Golan Levin: Welcome back every­one to Shall Make, Shall Be. Our next speak­er is Shawn Pierre, whose project deals with the Fifth Amendment.

Shawn Pierre is a Visiting Assistant Arts Professor at the NYU Game Center and game design­er work­ing to com­bine new forms of play with dif­fer­ent types of media. His work includes voice-controlled adven­ture games, social deduc­tion SMS games, and phys­i­cal games where play­ers cap­ture oth­ers in nets. In the past Shawn has cre­at­ed and worked on crowd-based inter­ac­tive activ­i­ties includ­ing install­ments at Graceland, as well as games for major sport­ing events. As a mem­ber and Project Director of Philly Game Mechanics, Shawn works to build a com­mu­ni­ty where local cre­ators meet new peo­ple and share their cre­ative work. 

Friends, please wel­come Shawn Pierre.

Shawn Pierre: Hi, every­body. Once again, my name is Shawn Pierre. Yes, I am a Visiting Assistant Arts Professor at NYU. So I’m hang­ing out at the NYU Game Center. And as you just said, I also help and orga­nize a group called Philly Game Mechanics, which as the name sug­ges­tions is based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And our goal is to fos­ter the devel­op­ment scene in Philadelphia, sup­port­ing both hob­by­ists and inde­pen­dent devel­op­ers by hav­ing mee­tups, game jams, social gath­er­ings. Which you know, most of them vir­tu­al. I am also a game design­er, of course work­ing on a bunch of games: dig­i­tal, phys­i­cal, table­top. And out­side of games I like to make bread every once in a while. 

But back to games. I men­tioned I’m a bit all over the place with the games I make, so just a bit about me. I’m mak­ing a lot of dig­i­tal games now, but I also make live inter­ac­tion games. And I don’t have any pho­tos of this because nor­mal­ly when I play the game, I’m run­ning things from a com­put­er. But I had a ver­sion of Werewolf called Urban Werewolf where I ran an event called Come Out and Play in 2015 in Brooklyn. It’s a ver­sion of the game Werewolf, and it’s played via SMS with an auto­mat­ed moderator. 

So I’ll talk a bit more about how it works. When the game starts, you receive a phone call let­ting you know that you are a vil­lager or a were­wolf, while every­one else receives a text mes­sage with a role and a four-digit code. So you can be the florist, you could be the doc­tor, you could be the car­pen­ter. And your code could be 3483.” During the day phase, you receive a job. And the job was to find some­one else. So if I was a florist I would have to find the car­pen­ter. I would get their four-digit code and text it to the sys­tem. So peo­ple would be going around ask­ing each oth­er for their secret codes, tex­ting them to the sys­tem. If I text once cor­rect­ly, that counts as one task done. Everyone as a group has to com­plete twelve or else a vil­lager is ran­dom­ly eliminated. 

And then of course dur­ing the night phase you have a per­son who is the wolf, who we said dis­crete­ly send a text mes­sage with some­one’s code to the mod­er­a­tor.” Then the day phase comes about, that per­son­’s elim­i­nat­ed. The com­mu­ni­ty makes their accu­sa­tions, guess­es, etc. Then every­one sends the code for the per­son they want to elim­i­nate, as with tra­di­tion­al Werewolf. And just like with tra­di­tion­al Werewolf, the game ends when the were­wolf gets elim­i­nat­ed or the num­ber of wolves and vil­lagers are equal.

Another thing that I worked on in the past, which kind of com­bined some real space and dig­i­tal space, is a game I worked on for the dig­i­tal com­po­nent of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. I made a game called Known Sender. And it was a nar­ra­tive game based in Twine. Twine is a tool that is pri­mar­i­ly used to make nar­ra­tive expe­ri­ences. So with this game, you start off home alone one evening watch­ing TV and check­ing your email. And then even­tu­al­ly you get an email from a friend who asks your for your phone num­ber. But your real-life cell phone number.

So, you enter your num­ber, you send it to your friend. And after that the game becomes a slight…horror-mystery style game?, where you’re receiv­ing text mes­sages and phone calls. And the only way to advance on-screen is to respond to these text mes­sages and calls. So you’re par­tial­ly play­ing on your com­put­er, but you’re also play­ing on your phone using basic SMS

So yeah, my work, it’s kind of a bit all over the place. For this exhi­bi­tion, I am work­ing on a game called ___ vs ___”. [pro­nounced blank ver­sus blank”] It’s called ___ vs ___ because when peo­ple play, I want them to add their names to the blank spots—they’re actu­al blanks not a word­play. So, if I were play­ing a friend named Amber, the name of the game would be instead of ___ vs ___, it’s Amber vs Shawn.” Each time you play, it becomes a unique case spe­cial to you and the per­son you’re play­ing with.

