Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The GRAFFITI card game is played by four people, each with a hand of 18 cards containing a letter of the alphabet (there are 72 cards total.) The game is a combination of Scrabble and Slapjack in that the object of the game is to spell a four letter word. But unlike Scrabble, the word need not be found in the dictionary, instead, slang and abbreviations are encouraged. Language is shaped by the vernacular, and because of this, it is an organic and ever-changing form. The game is called “Graffiti” in relation to the hipster/urban culture that appears to be creating new words by the hour, from “prob” to “defs,” it seems that today’s language rises up from the streets. Each card is different, painted with hand-drawn stencils, spray paint, acrylic and paint pen, mirroring the hand-crafted nature of language. Like graffiti, language is an art form that reflects popular culture, and this game allows players not only to play, but also to create.

Players begin a round with their hand of 18 cards, and when the designated “caller” says “go” everyone puts down a card, face up on the table, showing a letter. Speed is encouraged. The first person to slap the deck when a word has been spelled earns the letter “g” (followed by r-a-f-f-i-t-i to spell “graffiti.”) A player wins by being the first to spell the eight letters in the word “graffiti” (much like the basketball game “Horse” but in reverse here, because earning letters bring you closer to winning the game.) Because words cannot be checked in a dictionary, three out of four players must agree that the word in question is legitimate in order for it to count for that player as a letter towards “graffiti.” In this way, a dialogue is initiated about what constitutes a word and how language itself functions. Of course, if no word is spelled, the players place the cards in the discarded pile (which will be reshuffled when the cards run out and distributed among the players to create a new hand) and go again.

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