Home » 2013 (Page 3)

Workshops: play and process

Reminder: next League play day is this Sunday, 22 April, noon to 3pm at Elm Park. We’re going to slow things down in recognition of Slow Art Day.

League is available to facilitate workshops on topics such as play and creative processes, strategy, collaboration, and team-building.

Here are some images from recent workshops exploring games and process, with the teen scholarship program from Arts Umbrella.

After an introduction to the notion of creative problem-solving as a kind of play and to the game-like structure of much artwork, the students embarked on game-design exercises involving existing games or conventional materials. The objective was to find some productive ground between convention and invention.

The groups displayed quite different problem-solving patterns:

  1. The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink brainstorming approach, in which a proliferation of ideas was unleashed before being reined in towards something coherent
  2. A methodical step-by-step form of process that stays more or less on track, but might produce fewer unexpected surprises
  3. A wild zig-zag following an ever-changing idea.

Of course there are other forms and patterns, and habits can be trained and changed. What are your own team’s habits?

Upcoming play – 21 and 28 April 2013

Spring has arrived, and that calls for two play dates this month:

  • Sunday 21 April, 3-5 pm — with special guests from Arts Umbrella Teen Scholarship Program
  • Sunday 28 April, noon-3pm — regularly-scheduled League gathering


21 April

League recently visited the Arts Umbrella teen program to talk about artworks as games and about play and the art-making process. The students will be bringing some game ideas to workshop. Contact Chess, anyone?

28 April – Ready…Set…Slow

Our next regularly-schedule play date falls the day after Slow Art Day, an annual event promoting unhurried looking. We’ll make up our own version of slowness, bring the body into play. How slow can we go?

Special guests this day will be artists from one of the other Park Board field house residencies, the Field House Ensemble based in Strathcona Park. Their project is all about slow culture.

We can also prepare the field house yard for the League Bean Race, a contest cultivating patience and care. Three teams will be building structures and nurturing beans to grow to unknown heights.

Upcoming at League

League has a busy few months ahead. We’re currently planning The n Games for Sunday 8 September 2013. The n Games is an innovative tournament for teams from diverse backgrounds, playing sports they do not know. It asks: what kind of team would be best prepared for unexpected challenges? A youth football team or wily senior hockey players? A finely-tuned business team or a pick-up team of elite runners? Backpackers or dancers? A theatre troupe or a group of yoga teachers? There are still a few spots available in the tournament, so please contact us if you’d like to secure one.

Upcoming play 31 March

Next League play date is Sunday March 31, noon to 3pm at Elm Park in Kerrisdale.

This gathering will turn around hiding and finding, one of the most basic game mechanisms. As League regular and electronic game designer Ian Verchere says, “The #1 rule of games is this:  good things are always found inside other things.”

Secret room in Super Nintendo Zelda game. Click to read “Gaming’s Top 10 Easter Eggs” on IGN.com.

Illustration for “The Purloined Letter,” a short detective story by Edgar Allan Poe, that turns around a stolen letter. Image source: wikimedia.


Hiding relies on the unforeseen. Placing ‘easter eggs’ (secret messages or inside jokes) in games and computer programs has a long and cultish history. Found objects — objects turned to unexpected uses — have made their way into many a work of art. Scavenger hunts turn lived space into a source of bounty. Through Geocaching.com there are some two million treasure boxes hidden around the world, many in plain sight. In this vein, the participants in the collaborative game SF0 have set out all kinds of practical tasks for unexpected actions in city space, many of which involve finding or placing objects.

About League

League is an open gathering for inventing and playing games and sports invented by members of the community, as a practice of creative thinking. Each game, its equipment, its playing field, and its strategies evolve through trial and improvisation. Everyone is welcome to drop in for problem-solving as play.


Played: 24 February 2013


On this day, we set out to explore the idea of walking as a tactic for turning urban space to other uses. “Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go” (Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: a History of Walking).


A couple League regulars brought materials related to their art practices. Jay White, who has undertaken a number of process-based projects involving walking (one of which we wrote about here), brought surveyor’s tape and an idea about flagging alternate trails through the city. Those who spend time in the bush or hiking know flagging tape as a material that, flimsy as it is, can have consequences for survival. It’s used to mark human routes or lines that may or may not correspond to natural cues.