So once again, I was tasked with mak­ing some­thing based on the Fifth Amendment. And as with a bunch of oth­er amend­ments, it’s tied up with a bunch of dif­fer­ent things. 

So the Fifth Amendment is,

No per­son shall be held to answer for a cap­i­tal, or oth­er­wise infa­mous crime, unless on a pre­sent­ment or indict­ment of a Grand Jury, except in cas­es aris­ing in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actu­al ser­vice in time of War or pub­lic dan­ger; nor shall any per­son be sub­ject for the same offence to be twice put in jeop­ardy of life or limb; nor shall be com­pelled in any crim­i­nal case to be a wit­ness against him­self, nor be deprived of life, lib­er­ty, or prop­er­ty, with­out due process of law; nor shall pri­vate prop­er­ty be tak­en for pub­lic use, with­out just compensation. 

Okay. So I think to prop­er­ly under­stand where I’m work­ing with the game we need to take a look at all the pieces of the Fifth Amendment. Probably the most famous part of it is the part about self-incrimination. This is where you see or hear peo­ple say­ing, I plead the Fifth,” in movies or in TV shows, or with your friends for fun, right? They’re refer­ring to this amend­ment. It does pro­tect you from incrim­i­nat­ing your­self through tes­ti­mo­ny. And tied up all in there, you have some­thing called a Miranda warn­ing, which is also pret­ty pop­u­lar. This is when you hear some­one say you know, Read em their rights,” and then some­one says, You have the right to remain silent,” or, Anything you say can be used against you a court of law.” Those are your Miranda warn­ings or Miranda rights.

Then after that, we also have dou­ble jeop­ardy. Not as much fun as the game show, but if you went through the whole process where you were con­vict­ed or acquit­ted for a crime, you can’t be pros­e­cut­ed for a sec­ond time. There’s a whole bunch of if, ands, or buts in there but that’s the gen­er­al thing. 

And then there are some less pop­u­lar parts of it. One refer­ring to the grand jury, and the oth­er one relat­ed to due process, and emi­nent domain. For the grand jury and due process, basi­cal­ly the gov­ern­ment needs to act accord­ing to the legal rules. They can’t vio­late any pro­ceed­ings and basi­cal­ly need to be fair.

And then the Takings Clause, which is the whole emi­nent domain. The gov­ern­ment can’t take pri­vate prop­er­ty with­out just com­pen­sa­tion. The weird thing here prob­a­bly, what does just com­pen­sa­tion” mean? But you know, I’m not a lawyer so don’t ask me to go into more detail about what counts as prop­er­ty and what is just and whether you could give some­one like a big bag of cash.

So, I want­ed to try and make my game be as prop­er as pos­si­ble, or use the parts of the amend­ment as close­ly as pos­si­ble. Most of us were able to speak to a lawyer, actu­al­ly, about our spe­cif­ic amend­ments and how they were used in the past, and what would hap­pen maybe in spe­cif­ic cas­es. I had a very dif­fi­cult time find­ing a case that involved all the pieces of the Fifth Amendment. And try­ing to get all of this into the game felt a bit unnat­ur­al. But try­ing to make the game fit the legal system…yeah, that was tak­ing away from some of the fun of the game.

So like I said, there are a bunch of mov­ing parts in this amend­ment, like I’m sure with every­one else. But for my game I’m focus­ing on dou­ble jeop­ardy, incrim­i­na­tion, and the Miranda warn­ings. So this is how the game works, and I’ll show you some images of that.

So, it’s a two-player game. One per­son starts as the sus­pect, the oth­er play­er’s the inves­ti­ga­tor. The goal for the inves­ti­ga­tor is to fig­ure out the crime that the sus­pect com­mit­ted from a list of crimes. The sus­pect, their job is to get the inves­ti­ga­tor to pick the wrong crime, a crime that they already com­mit­ted. One they’ve already been through the whole legal sys­tem for. If the inves­ti­ga­tor picks the wrong crime the game is over because of the Double Jeopardy Clause and the sus­pect wins. The sus­pect los­es if the inves­ti­ga­tor picks the cor­rect crime. 

So, a bunch of crimes are placed on a table face-up, and the sus­pect picks two crimes: one to be the dou­ble jeop­ardy crime, and one to be the real crime. After they pick those, they write them down on a piece of paper and then put that inside an enve­lope, and they put that aside to be looked at lat­er on. These are the crime cards and this is the enve­lope that every­thing goes in.

