browsing on most streaming services is dreary and soul-sucking. They haven’t been curated or laid out in ways that demonstrate a love of film, or even a basic respect for film history. Their algorithms aren’t designed out of a mutual human love of discovery, but to try to lock you in a continual loop of ingesting their product Conversely, at a good video store, you have laid out in front of you film history across its many eras, regions, genres, and viewpoints and it’s displayed with love, reverence, and individual human taste.”

Eric Hatch, Beyond Video, Baltimore

Imagine if there was an algorithm that WASN’T dumb…What if there was an algorithm that didn’t deliver what it thought you’d like, but what you didn’t even know you wanted? In short, an algorithm that harnessed the chaotic discovery of a Video Shop, where chance encounters and unanticipated juxtapositions on the shelf led to new associations and experiences?

Sadly, there is no algorithm that can do that. But now, there is a game that can.

Video Shop Algorithm revives the “cognitive congeniality” of the video library, where objects and people in space combine to create fresh connections and new knowledge about film and video – ever the currencies of contemporary culture.

Working together as a team, you are rewarded for the number and complexity of connections you can draw between an ever-expanding mind map of film titles. Without access to your smartphone, you must draw deep on your memory and stored knowledge, as well as build upon that of your fellow team mates to tease out unexpected connections and ford unbridgeable divides.

Imagine if there was an algorithm that WASN’T dumb…What if there was an algorithm that didn’t deliver what it thought you’d like, but what you didn’t even know you wanted? In short, an algorithm that harnessed the chaotic discovery of a Video Shop, where chance encounters and unanticipated juxtapositions on the shelf led to new associations and experiences?

Sadly, there is no algorithm that can do that. But now, there is a game that can.

Video Shop Algorithm revives the “cognitive congeniality” of the video library, where objects and people in space combine to create fresh connections and new knowledge about film and video – ever the currencies of contemporary culture.

Working together as a team, you are rewarded for the number and complexity of connections you can draw between an ever-expanding mind map of film titles. Without access to your smartphone, you must draw deep on your memory and stored knowledge, as well as build upon that of your fellow team mates to tease out unexpected connections and ford unbridgeable divides.

Playing
online

Requirements

Recommended 4-8 players

Internet searches are banned!

Typical playtime 45-60mins

Recommended 4-8 players

Internet searches are banned!

Typical playtime 45-60mins

Setting up the library

Before the game begins, each player must select and then photograph the front and back of one DVD or Video they are contributing to the game and send them to the host, who will copy and paste them into a shareable folder or doc (dropbox, google docs etc) that everyone can access during game play. These titles form a LIBRARY which can be drawn upon during the game.

The bargain bin

The host of the game should provide some extra titles in case the players come up short – this is called the BARGAIN BIN. If a player turns up without a title, they can pick one from the bargain bin. Ideally the library should have one title per player.
Smart phones may not be used to look up films during the game!

Set up

Whoever is hosting the game makes a duplicate (File>Make a Copy) of the template, and then shares it online with the rest of the players.

Make sure the share settings allow editing not just viewing.

NB: There are two sheets in the template – one is a sample game for reference and the other is blank

You can pre-populate the scratchpad in the left hand tool bar with the “stickers” and various shapes you will need to use during the game. Once they are in the scratchpad, you just need to click on one and it will instantly copy onto the board, which you can move, type text into, connect to other films and re-size.

Use a video chat software that allows screen sharing so that everyone can view the card picker as it’s being used, as well as communicate with each other face-to-face as the game progresses. The drawing updates live, so everyone can view that on their own computers without having to share the screen. Skype, Zoom and Jitsi all have this sharing functionality

The game is collaborative, not competitive, so the goal is to accrue as many points as possible, as a group, in three rounds.

Each round, one person must be assigned as the CLERK – this must be a different person each round. The group must decide together whether something is allowable each turn, as it arises. If the group can’t clearly decide, the assigned Clerk in each round must make a decision as to whether it can be allowed or not.

Drawing of cards can be done using this online card picker. The deck has the same number and distribution of cards as the physical version, and when the deck runs out of cards, but you haven’t finished playing, simply click “reset” to start drawing cards again. Because the cards are numbered and distributed in a certain way as a “deck” and each draw affects the number of each card left in the deck, the card picker should be opened and used only by the person hosting the video chat – so they will draw everyone’s cards, but can share their screen as they do it.

Feel free to use any practicable method to decide who plays first!

Rules of play

The first player selects a video from the library (it must not be their own), and tells a story about it to the group, making a note of it on the board/online canvas, and drawing a circle around it. The story could be a personal anecdote, a random association, some trivia – anything goes. This is the first node. It is worth 5 points.

The next player must draw a connection card from the deck (or online picker)- each card has a symbol representing a different connection that can be made between the films.

They must now create a new node and relate it to the first one using this connection card. The new node could be a film they have just thought of, or it could be a title from the library. It could also be a node made from a connection card. They draw a line between the two nodes, then take the corresponding connection sticker and glue it to the line. They must tell the group about the nature of the connection they are making, and also note brief details of it on the board inside the new node.

