Makin' Cake

The Makin' Cake installation is a skill-based competitive single player game with a twist. Players type-in 1950's cake recipes as fast as they can and get points for every word. The twist are extra points for swearing, but there is a time limit, and players might lose the game if they swear too much.
To play the game, players select a recipe from the main menu. Each recipe is devided into nine steps. The ingredients to be used and the actions to be performed in each step are displayed at the top of the screen/projection. Players type in what needs to be done, e.g. 'Add flour'. They then press return/enter to go to the next line and the next step. In each step all ingredients and actions (up to three) have to be typed-in. For each line players receive a score calculated from the number and length of the words they entered. Swear words produce roughly ten times as many points as non-swear words. Words that are used repeatedly give less points each time until they do not give any points at all. The exact points scoring algorithm is purposely not made transparent to players.
In the game, there are nine different levels or recipes. The recipes are based on actual vintage cake recipes from the 1940s, 50 and 60s. They have different time limits. Recipe 1 (One Egg Cake), for instance, has a time limit of 90 seconds. When players succeed in typing-in a complete recipe inside the time limit, they are informed if their score was high enough for them to be invited to join the champions' hall of fame. In this case, they can enter their name and have their picture taken. The photo high score list adds an interesting layer to the game, i.e. how and if players stand by their recipes full of swearing; also, players can play off the props available in the setup (e.g. large spoon, chef's jacket, apron, hat). The top recipes are displayed while nobody is playing, revealing a peculiar mix of baking instructions and shocking language.
The installation demonstrates a conflict between play and the everyday world. Players are provoked by a 'moment of self-confrontation'. The game confronts people and makes people confront 'an authentic but disquieting side of [themselves]' (Murray). Participants have to juggle playing the game and performing for spectators, explaining and potentially justifying their actions. Spectators are challenged to enter the game and become players; they switch from the everyday world to play and back. The setup as an installation (a 1950's kitchen), where playing the game means also performing for an audience, invites critical reflection and discussion.

Title screen Main menu In-game
Makin Cake screen shots

Player and spectators High score list entry with recipe and player photo Player posing with props for high score photo
Creativity&Cognition (C&C) 2013, Sydney, Australia, Jun 17-20, 2013

Makin' Cake Makin' Cake Makin' Cake Makin' Cake
DeSForM 2013, Wuxi, China, Sep 22-5, 2013

Makin' Cake Makin' Cake
IE 2013, Melbourne, Australia, Sep 30-Oct 1, 2013

Play is not dependent on or even interested in the subject matter it plays with. While there is an interplay, and play material is important to play, it is only played-with. It does not mean anything, that is, beyond play. Likewise, players' actions do not mean anything. In this respect, play acts like a fun-house mirror into Wonderland, reflecting ordinary life but giving it its own twist, path, and, finally, meaning, free and independent from the everyday world. The notion of the opacity of play is proposed to describe this phenomenon.
Players assign meanings to actions and objects which only depend on the meanings they have or gain in play. Other media may reference ordinary life to a stronger degree, or rather, at all. Play is opaque with regard to meaning, and games are strongly autopoietic. Players accept all kinds of play actions, because they are empty (Seeßlen). Every child who plays, 'knows that it plays' and is aware that it is 'only pretending' (Huizinga). Players 'are different and do things differently' (ibid.), and most naturally step out of the systems of meaning that surround them in the everyday world, without being social freaks or media experts. Players understand play, spectators do not, because they have different perspectives on what is happening, and different ways to participate.
This situation is the potential the Makin' Cake installation plays off: If the meaning of a medial text is always open (Winter) and is to be determined in an heterogenous manner by the people involved, and cannot be predicted, there is potential for conflict. The installation goes a step further to create a confrontational situation in which the restraints, customs, laws, rules, etc. of ordinary life are juxtaposed with the freedom, emptiness and meaninglessness of play. Players and spectators have to face the conflicts that appear between them; but there are also conflicts to face for the same person having been a spectator before and being a player now. Makin' Cake emphasises this change of perspective, this step into and out of play; it confronts players with their own joyful, unreflective, direct and immediate experience, and provokes people in their role as spectators.

Daniel Cermak-Sassenrath, Jenna Gavin, Matthew Martin. Makin' Cake. Installation. Creativity&Cognition (C&C) 2013, Sydney, Australia, Jun 17-20, 2013.

Daniel Cermak-Sassenrath, Jenna Gavin, Matthew Martin. Makin' Cake. Installation. Design and semantics of form and movement - DeSForM 2013, Wuxi, China, Sep 22-5, 2013.

Daniel Cermak-Sassenrath, Jenna Gavin, Matthew Martin. Makin' Cake. Installation. The 9th Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment (IE 2013): Matters of Life and Death, Melbourne, Australia, Sep 30-Oct 1, 2013.