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Campaign Horse

wood, basketball, guy-wires, video projector, 3-axis accelerometer, computer with custom software
2011
Artwork by [user-name]

Campaign Horse is an interactive video installation that allows the visitor to participate in a modified version of the basketball game "Horse". This version of the game pits Team Blue against Team Red, using actual caustic insults from the recent national elections.

In the original schoolyard game Horse, the objective is to get your opponent labeled a horse, one letter at a time, by making basketball shots. The insult start with an “h”, then “ho”, “hor”, “hors”, and finally progresses to when player is labeled a “horse”, which ends the game. Unlike the standard game, in Campaign Horse the ensuing insults are not initially known, but are revealed through the course of the game. All insults in the game were uttered (if not shouted) by rival candidates in the vitriolic 2010 congressional elections.

There are two main visual components in Campaign Horse, a projected screen and a physical basketball suspended by guy-wires. The screen shows the following components:

  • A list of insults from previous rounds, for Team Blue and for Team Red
  • A reference map showing Blue States and Red States
  • A basket ball hoop and net
  • The current insults in play, which mark progress in the game

The basketball is the means of interaction with the piece. The ball is tethered by two guy-wires and can be tossed by visitors in the direction of the net. Although the guy-wires will prevent the ball from travelling far, there is a 3-axis accelerometer in the ball. This sends a signal to the controlling computer, triggering a virtual ball to travel towards the net. A physics simulation will determine if the ball goes through the hoop or not. Note that, as an aesthetic touch, the net is rendered using an intricate spring-model simulation for a realistic look.

As the game goes on, the players alternate shots. If Team Red makes a shot, then a new letter is revealed in the insult against Team Red. If Team Blue makes a shot, then a red insult letter is revealed. This play continues until one of the insults is fully revealed which ends the round, and a new round starts. Note that the opposing insults always have the same number of letters in each round. Also note that sound effects can be heard when the ball hits the backboard, bounces off the rim, and swishes through the net.

When Campaign Horse has been idle for a while, (i.e. if there have been no players interacting with the piece for five minutes), the installation enters “demo” mode. In this mode, the system runs as if people are playing the game, automatically tossing balls and revealing insults. If new players come and interact with the basketball, the system snaps back into interactive mode, proceeding with a new game.

By interacting with Campaign Horse, perhaps visitors will get a sense of what it is like to have unfounded insults and accusations directed against them. There is the added benefit of being able to hurl some insults right back at your opponent.

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