the moments of actual pure chance, and that a skill gap between the players can in of itself provide a source of drama and entertainment.

Side Note: There was a take where the Lottery AI’s ended up winning (with some impressive clutch plays), but that footage was sadly lost :<

Related source code here:

Bumper Lucios (Overwatch)

So the focus of my Subversive Play project, was to utilize the custom game feature that Blizzard has implemented in Overwatch to try out something different than the normal way the game is played…the result is something similar to bumper cars.

To explain, Lucio, one of the characters in the Overwatch cast, has an ability to knock people away from him in a small cone directly in front of him. This, in combination with his low damage (he’s a support class), has led people to be opportunistic and look for easy kills by simply pushing people off the map.

So, I wanted to see how far I could push this character ability by changing customization options; modifying health values to 300%, reducing damage done to 25%, and lowering the knockback cooldown to 0% (meaning the only way to get kills was to knock people into the hole in the map).

This lead to a much longer game than normal, as people would spam their knockback as soon as you got close – it was almost like magnets repelling each other. Once in a while, you’d get lucky with a double or triple, but it was incredibly hard to clear the point to capture it; it took 12 minutes to finally satisfy the victory condition, and while it was initially a novel idea and pretty fun, at around 5 minutes in I started to get tired of playing. I feel like playing the game in this context kind of gave me an appreciation for the work that was put in by the developers to balance the game and keep gameplay succinct and fun.

synchronized sneaking

The focus of my project was to take a look at discrepancies between in-game action (especially in third-person action games) and player action. Many action-oriented games star a protagonist whose sole purpose is to move around really quickly and gracefully (usually while enacting some sort of violence on something). In light of lots of experiments in having players move around in real life to command movement within a game, as a way of “misplaying” these types of action games, I was interested in seeing how the pace of the game was changed by the player being forced to perform those same actions in real life. How exactly would players being forced to run, jump, and generally move around along with their avatars affect game strategy and play?

In order to explore this, I played Metal Gear Solid V while on a treadmill, while my wonderful and frankly really accommodating girlfriend adjusted its speed to match my in-game actions. The result was actually a really interesting deviation from traditional gameplay; even though I’m pretty familiar with the game, I had a lot of difficulty keeping up my normal pace of play under these conditions. Especially interesting was the fact that taking breaks in real life actually factored into my gameplay; MGSV is a stealth game, and hanging out behind a barrel or a wall a little longer than normal in order to catch my breath or get my bearings was definitely a real occurrence. The game definitely played differently in this context, and actually makes interesting the discussion about the viability of these sorts of high-intensity games in VR.

(The whole process also highlighted how goofy normal people look when trying to mirror video games; the last two minutes or so of the video attest as much.)


Omar Cheikh-Ali


Not sure if this profile is entirely accurate of my gaming preferences.


Portfolio: (work in progress)

Myst Online Skydiver’s Guild


Myst URU: Online was a weird MMORPG made by Cyan Worlds, which allowed users to socialize, interact, and solve puzzles together.
It really wasn’t a success, as the target demographic is limited to myst cult members like me, i.e., effectively nobody.

One very interesting group was the “Skydiver’s Guild”. There were other guilds for other interests, but the unique thing about the Skydiver’s Guild was that they did things like this:


They would find places in the worlds where you could jump out of the boundaries, and then invite Guild members and others to jump off all at the same time, sometimes forming patterns. I had the chance to “attend” one such event (in, like, 2008) but I can’t find the screenshot.

Tom Garncarz

hey, I’m tom!
14068087_10208790230427458_1342812093793647453_n (1)(this is legitimately the best i’ve ever looked in a picture; sorry it’s not just me!)

here’s some of my work:

here’s my “”””gamer profile””””:


(favorite games: metal gear solid 2, deus ex, wipeout3, castlevania: sotn)