After that, the two play­ers draw cards to decide on cat­e­gories, and infor­ma­tion about each cat­e­go­ry. Both play­ers know what cat­e­gories are cho­sen, but only the sus­pect knows the answers to these spe­cif­ic cat­e­gories. All of these cards are placed in the spe­cial sus­pect fold­er, which only the sus­pect can use. There are a bunch of slots in the fold­er. It’s con­fi­den­tial, so I can’t open it, I’m sor­ry. This is infor­ma­tion that’s all about the sus­pect. So we have spe­cif­ic cat­e­gories for favorite movie genre, and home­town, and favorite hob­by. And there are also cards that don’t have spe­cif­ic answers. So you can have cat­e­gories like old­est pos­ses­sion, or least-favorite gift, or last item held. So for these sec­tions, the less spe­cif­ic ones, the answers are all nouns like tele­phone” or a water bot­tle. Both of those can fit the cat­e­go­ry of last item held.” All these cards are relat­ed to the crimes that were actu­al­ly placed on the table. Some of them relate to mul­ti­ple crimes. 

While the sus­pect is fill­ing the fold­er, the inves­ti­ga­tor is writ­ing the names of the cat­e­gories on the note sheet. And then to make all of this offi­cial, the two play­ers sign this doc­u­ment. The legal part of it is under­neath, inside the fold­er. Afterwards, the two play­ers choose a set of what we’re call­ing the Miranda rights. They alter­nate pick­ing a rule, start­ing with the sus­pect. These are spe­cial rules that can help or hurt the play­er, so they need to choose wise­ly and choose rules at the right time.

So once the set­up is done, we move to the ques­tion and answer phase. During each phase the inves­ti­ga­tor is allowed to ask three ques­tions about spe­cif­ic cat­e­gories. They can be straight­for­ward, such as, Tell me about your favorite hob­by.” Or they can ask for more detail like, Have you ever cried while watch­ing your favorite movie genre? Why and why not?” If the sus­pect ever feels uncom­fort­able about answer­ing a ques­tion, maybe it’s get­ting too close to some­thing that might reveal the crime, they can plead the Fifth. So this is where you get you get the use the self-incrimination part. But only a lim­it­ed num­ber of times; you can’t just say it when­ev­er you want.

Of course, they can do this just to throw the inves­ti­ga­tor off. It’s all part of the game. The sus­pect can then answer these ques­tions truth­ful­ly, or they can lie. And you may think that it’s easy to fool the inves­ti­ga­tor by just lying, but after the third ques­tion the inves­ti­ga­tor gets to guess how many of the sus­pec­t’s answers were lies or the truth. If the inves­ti­ga­tor gets that part right, they can gath­er more infor­ma­tion on what you specif­i­cal­ly lied about and what you specif­i­cal­ly told the truth about [record­ing freezes for ~10 sec­onds at 12:15] … I was able to map out self-incrimination and dou­ble jeop­ardy with­out stray­ing far from the orig­i­nal deal too much. The one I took the most lib­er­ties I think with was the Miranda warn­ings. Instead of them being some­thing set up by law” in the game, it’s some­thing that the two play­ers need to agree on. But once they do, they’ll need to make sure that they know their rights and when they apply. In I guess the non-game real world, things can wind up poor­ly if you for­get your rights or some­one for­gets your rights. 

I’m look­ing for­ward to this whole exhi­bi­tion. And what I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to is the dynam­ics of watch­ing peo­ple play. And I’m real­ly real­ly inter­est­ed in see­ing what hap­pens when two peo­ple who know each oth­er real­ly well start to play. Because the peo­ple you know well, you get to know their tells when they tell a lie, or at least maybe you think you do. And then dur­ing the game you’re obsess­ing over them doing small things like tap­ping their fin­gers when they answer cer­tain ques­tions. And I want the sus­pect to do their best to weave a web of decep­tions, but one that I guess I’m con­sid­er­ing frag­ile. Because if they’re not pay­ing atten­tion or they’re care­less, the inves­ti­ga­tor will…I guess con­tin­u­ing with the web thing—will pull on a thread and even­tu­al­ly the entire web of lies will collapse.

And I guess I can fin­ish by say­ing it’s fun­ny because work­ing on this is… When I was work­ing on this and some­thing else, I thought my days of work­ing on games about decep­tion and manip­u­la­tion were over. But then this entire game is about lead­ing peo­ple on and gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion. And I’m a ter­ri­ble liar myself. I get super guilty over any type of lie that I tell. So any­time I try and play this game, I try and be as truth­ful as pos­si­ble. Which means I’m ter­ri­ble and I lose. So the over­all process for this has been real­ly inter­est­ing. And I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to see­ing what emerges when peo­ple play togeth­er. That is it. Thank you.