Bootstraps is a board game that examines the concept of the American Dream through the eyes of the Millennial -- similar to the game of Life, players must go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, and have a baby in that order to “succeed” as defined by the generations before them. The rules of the game mirror the structure of our class system; players are rewarded an arbitrary amount of money at the beginning of each turn, and can only strategize to climb the ladder to the American Dream within the money that they’ve been given.
The goal of Bootstraps is to facilitate a dialog about the relationship between privilege and “success.” At times, people can break from the conventions of the American Dream because they choose to, and other times, people break from the conventions because opportunities like going to college, buying a house, and starting a family are simply not economically available to them. Bootstraps discusses this privileged view of success using humor, parody, and the language of the internet, which relates the game back to its roots in clickbait articles about the apparent shortcomings of Millennials.
Bootstraps is installed to mimic a dining room table that would be used on Family Game Night in a traditional setting. The photographs displayed on the wall, both found and taken, depict a young engaged couple and their family in their first home. There is a sense of uncertainty surrounding this family, who are presented as ubiquitous stock photos, using the language and visuals of the Internet to define tradition in a different way. This display encourages the gallery visitor to interact with the game in a formal setting, making them a part of the constructed experience.
Thirty years ago, when parents of Millennials were graduating college, the economic situation in America was drastically different. College tuition has increased by over 1,000% in the last thirty years and many young people feel disillusioned with the idea of the American Dream. The American Dream is deeply rooted with tradition with a focus on the family, and the Millennial rejection of many of these traditions has caused older generations to criticize them as lazy and entitled, whether the rejection of these traditions is a personal choice or simply a matter of circumstance. Bootstraps responds to these unfair criticisms by referencing real choices that many young adults will have to make in a humorous way, offering a different perspective on how Millennials choose to define their own success.