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The City as a Board Game

Taylor Milne's picture

            When I stepped onto South Street I immediately felt aspects of my home coming back to me, the quirky atmosphere, interesting shops and coffee houses, and art lining the streets. I felt connected to South Street, to the gardens, to the food. Everything connected me to the play and to the experience of travelling through South Philadelphia. The streets created the perfect board for the game I was about to find myself in known as experiencing a city.

            As a player in the game, my main goal was to find as many mosaics as possible throughout the city, with no rules attached expect to have fun and observe city life on South Street, and the surrounding grid of streets, homes, and artwork. Flanagan describes games as “inherently non-liner,” and this is how I felt my game on South Street managed to play out.

            The first stop on my game board was the Magic Gardens, where I was overwhelmed by the mass amounts of fragmented trash, ceramics, mirrors, and colors that were able to interact with one another to create one chaotic whole. Flanagan says that “Games, however, can evolve, and rules may shift in certain points in a game and can change with the player’s actions.” This is how I felt as I wandered through Isaiah Zagar’s gardens, that the rules were ever changing; with no set pattern, yet they all are a result of Zagar’s decisions regarding how he chose to play the game of creating his mosaics. Each mosaic was able to tell its own story, and induce different emotions in its observers, creating a playground from the youngest child to the oldest intellectual.

            While I was in the gardens I felt like I was winning my game of exploring art, and observing the years of thought and labor that had gone into this immense piece of artwork. I was making sure to notice every detail, and try to read all of the phrases that Zagar has chosen to include in his art. However, the truth is, there is no way to see everything, or experience everything. Much like playing a game, I feel that experiencing artwork also evolves as time goes on. The rules are ever changing, and not one particular point of view is correct. What I got out of the gardens and South Street on that first Saturday may be completely different from what I would choose to experience on my next trip to the Gardens or South Street.

            Here I was worried that I was losing my game, that I was not seeing enough, that I was not taking enough pictures; however, the truth is that each of us experienced what we would let ourselves experience. Each one of us received something different from our trip, and experienced the garden in a different way. That to me is the beauty of art, and the beauty of play. They are ever changing, with no correct answer.

            Wandering through South Street I learned that there is no correct way to play, and every game is unique and individual to its player. I learned that the game I was playing was not about winning or losing, because there is no way to lose an “experience.” It is all about playing in the game long enough to appreciate the world around all of us, and then only stop once our feet can no longer carry us any further.

            In this way I feel life itself as a game, with each of us its players, and no true way to gauge who is winning and who is losing, because I feel that is all in the perspective of each person. Just as someone may not find the joy of playing on South Street, another may find their life’s game on that very street. Although my game was a brief five hours, it gave me an opportunity to test the waters of playing in Philadelphia, almost like a trial run in order to teach the new players the basic rules of the game, in order to introduce them into a new world of play.


Mindy Lu's picture

Taylor describs her trip as a

Taylor describs her trip as a game, which is really cool. She sets her goal to find as many mosaics as possible throughout the city and feels like this game is "inherently non-liner" which is expressed by Flanagan. During the whole trip, Taylor finds out that there is no way to see everything or experience everything, there is no winner or loser, and there is no correct answer, because every game is unique and individual to its player. I compeletely agree with her opinion, and it is also a good reflection of the passage by Flanagan.

ecohn's picture

My response

Taylor compared her experience walking through South Street to Flanagan’s definition of a “game”. She created an extended metaphor about her trip and mentioned the “non-linearity” of her trip in relation to Flanagan’s assertion that games are inherently non-linear.

Taylor, like me, also wrote about an extended period of time. This selection was very interesting to me, because she used the extended metaphor of a board game, making her way down the cardboard until she reached the end, which I guess was her realizing that there is no right or wrong way to enjoy art.