Dual Coincidence is likely the world's most complex electromechanical game
As compared to today's video gaming systems, pinball machines may seem quaint and simple. Such is certainly not the case with New York artist Andy Cavatorta's Dual Coincidence installation, however, as it's probably the most complex electromechanical game ever made.
Working out of a Brooklyn studio, Cavatorta describes himself as "a sculptor working with sound and robotics."
He holds a Masters of Science degree from the MIT Media Lab, and has previously been employed as a musician and software engineer.
Most of his time is now spent working with clients who commission him to design and build pieces of functional art. In one of his higher-profile projects, he created musical instruments for Icelandic singer/songwriter Björk, which she used in her Biophilia album.
Dual Coincidence was built for the Museo Banco de Mexico (Museum of the Central Bank of Mexico), to illustrate the principles of an economic situation called the dual (or sometimes "double") coincidence of wants. In this barter-system scenario, two parties each happen to possess a good or service that the other one wants.
The five-player game incorporates five pinball "playfields," which radiate out like spokes from a central hub. That hub is called the Exchange Matrix, and it utilizes six rotating carousels to move balls from one playfield to another. Located above the Exchange Matrix is a module that displays each player's score via edge-lit acrylic panels, and which also plays music via 25 tuned metal chimes.
"I decided to go with pinball because I think everybody knows how to play pinball, even if they've never played it," says Cavatorta. "Also, the museum itself is full of touchscreen interactives, and I wanted something that was very physical and tactile."
In Andy's original concept for the game, the five players represent members of a small community, each of whom plays a certain role – one makes shoes, one grows corn, one drives a transport truck, etc. As they individually play pinball on their own playfield, they accumulate balls that represent the goods they provide.
In order to keep playing, however, they periodically require some of the goods provided by all the other players. The game alerts them to this fact by illuminating a "Trade Now" button on their playfield.
"I'm growing corn, and at some point I'm going to need new shoes," explains Cavatorta. "And now I have to trade some of my corn – which is represented as pinballs – with the person who makes shoes. But they're in the middle of their game, and they might not need it [corn] at the same time as me. They will eventually, but I have to get them to stop their production of what they're doing. This becomes the dynamic, where you need to convince people to engage with you."
Dual Coincidence is capable of being played in this manner, although because of setbacks such as Covid-19, a global microchip shortage and a major earthquake in Mexico, it's still awaiting its full set of features – those may be in place within the year.
In any case, it's still an incredibly complex setup. According to Cavatorta, Dual Coincidence incorporates 17 computers (running about 12,000 lines of code), six servo motors, 10 optical sensors, 12 rotary encoders, 35 inductive sensors, 75 switches, 115 solenoid actuators and 704 channels of lighting.
The whole thing cost about US$300,000 to build. If you'd like to try playing it for yourself, it's on display indefinitely at the Museo Banco de Mexico, in Mexico City.
"I want strangers to talk to each other, and I want there to be this unpredictable social component, where people's personalities come into play," says Cavatorta. "I actually wanted this to be somewhat chaotic – you can't really guarantee how it's going to go. If somebody doesn't speak the same language as you, and you're trying to coordinate trading with them … well, now you're having an interesting experience you can say something about."
You can see the game in action, in the video below.
Artist website: Andy Cavatorta Studio