The group divided into two, with the idea that the smaller groups would head in separate directions, flagging a trail for the other to follow, making it as challenging as they’d like and not necessarily corresponding to existing or established routes. Both groups ended up taking ‘roads less traveled,’ through alleyways, and both created a sort of narrative along their route. One group wrote a story in widely-spaced snippets of tape, to be discovered and read through the time and space of following the flags. The other group flagged a variety of trees and plants. In both cases, what was interesting about the experience was how it brought a different kind of attention to one’s surroundings and how, through the different pace and ‘lens’, we began to notice details in the environment that we might otherwise have passed right by.



Leah Weinstein also brought materials from a current project, in this case welcome mats related to her project Welcome Shoes. With the thought of the welcome mats as the only ‘safe’ areas one could stand on, we tried a game in which a team, with a set of only a few mats, tried to get from one place to another by moving their mats with them. Since this was a group that enjoyed competition as much as cooperation, it quickly turned into a race.


WalkshoppingWe continued to play around with the mats, replicating a caterpillar tread, moving section by section.


Lastly, Ian handed the group a GPS showing geographical coordinates, which they used to navigate and find a geocache he had hidden. This geocache will eventually be recorded on the worldwide Geocaching site. Geocaching is a real-world game that involves hiding containers or objects and using GPS or smart phones to find others.

For more hunting and seeking, save the date for the next League gathering: Sunday 31 March, noon to 3pm.

Upcoming play 24 February: walkshopping

Francis Alÿs, “The Green Line,” 2005 performance with paint can along border in Jerusalem.

Walking. We might take it for granted, but it is one of the ways in which individuals know, shape, and give meaning to places. Walking is an everyday tactic that bends the city toward unplanned ends (Michel de Certeau). It’s done for political reasons, for pleasure, for meditation. “Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked.[...] Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go,” wrote Rebecca Solnit in Wanderlust: A History of Walking.

The next League play date turns on walking. How does the environment around us affect how we understand our possibilities for action, and could our movements through the city shift those habits and conventions?

We’ll workshop some ideas from League regulars Jay White and Leah Weinstein, and of course adapt as we go. Bonus points if you arrive on foot.

Where: Elm Park, 41 Ave at Larch
When: Sunday 24 February, noon to 4pm

Gwen MacGregor, “GPS Series – 3 months New York / Toronto” video of GPS tracks tracing the artist’s movements


Workshop: “Little League”

League regular Bruce Emmett brought some of his International Baccalaureate art students to the field house to workshop some games. In their class they have been developing games as an exploration of creative procedure, dubbing the exercise “Little League”.

We play-tested one of the two game ides they brought, and began to develop another from scratch.

Stuffie Wars

This was a game they had already discussed quite a bit, but had not yet tried playing. Kathleen, who had the initial concept, explained the guidelines they had developed as a group:

  • The game is like dodgeball, but using stuffed animal toys instead of balls.
  • If you are hit by a stuffie, you can no longer throw, and instead have to begin to act like the animal that hit you. You are required to put effort into playing your animal.
  • Each team has a Psychologist, who is able to ‘heal’ her players. However, if the Psychologist is hit, she also becomes an animal and the team no longer has a healer.
  • Besides hitting members of the other team to turn them into animals, a team can also win Invention Points through particularly good acting. In this way, a team that had apparently won by hitting the other team, could actually lose the match if the other team had performed very well on the acting front.
  • In case of a tie there would be a sudden-death faceoff.

Development and adjustments

  • The field was mucky so we used the tennis court, and then further reduced the size of the playing area.
  • Neither team made good use of their Psychologist, so that role was essentially dropped after a couple trials. However, we needed some way for the hit players (animals) to be able to re-enter play or be useful in some way, so we made it so that they could retrieve stuffies that had landed out of play, and if they intercepted a stuffie that had been thrown, the person who threw it instead became the animal.
  • We added the traditional dodgeball rule that if you caught a stuffie that was being thrown at you, the other person was out (became an animal).
  • With the particular group that was playing, there was a tendency to get caught up in the competitive aspects of throwing the toys, but we were reminded that the acting aspect could be equally important. After that, we made sure the referees were keeping track of the acting, and at the end of the game, when one team had all been turned into animals, they decided which ‘animals’ had won their freedom through good performance. Scoring then became a matter of counting who was still alive or revived and who remained animal.

