Game Review: Grapefruit

Gamewright: Yoko Ono
Year: 1964
Genre: Lyric Game
Players: 1-3
Length: 320 pages
Playtime: 1 hour or less
Get it here: Simon & Schuster
Score: ★★★★★

Who might enjoy this game?

  • Folks who enjoy short, whimsical poems or proverbs
  • Folks who enjoy daydreaming
  • Folks who enjoy slow looking and close reading
  • Folks looking for cerebral, no prep games

Yoko Ono is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant artist to ever have lived. Her works and performances are widely celebrated in art circles, but I want to talk about her collection of “event scores” in Grapefruit. I don’t intend for this to be an academic article, so I’ll just briefly say that if you dig what Grapefruit is laying down, you should look into the Fluxus art community from the 1960’s. I’m unaware if she has ever referred to these writings as games, but I’m going to review them as such.

The short event scores, or instructional poems, in Grapefruit operate perfectly as lyric games, games that are as close to poetry as they are to a literal game instructions. The act of play with the games in Grapefruit is often just in imagining what it might be like if you actually followed the instructions. The poetic interpretation, the thought experiment itself, is the field of play. That said, if there isn’t anything dangerous or actually impossible with the instructions, finding a way to physically participate is also a legitimate and lovely way to approach Grapefruit!

For example, I play Map Piece (see above image) a lot. I love drawing maps of fantasy worlds with tiny details and possibilities! I’ve written a few games, some mirco rpgs and a card game, as an interpretation of Map Piece. Its contradiction is a rich play scape for a curious and wandering mind. Just talking out a plan of how to play Map Piece is a great way spend time with friends.

The sharp, minimal presentation gives each game enough space to live and breath in the mind of the reader. There are 320 pages in this book, and many of them are unique lyric games, though some of them are going to be in Japanese. Reading a game in Grapefruit almost necessitates writing a new game in you head, and that’s really cool! Check with your local library to see if they can get you a copy! I’m positive you’ll be as charmed and baffled by this wonderful game book as I was. I also consider Grapefruit a MUST READ for all game designers!

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