Nondigital Games


  • Students will review strategies and purposes for critiquing artwork, and critique several nondigital games as works of art.
  • Students will be introduced to a variety of nondigital games by diverse historical and contemporary artists, and discuss how the artists used mechanics and game design to allow audiences to move meaningfully through created spaces.
  • Students will look at games by artists who reinvent, or navigate real-world spaces, and draw connections between their practice and traditional practices of game designers.
  • Students will look at games by artists who reinvent, or navigate everyday life as games, and draw connections between their practice and traditional practices of game designers.
  • Students will create nondigital games which allows the player to navigate space or everyday life in an interesting way.

Teacher Materials

Currentlab – Game Curriculum by Ryan Patton with additional contributions by Luke Meeken & Meredith Cosier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at

Exemplar Games and Art Pieces Used in This Unit

Because the games being explored in this unit utilize specific spaces or materials made by the artists, playable versions of many them are not available. Instead, links are provided to videos which demonstrate to students the unique features of each game.

Fluxus Ping Pong – George Maciunas (1964)

Maciunas was interested in creating experiences that critically approach the social mechanisms in life. In Fluxus Ping Pong, Maciunas modified the playing equipment resulting in a game that is much harder than it ought to be.

The Exquisite Corpse – various Surrealists (1925-1930)

Based on an old parlor game, the Exquisite Corpse is a collage group writing or drawing method. Starting a phrase or drawing, a player folds over the paper to conceal most of what was created, and then passes the paper to the next person who continues writing or drawing from the exposed word or image.

Melodrama and Other Games – Pedro Reyes (2012)

This collection of games includes posters that serve as game instructions. The aim of these posters are to remind people of games that have been passed down through children over the centuries. Posters are given away when people play a game from the collection. These activities are designed to reconnect people with the street and the courtyard as places for human engagement.

Fluxchess Sets – Takako Saito (1965-1975)

Saito’s disruptive chess sets use the normal rules of chess, but replaces the traditional pieces with objects that make players rely on senses other than sight to play (smell, taste, touch, weight, etc.).

Stadium – Maurizio Cattelan (1991)

Stadium is a foosball table accommodating 11 players on each side. The original work and documentation suggested serious geopolitical messages. Now Stadium is used to show communal play with several foosballs on the table to be played at once.

Big Urban Game (B.U.G.) – Katie Salen,  Nick Fortugno & Frank Lantz (2003)

The Big Urban Game (B.U.G.) is a race between three teams, each attempting to move a 25-foot high inflatable game piece through a series of Twin Cities’ checkpoints in the shortest amount of time. The goal was to encourage the residents of Minneapolis and St. Paul to see their surroundings in a new way, and think about the design of urban space.

Pac-Manhattan – NYU Interactive Telecommunications (2004)

Pac-Manhattan is an urban game designed to use the streets of New York City to recreate the video game Pac-Man, putting it into the “real world”. Pac-Man has to get all of the dots along the streets while ghosts chase the 1980’s icon.

You Are Not Here by Thomas Duc, Kati London, Dan Phiffer, Andrew Schneider, Ran Tao & Mushon Zer-Aviv (2006)

You Art Not Here is an “urban tourism” game providing people in New York a meta-tour of the city of Baghdad. You Are Not Here links New York to Baghdad though maps, street-signs, and audio-guided tourist hotline to create a psychological attachment to the Middle East city.

Letterboxing (1854)

Letterboxing is a game of searching for weatherproof boxes in publicly accessible places (like parks). Clues to find the box, are usually found on websites, or by word of mouth. Letterboxes contain a notebook and a rubber stamp (preferably custom made). People who find a letterbox put a stamp in their personal notebook with the letterbox’s stamp and leave a stamp on the “visitors’ book” or “logbook” — as proof of having found the box and letting other letterboxers know who has visited. There are many variations of this game.

Games We Play – Ian Bennett (2012)

What things did Bennett describe as games in this video? Have you ever played or made games similar to Bennett’s? Has a friend ever made a game of an everyday situation you never thought about?

Why is playing with the everyday enjoyable? Are there situations better suited for play than others?

Slow Bicycle Race – George Maciunas (1961)

Drawing from Dada, Marcel Duchamp, Surrealism, and John Cage, Fluxus games like Slow Bicycle Race undermined the seriousness of art to celebrate everyday experiences.

Cruel 2 B Kind – Jane McGonigal & Ian Bogost (2006)

Cruel 2 B Kind website

The game Cruel 2 B Kind has players roaming city streets and paying compliments to other game players. To onlookers, the compliments seem like a random act of kindness, but to opposing players, the polite gestures are maneuvers to win the game.

Subway Yearbook Photos – Improv Everywhere (2009)

Improv Everywhere installed a photography studio on a random New York City subway car, inviting those on the train to be photographed. The resulting documentation shows the diverse community of subway riders.

75 Watt – Cohen Van Balen (2013)

In this project an object is being made on an assembly line. The movements to make the product are choreographed. The manufactured object itself has no purpose other than a reason for the workers to perform this dance routine.

Before the Storm – PETLab (2009)

Before the Storm is a decision-making game designed to introduce weather forecasts and possible actions to take against natural disasters through different roles.