Youmanji is an interactive gamified performance about the contemporary social media platforms, in the form of an open - ended board game.
Inspired by the famous fantasy adventure film Jumanji, the game places its "jungle" in the social media world and asks its players if they dare to get lost in it! Borrowing the typical structure of a board game, with the use of dice, cards and pawns, the players navigate the various platforms within Youmanji’s social media "datajungle", executing simple quests. With the help of their smartphones or on spot imagination and creativity, they have to bodily or verbally perform the specific social media’s interface algorithm. In each round, all the players are actively part of the quest either by taking the leading role or commenting, evaluating and interacting, thus forming the close network of users/friends/players of Youmanji.
The open-ended element of Youmanji, allows players to "free play" during the quests, form questions or even doubts about the game’s mechanics. While having fun, sharing thoughts, affect and awkwardness, feeling ambiguous or bored of its repeating cycles, the players gain an understanding of the never ending, non-winning nature of the game and ultimately "hack" its algorithm on their own will. Either by deciding to keep playing it just for the pleasure of it or leaving the game. The game ends for the players only and when they decide to exit it. Until this critical point of players experience, the "datajungle" of Youmanji is constantly renewed and reconstructed by its performers content creation.
Youmanji aspires to be a fun allegory of social media’s common activities, playing around the concepts of playing/gaming, player/user, analogue/digital, embodied/cognitive thus shading light to the ambiguities of the gamified platform capitalism. Through its augmented gamespace, created by bodily performance, affective interactions and smartphone technology, the game invites its players to reflect upon their everyday digital life.
“Duck face, group selfies or beautiful landscape and cute cats? You have to bodily perform the most liked Instagram photo of your teammates’ profiles. Each person have to gesture a “heart” if they are convinced by your performance.”
Game specifications and mechanics
Youmanji consists of a medium-sized board, four pawns, one 12-edged dice, 12 main cards and 12 secondary cards. It is played by a maximum of four players with their smartphones, however due to its open - ended character it is possible to have rotations with different people during the rounds, so that more people can play it.Every number that gets rolled on the dice is indicative of a particular "island" box in the "datajungle" area. After placing their pawn in the "island" box, the players have to read out loud the card corresponding to the box and perform the instructions.
Vardouli Eftychia, Cultural Manager - Researcher, MA Panteion University, BA Economic Science AUEB
Lazaridou Eirini, PhD candidate, Researcher, University of Thessaly- Department of Early Childhood Education
Iashvili Nanuka, BA Economics, Politics, and Social Thought , Bard College Berlin
Vardouli Eftychia, Cultural Manager-Researcher, MA Panteion University, BA Economic Science AUEB