Character of the game

  • This game included a couple really interesting premises. One was the idea of including a healer figure. This is a common feature of role-playing games, of course, but less so for active ones.
  • Another innovative idea was to give significant weight to the acting element, to the extent that it could outweigh the athletic performance. It was a good way of tempering the cutthroat aspects of competition while suggesting other solutions to a situation.
  • There was an elegant play of references within the game, drawing on the languages of hunting/targeting animals, healing, and play-acting.

Stuffie Dilemma

Although we were pressed for time, we also wanted to try to develop a new game from scratch. Since we had the quantity of stuffed toys on hand, Germaine suggested some kind of game starting from the basic game theory scenario known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Game theory is concerned with strategy and decision-making, and The Prisoner’s Dilemma is used as an example of a situation in which two players choose to cooperate or betray the other. In its classic formulation, two criminal accomplices are separately offered a deal: turn on the other by confessing and go free while the other is punished to the maximum; stay silent and receive a small punishment; or if both confess, both be punished but less than the maximum.

There are many variations of the prisoner’s dilemma. We came up with one, not unlike the dilemma a child might actually face, in which she must decide whether to share her toys, with the possibility that too-reckless generosity might be ‘punished’ by having her toys stolen by the other. Instead of gauging punishment, the two sides were essentially betting a finite resource. We had two teams start with a quantity of toys, and based on the combinations played, toys were taken or given to the other side. It was far from resolved as a game, but served as an exercise in considering how cooperation and selfishness might be weighed and valued.

Played: 27 January 2013

For Family Literacy Day we thought to develop games related to signs and signals. We began by talking about specialized languages of symbols (signs or images that have meaning by convention) such as hobo signs. We started discussing possible procedures in which a set of signs could change meaning. However, wanting to privilege active prototyping over debate, we decided that we would use the field-marking equipment and each lay out a simple design on the field, for which we would then attempt to invent procedures.


One of the designs was a pattern of hexagons, a layout often used in board and strategy games which allows equal movement in six directions from any tile.

Megan and Ian considered this pattern and emerged with a couple of games that were not only strategic, but also worked agility, accuracy and balance, turning a patten associated with puzzles into a physical exercise.

One involved a player and a ball, with the player moving across the field, with the basic rules that he and the ball could not be in the same hex at the same time, and that both player and ball had to be airborne while switching hexes. Therefore, it required simultaneously tossing the ball and hopping between hexes — an exercise requiring both agility and planning. A variant had two people in the field at the same time.

Another required tossing the ball and catching it in a designated tile, with more reward for greater distance.



Another design was a random array of dots. We approached these as spots to be claimed, and thought of ways of gradually spreading across the field, with the possibility of the spots changing hands.

We landed upon using cones that could be tossed to land upon a dot to claim it. The cone would be placed up or down to indicate ownership. Each player tossed from the starting point or any spot she owned, onto an unclaimed spot to claim it, or onto her opponent’s to make it change hands. We added the possibility of rewarding higher-risk moves by allowing an extra toss for each spot one had to toss over, and having all the spots change hands over which one had successfully tossed. In this way, one could come from behind by making high risk moves.

Related to the board game Othello, this is a game that could easily scale up and into different settings using different materials.


Long gone jump

A final game we had time to demo was based on a design of concentric octagons. It used the octagons as a sort of target for a long jump game that required taking off from behind a mark and landing exactly in the narrow bands between lines.

All the adults with torn ACLs admitted to having attempted this one only half-heartedly.


The n Games

Where:  Elm Park, Vancouver-Kerrisdale
When:  Sunday 8 September 2013, 10am-5pm
Cost:  Free. Spectators are welcome to bring a lawn chair or blanket


Solve for n

The n Games is an innovative tournament for teams from different backgrounds. It asks: what kind of team would be best prepared for unexpected challenges? A youth sports team or a finely-tuned business? A pick-up team of artists, or a leading ad agency? A performance troupe, a group of gamers, or players of obscure sports?

On 8 September 2013, different sports, cultural, and business teams from across Vancouver will compete against each other in The n Games, testing their teamwork, strategic skills and adaptability by playing invented sports they do not know. The games to be played will range from vigorous to cerebral, straightforward to strategic, and will ultimately test the teams’ ability to creatively solve different types of physical and mental challenges as a group. For some games, there may be opportunities for the teams to recruit from the public.

