Peaches is a two-player game about cooperation and conflict. Using fairy tale tropes, it casts the players as a knight and a princess who are bound together to achieve their goal. They’re forced to cooperate, but thanks to the fact that the game is controlled purely by their motion, their cooperation is awkward at best. And as with all cooperation, potential conflict lurks beneath the surface and their relationship becomes more complex as the game continues.

The game also plays with a few gender stereotypes, including the ever-popular damsel in distress, but that’s really just for extra fun.

The original seed for this project, my masters thesis for the MFA in Design and Technology program at Parsons, came from my experience with that hallowed New York institution: the subway.

The uptown F and M lines stop at the Delancey-Essex Street subway station. Both of these lines continue uptown on the same track for quite some time—they’re both 6th Avenue local trains. This means that for many people who want to go uptown, it’s completely irrelevant which one they get. They just want whichever one comes first.

The problem is that the M is on the upper platform, while the F is on the lower platform. And enough other trains stop at the station, including the downtown versions of the F and M, plus the J and Z trains, such that, when you hear a train coming on the other platform, it’s impossible to tell which one it is without running up or down the stairs. In short, it’s a pain.

So a wonderful system has spontaneously emerged. People cluster at the top and bottom of the staircases. They stand sentry over their track, as all subway waiters do. But they also stay in fairly constant eye contact with the people at the other end of the stairs. When a train comes, say, on the upper track, the people waiting at the bottom of the staircase will hear it, then alertly watch the people at the top. The people at the top will step forward so they can see the train at the first possible moment that it rounds the curve leading into the station. If it’s the M, they look back down to the people waiting at the bottom, and motion to them to come up. The people waiting downstairs then all run upstairs to catch the M.

The converse happens when the uptown F arrives downstairs.

It’s amazing and beautiful. It’s also entirely ephemeral. When the people start to rush upstairs or downstairs, the communication ends. There is no further eye contact; there are no thank-yous. A system of cooperation, essentially altruistic, has naturally evolved.

Peaches is a way of playing with our ability to coordinate with strangers and to improvise cooperation. But human relationships are complicated. So it has that, too. Just in case you were getting along too well with strangers.

Newly installed game at thesis show
Peaches, pristine, installed at the Parsons Thesis Show
Two people battle it out. While cooperating.
Two people battle it out. While cooperating.
Players and onlookers at the Come Out & Play Festival in DUMBO, Brooklyn, July 2014.
Players and onlookers at the Come Out & Play Festival in DUMBO, Brooklyn, July 2014.
Princess and the Peach
An enchanted peach? I’m sure nothing bad can come of eating that.
Wizard Fancyrobe
Wizard Fancyrobe is a strange, powerful character that guides the players through the game.