In Sixteen Tons, four players bribe each other with real money in order to win. Heavy sections of steel pipe are the game pieces – but you can’t move your own pieces. Instead, when the game starts you take three dollars from your wallet and use that money to pay others to move your pieces for you.
This intense social and strategic play is enclosed in a surrounding wall with narrow openings, giving Sixteen Tons the feeling of a clandestine betting pit. The intentionally ambiguous rules don’t tell players what to do with each others’ dollars – and by the end of the game the winner usually has no money left .
You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.
-Tennessee Ernie Ford
Thanks to Stephen Bodnar at SCAD for fabricating the game pieces and to curator John Sharp for his support.