The tournament will take the format of two round-robin pools, followed by a playoff. The teams will not know in advance what games they will be playing; for each match, the game to be played will be drawn and rules explained a matter of minutes before the start. The tournament unfolds in Elm Park and is organized by League, a project for playing invented games and sports, launched in 2012 within the Vancouver Park Board Field House Residency Program. The n Games and League value play as a form of creative problem-solving, unconventional approaches to challenges, and tackling situations with both mind and body. Examples of the types of invented sports that could be played at The n Games are documented on the League site.

Competing for The n Games Cup, playfully devised by celebrated contemporary artist Brendan Lee Satish Tang, the participating teams represent a wide range of businesses and sports in the city of Vancouver. The award-winning advertising agency Rethink bring their nimble creativity to the field, while veteran game producers Roadhouse Interactive boast a deep knowledge of game strategy. Double Rainbow Dodgeball League, a community-based dodgeball league for all genders, hope to outshine the competition with their bright combination of agility and rainbow spandex, while Manhunt! Vancouver bring crafty tactics honed through their urban sports events. The friends behind the Daughters of Beer craft-beer blog have assembled a team of fellow cultural administrators and curators to bring their self-described “over-thinking skills” to the tournament. Finally, with their focus on creating theatre from the everyday life around us, Theatre Replacement, bring well-practiced performance skills.

View the schedule


Daughters of Beer & Co.

We are creators, competitors, curators, coordinators, commissioners, consultants, cultural planners, and cat owners – who share a common connection as capacious consumers of craft beer.

Special skills: strategic and easily distracted; over-thinkers skilled at guesswork; exhaust easily by our ambition; physical and fond of naps; overly organized for the unanticipated; competitive in non-confrontational incidents.


Double Rainbow Dodgeball

Double Rainbow Dodgeball is a 19+, non profit, inclusive community dodgeball league that encourages fun, positivity, safety, fitness, inclusion, and fair play in a drug & alcohol free space. This league is for all genders and is both queer and trans positive.



Manhunt! Vancouver

Manhunt! Vancouver is an organization dedicated to urban sport and games, reclaiming public space, and building an inclusive and safe casual sporting community.

At Manhunt! we play a variety of games from capture the flag, ninja chess, camouflage, sardines, dodge ball and of course, manhunt – catch us if you can.



Rethink “has helped elevate Vancouver’s advertising scene onto the worldwide stage” (BC Business) with its work for local clients such as Playland and Science World, winning Golden Lion, Juno, and scores of other awards along the way.

Rethink uses a ping-pong table as a boardroom table, an analogy for their approach to communication.


Roadhouse Interactive

We make games for ourselves and others. Roadhouse Interactive is an end-to-end producer, developer and operator of games for mobile and tablet. Our team has delivered or played key roles on some of the most well-known and successful game franchises of all time.



Theatre Replacement

Theatre Replacement builds performances that react to contemporary existence.

When making this work, we recognize the accomplishments and failures of the world around us; use biographical material to magnify these events through extended collaborative processes and training programs; and reproduce the results for local, national and international audiences.

Theatre Replacement  is an ongoing collaboration between James Long and Maiko Bae Yamamoto. Whether working together or apart, we use extended processes to create performances from intentionally simple beginnings. Our work is about a genuine attempt to coexist. Conversations, interviews and arguments collide with Yamamoto and Long’s aesthetics resulting in theatrical experiences that are authentic, immediate and hopeful. For The n Games, we have assembled a team of TR staff, board members, friends, and collaborators.


Press, Sponsors

Vancouver Courier preview



The n Games Toronto

League will also be presenting a version of The n Games as part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche in Toronto, overnight on 5-6 October 2013.


Press: Vancouver Is Awesome

Vancouver Is Awesome
Locally based artist Germaine Koh introduces League to promote collaboration and problem solving through play
POSTED January 24, 2013 BY Court Overgaauw

“Remember being a kid and turning the games you loved on their head by introducing or removing rules, or adding new obstacles and challenges? I remember personally doing things like putting two chess boards together to form some sort of mega-chess, or changing Monopoly by putting every property up for auction. Change was a way to introduce new life into an old game, or simply to see what would happen and what could be created if you altered the parameters. In that spirit, Vancouver based artist Germaine Koh is inviting anyone that would like to join her to come out and re-imagine play with League…”

[Read the full posting in Vancouver Is Awesome]