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Leah Gilliam

LESBERATION is a board game that celebrates the hectic beginnings of the gay rights movement using strategic tile placement, cathartic territory capture and a candy-colored palette.

LESBERATION is a board game inspired by the gay liberation movements of the 1960s and '70s, it uses the gutsy, anti-authoritarian energy of these movements as a map for a game that explores rule-breaking, choice and social interaction.

Games situate players in one “real” space while giving them license and liberty to interact in another. As systems that operate within a separate and imagined space of possibility, games offer a unique opportunity to explore a wide range of immersive and participatory experiences. The game LESBERATION and the accompanying research considers ways in which certain characteristics of radical political movements—strategizing, anti-authoritarianism, setbacks, hard-won victories conflict/collaboration and cathartic release—might inform and structure the design and experience of a game. While the histories of radical political movements are far from game-like, I was eager to explore how some of their energy and emotion might translate into game play.

Lesberation takes place on the night of the historic events at the Stonewall Inn that sparked the gay-rights movement. Game play begins inside the bar and players are charged with making their way through the city, capturing—or “lesberating”—as many locations as possible before the night is over. As the timer ticks away, players place brightly colored acrylic tiles down, simultaneously building the game board and their route around a fictionalized New York City. As tile placement reveals various key strategic locations, players “lesberate” these locations by articulating their liberation scenarios. As players create their own lesberation narratives, they spin history, imagining a world in which history’s firebrands can win.


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