Card game Objectif asks players to judge women of color

UCLA’s Game Lab is currently showing student work, allowing interested members of the public to come over to the Broad Art Center’s New Wight Gallery and play the creations sprung fresh from the DMA program’s young minds. Among the most interesting and provocative projects is Objectif, a tabletop/card game designed to provoke conversation about race, objectification and sexism.

It will make you think.

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Designed as a response to Psychology Today’s problematic (to say the least) article entitled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”, it primarily tasks players with judging the attractiveness of hand-drawn portraits of black women – and in turn, guessing what others will find most attractive.

“The game is played by 3 or more players. At the beginning of the round, three cards are dealt face up from the deck. One player acts as the judge and decides which portrait they find most attractive without revealing their decision. Next, the other players guess which portrait the judge has chosen and why. The player with the correct guess and/or closest explanation wins that round. The next judge is selected in a clockwise rotation and three new cards are drawn. The first to win 5 rounds wins the game.”

Obviously, winning isn’t really the point.

“Objectif was created to facilitate discussion about our perceptions of attractiveness…. Upon playing a few rounds, players will notice duplicate face templates wherein only the “coloring” has been changed. The inclusion of these duplicates allows players to realize the shallow nature of race or color.“

“As an art piece, Objectif challenges our perceptions of race, women and beauty while simultaneously revealing the assumptions we make about ourselves and others.”

The project reminds me of a slightly more in your face and personal take on Guess My Race – another conversation piece that relied upon its players’ biases to make its point. Games are uniquely poised to offer reflective commentary in this way – by forcing the participant to confront his/her feelings directly or even publicly. The result can be uncomfortable – but ideally positive in the long run.

Objectif isn’t the only overtly “serious” game at the exhibition. The Profiteers is a board game satirizing the money and power of organized religion, and both games came out of the same class – DMA 157A Spring 2012. Dare I hope that this is a trend among the next generation of game designers?