Shakespearean Love Amidst The Carnage

by | Nov 10, 2016

The Right Time To Share

I’ve been working on a project called Dueling Cupids for quite some time. In the wake of the divisive election in the good ol’ USA, I’m going to tell you about it. This is a game about love. And that is a subject that needs some serious attention right now. We are doomed unless we can figure out a way to educate people in literature, history, art, and most importantly empathy.



I originally started designing the game around a Hawaiian system of reconciliation and forgiveness called Ho’oponopono. This is a method of putting disputes to rest while remaining a family. One of the mantras of the modern practice is “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” Nothing feels more appropriate than this in a divided America. At first I started thinking about connecting a village of people together through relationships and actions. This made me realize that there would have to be a story or background for each person in the village. That got me thinking about the best characters ever written and the diverse worlds they inhabited. All of this led me to the playwright supreme: William Shakespeare.

Right after I finished college with a degree in Theatre I worked as an aide at a high school in Northern California. The kids in my class had a difficult time understanding the connections between the characters in the play Macbeth. To my surprise, the teacher let me teach the whole section. I began showing the students different filmed versions of the script. One of them used dirt bikes and guns, another had swords, another focused on a connection to the military and traded in political intrigue. Then we would read different sections and talk about what the words meant.

All of this led us to start talking about motivation and the perversion of love and fealty for the unnatural pursuit of power. Lord and Lady Macbeth are able to hold onto their relationship despite slipping into madness but their relationships with everyone else wither and die. What would happen if they were better able to empathize with the people in their lives? Would they have murdered the King or their best friend Banquo? Or would they understand the horrible price required to ascend to a seat of power? With all of this in mind, I started to incorporate the idea of connecting and identifying Shakespearean characters into my game. Shakespeare’s plays are universal and timeless so I’m hoping that people will recognize the parallels in the events of today.


So What About These Cupids?

“Love goes by haps; Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps”
Much Ado About Nothing – Act 3, Scene 2


“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act 1, Scene 1

Every story in the world centers around love. My story and your story are bathed in the unlimited power of love. In Dueling Cupids you get to play the part of a Cupid spreading love in the world in new and unexpected ways. The Greeks actually had six different words for love:

  1. Eros, or sexual passion
  2. Philia, or deep friendship
  3. Ludus, or playful love
  4. Agape, or love for everyone
  5. Pragma, or longstanding love
  6. Philautia, or love of the self

I’m still developing the idea of this game so I’m not sure how each of these types of love will manifest in the game but I know that it is vitally important that we as individuals continue to explore each type thoroughly. As one of the Cupids in the game, players will try to make love connections between different characters and the nature of that love may be described by one of these words. I don’t want the Cupids to be actively blocking a love match. I want them to be competing for different love matches. This will create an exponential spread of love throughout the game and help players draw connections between the characters.

Social Standing and Character Context

Another thing that comes to mind with regard to these characters is how you get them to interact and put them in context. In a effort to match characters appropriately I’m selecting 13 characters from 6 different plays and assigning them different suit symbols. I’m also working on assigning numbers to each character that connect them to similar or complementary characters across plays. The numbers are not sequential or represent any sort of class system within the game. They are only used to connect characters across plays.


The Magic of Mucha

Creating 6 suits will give the game the same amount of cards as a Tarot deck. This led me to start thinking about the style of art that would represent the characters. The typical Tarot set has flat artwork with elaborate borders. I started looking at different styles of artwork and I landed on the universally appealing style of Art Nouveau and the master of the style Alphonse Mucha. To that end, I posted a project on and connected with an amazing artist named Lea Segarra. She has been creating all the artwork at poster size. I have a feeling the theatre community is really going to love these cards and I’d like to make posters available to spread the love.


Game Mechanics

Armed with the amount of characters, the amount of plays, the amount of cards, the theme, and the artistic style I got to working on player interaction. Thus far I have created a simple card game in the spirit of Hearts or similarly easy-going card games. I’m trying to keep actor types in mind while I create this game and from my experience they gravitate toward party games with a lot of room for creativity. At the same time I cannot help but work on creating an interesting strategy game for those folks that prefer to compete. It’s always a balancing act.

The game starts with two cards paired in a love match. Players can place up to two characters on either side in an attempt to equalize the numbers on either side of the love match. These cards/characters are supporting characters and create the scene and context for the love match. Love can’t exist in a vacuum. People are the sum of their experiences.

If a love match cannot be made, another love match springs up above or below the original match. Now players can work on this love match and influence the original love match by placing related cards (by suit or by number) above or below supporting characters to tie the new love match together with the original love match and influence the result.

In addition to this world building aspect, player will have access to cards that can replace other cards in order to free up places in the existing couples. And lastly, there will be a pile of cards called “forbidden love” cards (or something more clever) that disallow certain numbered cards from being played and occasionally clear the table of stagnant cards. This might even be considered a scene change.

So that’s what I have so far. It’s a pretty fun little game but right now it relies pretty heavily on numbers. I’m working on a way to incorporate quotes, performance, and a trivia aspect. I really feel like this could be a great learning tool for students in addition to being a fun game. I’ll post updates as developments continue!