MFA Prep Course Released!

June 24, 2011
Screenshot from MFA Prep Course

Screenshot from MFA Prep Course

The long anticipated web release of the “smoking coffee and drinking cigarettes” game is finally online for all to play! It was made by me and the indomitable John Bruneau!

Click here to play it!

Assorted thoughts on the game follow.

Raison d’être

The games that you see, that is, the games that have big budgets and marketing, the games that represent gaming in the media, are predominantly if not exclusively escapist fantasies. I realized at some point, however, that the fantasies that are being sold are no longer relevant to me. I am fairly comfortable with my amount of agency, and don’t feel the need for power fantasies. I have come to terms with the unfair world, and don’t feel the allure of competitive, meritocratic fantasies. I have taken a high school level psychology class and find the Skinnerian mechanics at work in almost every game insulting. What I was, though, was stressed out and antisocial. I didn’t want to have to save the world or bone hot elves, I just wanted to chill out in a clean and quiet place, drink some coffee, smoke some cigarettes, and not be bothered by anyone annoying. But drinking too much coffee can make you jittery and nervous, smoking will kill you, and avoiding annoying people is just out of the question, so I made a game about it instead.


While I was working on it, I heard about the Works gallery member show. If you’re a member of Works you can put a piece in, so I did it. John and I teamed up and we made the initial prototype of the game. He did the graphics and provided the machine. I did the coding. The name MFA Prep course was his idea. I think it’s farther from my initial idea than I would have liked, but it made the game very funny to a lot of people, so I think it was a net positive. Names are very important in art.


I have a strained relationship with the word “game.” On the one hand MFA Prep Course is a game because it is made in flash, and you play it on a computer, and you can interact with it, and c’mon, just look at it. On the other hand, it has no goal or challenge, no win or lose conditions, no progress. It has a score, but the only reason for it to exist is to drive people who want it to be a game crazy.  ”What is a game” is becoming the new “what is art” and it is just as frustrating and pointless. I want someone to make a good word for these things, because they are what I want to make. “Toy” describes the structure of the interactivity well, but is infantilizing. “Non-game” is not enough in common parlance, and feels a bit lacking, although its the term I lean towards. “Notgame” is a word coined by Michael Samyn to tangle the entire history of computer art in his scruffy eyebrows.


  • The right hand can also be controlled using the arrows and shift key. This is to allow you to play the game with a game pad, in galleries for instance.
  • You can smoke up to three cigarettes at a time.
  • If you click while moving your hand left and holding a cigarette, you will flick it away.
  • There’s a slight delay between when you do something and when a sound happens. I think this is a bug in flash, although it could be that my sound files are not cut right. If anyone has any insight on this let me know!
  • You can blow on your coffee by holding it in the right spot near your mouth.

5 Responses to “MFA Prep Course Released!”

  1. Very nice!

  2. [...] Und im Falle von MFA Prep Course handelt es sich nicht mal um ein Game, sondern um ein sogenanntes Notgame. Ja, das ist verwirrend, doch die Verwirrung löst sich binnen 30 Sekunden in digitalen Rauch [...]

  3. [...] via Ludogenesis » MFA Prep Course Released!. [...]

  4. [...] Actually a no-game. (more info) [...]

  5. [...] The authors: this is the author’s blog: [...]

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