Each subsequent person in the group draws from the card picker and takes their turn creating a new node and a new connection.

Different connections are worth different points and you accrue points with each connection made. (see scoring table)

Score each turn and at the end of each round add the totals plus any bonus points together. At the end of three rounds the game is over and you must add together the points from each round and any over-all bonus points.

Keep track of your scores over time and see if you can improve your standing on the Weekly Top Ten.

Glossary

Node

A node is formed when you add a new film title to the board. You write the name of the film and a few short notes about it and draw a circle around it. Then you draw a line between it and the node you are connecting it to, and glue the corresponding connection sticker between them on the line. Another type of node can be formed without a film title. This is when you are using a connection whose outcome might be more open ended – then the connection itself becomes a node. For example, you might draw a line from a node with “A League of Their Own” in it, and use “A Question” to form a new node. In the new node, instead of writing a film title, you might write the question “What other films did Penny Marshall direct?”. NB In this example, when using “A Question” other players can also answer this question for a bonus point as their next turn, or in addition to their next turn (see scoring table).

Adding a subroutine

You can add a new connection between two already connected titles on the board, OR between two titles already on the board that are not yet connected. You can do this:

in addition to your turn for an extra bonus point

instead of using the connection card you have drawn, for one point only.

Using the library

Within each round, if you can make a new connection with another title from the library you get 5 bonus points.

At the end of each round if you have all used more than 2 library titles, you get 5 extra bonus points.

If you have used all the titles by the end of the game, you get 10 bonus points.

NB: You may not add your own title from the library to the map.

Cards

There are 32 cards used to draw connections between nodes. The amounts of each cards and what they mean are outlined in the next section.

Connections and scoring

A personal anecdote relating to the film– very open ended. This can be a node without a film title.

Similar in theme, aesthetic, genre etc to another film

Use this to pose a question to the group about a title– anyone can then answer the question as their turn, or in addition to their turn. Becomes a node without a film title.

Opposite in theme, aesthetic, genre etc to another film. Not just generally different to, but must demonstrate some kind of inversion, or relatedness in its oppositeness.

Must be an authentic recommendation based on having seen both titles, not a guess.

Can be anyone involved in the production of both of the two films you are connecting.

OA factotum or piece of trivia that connects the two titles. Could be a quote about or from the film.

You have a title from the same video shop or library, or a specific anecdote about the same site as one of the titles from the library that is on the board. Can be a node without a film title depending on how you use it. NB it may not be possible to play this connection, as not all the titles in the library will be ex-rental, so if it’s not possible, you may draw another card.

Initial play is worth 5 points!

Different groups of people will focus on different aspects of the game: some will be very points focussed and try to get as many bonus points as possible, others will be more interested in using knitting and subroutines to get increasingly complicated connections on the map. The cultural references brought to the game will also change dramatically from group to group. The rules are not meant to be confusing, but they are also slightly open to interpretation and I encourage different groups to take ownership of the game as it unfolds, to make it as fun and engaging for themselves as possible.

Extensions

Challenge rounds

Challenge rounds – you can play a version of the game where instead of bonus points, you are taking a different challenge in each round. A list of possible challenges includes:

Get as many films from the library on the board as possible.

Add as many subroutines as possible.

As soon as A Question is on the board, everyone must take turns answering it.

Everyone must come up with a film quote when Tangentially Related is on the board.

You are welcome to make up your own challenge rounds in this vein!

Competitive version

To play a competitive version of the game, split the group into two and each group must assign a representative each round to be the scribe, while the rest of the group discusses and decides which connection to make each turn. Each round consists of each group taking one turn, and you play 8 rounds. Bonus points for using titles from the library are the same, but there are no bonuses within each round, only at the end for using all the titles in the library.

Timed game

You can choose to use an hourglass to time each turn. You get a bonus 2 points if you can complete your turn before the end of the timer and minus 1 point if you can’t, otherwise scoring is the same.

Game board

Diagrams.net

Miro

Make a copy of the Diagrams.net file, or the Miro board (choose whichever platform you prefer). Or, download the stickers so that you can play using the software of your choice.

Card Picker!

Calculate your score

Enter your score:

Your results:

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play

This print and play PDF has all the rules, game pieces and set up instructions to play Video Shop Algorithm IRL.

Download

Video Shop Algorithm
Copyright Jessie Scott 2020
Web Design by Hope Lumsden Barry
Web Site by Prudence Rees Lee
Card Picker by Antoinette J Citizen
Video by ORICHINO – Zeyu Li
Sound by Alex Nosek

Many thanks to all the play testers, especially: Blair Gatehouse, Emile Zile, Martine Corompt, Ben Byrne, Daniel Green, Rani Kellock, Zan Rowe, Geoff Orton, Maggie Scott, Andrew Junor, Nikki Lam, Cassandra Tytler, Gabrielle De Vietri, Michael Prior, Tanja Milbourne, Emma McRae, Katy Stevens and Alex Nosek.

This project was made with the support of the RMIT Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship, the School of Art, and the School of Design at RMIT.