PLAYING WITH SCARCITY
Scarcity — in any number of arenas, including housing, resources and opportunity — is a perennial preoccupation in the collective imagination. I take an oblique view of scarcity, especially as it relates to housing, by interpreting the idea through the lens of games and play.
"Real Estate Beats" is a re-imagining of the game, Musical Chairs. I modified the basic rules of the original to introduce notions of competitiveness and chance into a game that is, at its core, about managing scarcity.
In the standard game of Musical Chairs, a set of chairs numbering one less than the number of players is arranged in the playing area. Music is played and the players march or dance in a circle around the chairs. When the music stops, each player must seat him- or herself in a chair. The player who is left standing is removed from the game, along with one chair. The game continues until one "winner" successfully sits in the last chair remaining in the play area.
REAL ESTATE BEATS
In my modification of Musical Chairs, documented in the video, a set of seven players was divided into three teams consisting of two persons, with the remaining individual designated as a "wildcard" player. The teams of two were identifiable by matching t-shirts in the colors green, red and yellow, while the wildcard player wore a pink t-shirt.
In variance from the original gameplay, player left standing at the end of each round is given one from a set of prompts for an action he or she must execute. The prompts used in this game session were randomly distributed from the following set:
- "Remove yourself and one chair from the game,"
- "Remove one chair from the game and switch places with another player of your choice, removing them from the game and keeping yourself in," and
- "Remove no chairs, remove yourself and choose another player to re-enter the game"
The objective for each player is to assure that (s)he a teammate is the last person seated at the end of the game, thereby creating a win for the team.
"Real Estate Beats" alludes to notions of scarcity in the marketplace for housing in any particular municipality by pointing to practices that have resulted in segregation and marginalization of groups such as African-American in the United States. As well as other legal notions that address housing scarcity such as "Rent Control," "Eviction" and "Gentrification," I make reference to practices in the titles of the songs I produced and recorded for the musical interludes in each game round. These include "White Flight," "Restrictive Covenants," "Redlining," and "Mortgage Discrimination."