Learning typically means playing. So why are buildings dedicated to education among the least playful? Here, students in Arcade Theory repurpose the girder-like stairs in Georgetown’s Car Barn with giant pixellated sprites from Donkey Kong.
We’d just made our way through the Situationists, and were inspired by their call for the triumph of leisure. In years past, we would devote half a day to our own derive, on foot.
But this year we opted to bring our play indoors. Our goal was merely to disrupt that building’s habituated flow of foot traffic with surprise and delight. But (as Steinkuehler suggests, borrowing from Pickering) play is a mangle: Play in a public space seldom proceeds according to plan.
What began as gentle subversion was slowly drained of any ludic potential as the days and weeks ticked by: While Housekeeping was always quick to remove unauthorized posts from the walls, these (very) unauthorized sprites remained unmolested for nearly three semesters. Kong stood near the building’s exit: For a full semester, I dreaded climbing those stairs to face him.
In the end, I tore them down myself.