Junkyard Bowling as an Artistic Arithmo-Political Statement

The world premiere of Junkyard Bowling took place Thursday, August 4, in a hallway at the LA Convention Center, during the SIGGRAPH 2005 Conference. The Junkyard Sports event, produced by the Ludica (a game design cooperative) Game Atelier, also included a similarly sweetly significant game of Junkyard Golf. The significance? That we were playing with junk (posters, bags, paper cups, a Rubik's Cube and other miscellaneous exhibitor bric-a-brac) at probably one of the highest of high technology events. It wasn't so much that we were trying to make a particular point, but rather a counterpoint.

Junkyard Bowling was created collaboratively by whoever happened to be in the hallway at the time. The design, manufacture, and layout of the "pins" turned out to be a work of art in its own right. In searching for an object heavy enough to knock our pins over, we came upon a Rubik's Cube of all but perfect heft. Then someone noticed that the cube looked very much like a die, as in one of a pair of dice. Then someone put numbers on the die. And the rest is history. Junkyard Bowling. Played with a die. Your score, the number of pins you knock down, multiplied by the number on the die when it finally comes to rest. And oh, the unanticipated glee of it all. The arithmetic delight of scoring a potential 54 for a single throw (we were playing nine-pin bowling), the subtle properties of the rolling cube bouncing off the wall and into the remaining pins, and, best of all, the unparalleled joy of being part of a collaboratively and spontaneously contrived work of play, made out of junk, in the hallway of the LA Convention Center, during a conference dedicated to heightening high technology!


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Anonymous Celia Pearce said...

Bernie, thank you for this eloquent summary of what transpired in the hallway at SIGGRAPH. The amazing part of this experience was that, as you pointed out, the Junkyard Bowling concoction was sort of an accident.

The golf game had its own charm. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the first hole required hitting your ball under a chair upon which was perched a (live) pregnant women. I also liked the fact that more than one ball ended up on the escalatoróbut it was the up escalator, fortunately...so the problem was self-correcting.

The bowling game was sort of an afterthought. What shall we do next, someone queried. I don't know, why don't we try bowling. The notion that the pins could all be different was quite exciting. But, as you pointed out, the square "die-ball" was the real innovation. That the game turned out to be educational was yet another "happy accident."

We were very honored and overjoyed to have you there and thank you, as always, for your inspiration as the official Muse of Ludica.

Blogger Bernie said...

I completely agree with you, Celia, about the "charm" of the Junkyard Golf game. So many wonderful inventions (for some reason, I can't stop thinking about all those styrofoam packing chips, how pleasing they looked, and how perfectly they worked when they were transformed into a "sand trap." And the juxtaposition - all those people, just passing through, on their way from one extraordinary application of technology to another, so delighted by our playful improvisations, so willing to become part of it. It was the kind of event that becomes more historically significant the more I think about it. So much was happening, the marvels of what we were creating so manifold, that it was almost impossible to appreciate the event for what it truly was.

And yes, being appointed to the position of Ludica Muse is perhaps the most amusing honor that has come my way to date. It is a delight to be affiliated with this most creative and playful endeavor.

Blogger Spudart said...

Every Friday here at work we have a thing called "New Toy Friday." I think we'll do Junkyard Bowling for this Friday. Thanks for the idea!

Blogger Bernie said...

I'd love to hear more about New Toy Friday and some of the more successful of the Old New Toys. And, of course, everything about your Junkyard Bowling experience


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