1. Start with a blank screen.
1. Start with a blank screen.

Anomie is a game we developed for the iPhone in which creating the game is a part of playing it, an activity similar to playing at the beach or doodling idly. Anomie presents the same kind of frictionless idle, what de Certeau once called a “discursive (verbalized, dreamed, or walked) development … organized as a relation between the place from which it proceeds (an origin) and the nowhere it produces (a way of ‘going by’).” You could play it forever.

We already have a working prototype of the game on an iPhone. Current gameplay is as follows: You start with a blank screen and a small bouncing ball. You draw a doodle with your finger. Then you tilt the iPhone. The ball follows gravity. The object is to bounce the ball off of each segment of the doodle you drew, which can feel like compulsively touching every part of an object, or running your finger along a crack. Eventually nothing remains but a dim trace. Now you’re in level two and you should draw another doodle so you can keep playing. In subsequent levels, a few of the segments in your doodle are randomly colored and have different thicknesses. These segments ask to be hit by your ball in different ways in order to erase them: repeatedly, or hard, or soft, or off a double bounce, etc. A new kind of segment, requiring a new behavior, is introduced in each level.

The demands of relating with the figure on screen in many different ways (“softer!”, “off a wall!”) can at times feel very human. So, too, does the creation of your own challenges by drawing your own figures and trying new moves to erase them. Just as two people having a catch might throw a high fly, then a grounder, or try a trick catch, so too Anomie invites the user to invent her own game continuously.

Translation of our idea at the beach. In a sense, Anomie recapitulates its own languorous invention as gameplay. An idle sketch becomes a game of sketching.

The first proof of concept was an animated GIF.

Video of the current prototype running on an iPhone.

Screenshots from playing the current prototype.