Playing the Game at Crossroads – The Four X’s (eXplore, eXpand, eXplain, eXit) of Kauttua
Written by Nimco Hussein
The second edition of Hunajanjyvä(1) divides the small village of Kauttua into four sites, four X’s on the map: a gallery space in Kauttua’s shopping centre (2), a movie theatre Kauttuan Kuva (3), a concert camp (4) and a Stream House (5). The programme includes an art exhibition, performances, film screenings and sound art concerts(6).
Hunajanjyvä critically revisits the four Xs, coined by an American game designer Alan Emrich, who in his 1993 Computer Gaming World review of a strategy game, Master of Orion, described it as a play-on-words, ‘Rated XXXX’, the four X’s standing for eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate. Four main calls to action define most 4X strategy-based games: by discovering resources (in a simplified world in which they exist just to be extracted), one exploits them in order to gain wealth and power, which then can be utilised in exterminating the opponents by force or influence, so that the player’s territory can expand, almost indefinitely or until complete supremacy is achieved.
Since these games involved the economic, scientific and technological development and management of an empire on a macro level, I too, enjoyed playing them when 4X computer games became increasingly popular and accessible in the late 2000s.
What makes these games so engaging and fun to play is how they make you feel: in charge, powerful and victorious.
In other words, most 4X games grant the player complete agency: one can overcome obstacles and solve problems as well as make their own decisions and choose what actions to take. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that 4X games were a hit. After all, the player gets to write their own narrative––whether that involves conquering a fictional world by waging war or conducting diplomacy.
The use of the map as a reflection of the physical space through which players move is central to 4X gameplay. The use of maps extends to not only navigation and wayfinding but also as having a visual backdrop that renders the player in a space, granting them spatial self.
What becomes quite evident, however, is that most 4X games, tend to exist within a framework that is developed around an imperialist narrative, despite the setting, whether that is Earth, space or a fantasy world. Although fictitious, it becomes increasingly clear that the pseudo-historical narratives that the 4X games employ often mimic and replay the development of Western civilisation.
Hunajanjyvä steers away from Emrich’s four X’s by dropping the two latter words, exploit and exterminate, and instead replaces them with explain and exit. These can be seen as new calls to action: to critically navigate the village of Kauttua, to gather and produce new knowledge and share it with the audience, and to find exit points that exist outside of the programme.
So why explore, expand, explain, exit? As a multi-sited curatorial endeavour, Hunajanjyvä becomes a means for bridging new modes of interaction and commonalities as it operates from and within a point of departure that is connected to the heritage and community of Kauttua. New iterations of the roadmap emerge as one takes part. We will be standing at the crossroads of various forms of productive collisions.
(1) Curation and production by Sadet Hirsimäki and Eero Pulkkinen.
(2) The gallery space is the first X, of the programme, eXplore. Th art exhibition showcases works from Mox Mäkelä, Emil Santtu Uuttu, Antti Tuomento, Lo & Ella (Lo Leskelä ja Ella Rahkonen), and Iiris Kamari.
(3) The second X of the programme, eXpand, includes screenings from Mox Mäkelä and Veli Granö.
(4) The third X, eXplain, is located at the Concert Camp, featuring DJ Travella, An Tul (Helena Pulkkinen and Saana Pohjolainen), Black Rain (Stuart Algabright), and AGF/Poemproducer.
(5) The final X, eXit, culminates at the Stream House. The event includes performers such as Solen Skiner (Teo Ala-Ruona, Tuukka Haapakorpi & Tari Doris), Reni Ryder, Queendyster, Emil Santtu Uuttu, h418 (beherit), Devilschild96 (Masha), and Arta.
(6) The content is shared to international audiences by sharing them via online platforms, such as the website (hunajanjyva.fi), Youtube and Twitch.