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A set of Participatory Screwdrivers: A Journey through Role-play Games Mechanisms in a Workshop Format

Assuming Distance: Speculations, Fakes, and Predictions in the Age of the Coronacene
13 May 2021


Artist and game designer Asya Volodina will share a set of game techniques that she implements to create fictional worlds.

The role-playing game is a medium that immerses all participants into a shared speculative space, which they collectively create and change. Over the several decades of these games’ existence, an extensive toolkit has been developed to create such works and interact with them from the participant’s perspective. Asya Volodina will introduce some of these instruments and provide participants with an opportunity to work with them, “touching” the role-playing game’s inner mechanism.

In a traditional role-playing game, the masters pre-set the setting—the world or part of the world in which the events of the game will take place—and the rules by which the interactions take place. All players get the roles of the characters of this setting and, on a given day and hour in a designated space, begin to live and act on their behalf. The plot is not set in advance; the stories are formed as a result of free play and free choices of all participants.

How do you organize space, people, rules, and a fictitious world to make a complete piece? How is a drama built when the story depends on the actions of many people and the plot cannot be predetermined? How differently can reality be modeled, and on what should the choice depend? What gaps and tensions arise between different game participants, and what relationships do the roles of player, spectator, character, director enter within each participant? The artist will find answers to these questions together with the workshop participants.


Asya Volodina (b. 1983, Moscow) is an artist, writer, and game designer. She studied theoretical and applied linguistics at the Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow) and dramaturgy at the Institute of Professional Development for Television and Radio (Moscow). Since 2005 she has worked with the medium of live-action role-playing games, both as an independent artist and in creative groups (Stairway to Heaven, Komnata 18, RML). Since 2015 she has collaborated with Arseny Zhilyaev, including on the project Institute for Mastering of Time. She has shown her work at Bard College (New York), Khodynka Gallery (Moscow), Bonniers Konsthall (Stockholm), Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (Moscow), Live Action Theater (Moscow), and Kampnagel Theater (Hamburg). In 2014 she wrote the play Normansk (Meyerhold Center, Moscow) and in 2019 co-authored the game Justice Against the Grain (V-A-C Foundation, Moscow). She was a resident at PRAKSIS, Oslo in 2020. She lives and works in Moscow.


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