CLEAN UP WALL STREET is a game-event inspired by the global financial crisis. The game explores the actions that led financial institutions to endanger the health of the global economy. Playfully assuming the roles of commodity traders and credit rating agents in the actual spaces of Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, players compete to trade and sell the most before the inflated system bursts and time runs out.
Working in teams, players collaboratively pursue wealth and prosperity. However, success in the game depends on face-to-face interactions with a cross-section of visitors to the Lower Manhattan Financial District. Performing an act of citizen journalism, players engage individuals to ask how the financial crisis (and recovery) may have impacted their lives. The stories are captured via a voicemail system and uploaded onto the game’s website along with additional gameplay imagery gathered by the players, forming a visual and audio mosaic of stories highlighting the financial, emotional, and mental consequences of an unstable and unregulated financial system.
New York’s Wall Street exists as a vibrant physical community as well as a powerful symbol in the collective imagination of the world’s interconnected financial systems, and as such, CLEAN UP WALL STREET makes an intervention in both registers by performing play at its physical location and by interrupting its symbolic narrative. In part inspired and informed by Charles H. Ferguson’s 2010 Academy Award winning documentary INSIDE JOB, the game playfully distills machinations of the highly complex derivatives market and highlights the dire and very real ramifications of deregulation.
Wall Street exists as much in the world of image and spectacle as it does in the physical geography of New York City. As players generate a fictional crisis of their own, they will be inserting themselves into its mediated and contentious spaces. The mark it makes on the street is small in comparison to the mark the experimentators of financial innovation made on the world; nonetheless it aims to understand our shared financial traumas.
The face-to-face interaction between visitors to Wall Street and players provides a platform for civic conversation. This moment is not just about “giving voice” but about providing a context for “speaking back” to those in positions of power while at a location key to this conversation.
The discussion guidelines intended as a handy reference printed on the in-game materials may additionally include points about significant legislation and histories. Logistics allowing, the audio collected will be simultaneously broadcast at headquarters, creating a collision of voices interjected into the context of The Financial District. The stories and imagery gathered by players and documenters are tagged in such a way as to expedite integration into the game’s website, thereby serving as a dynamic and enduring legacy of the stories gathered during this and all other gameplays.