Q&A with Holly Gramazio (54 Cities Puzzle)

Holly Gramazio (in collaboration with Sophie Sampson) is one of the masterminds behind 54 Cities, the ‘walking puzzle’ made from playing cards designed by illustrator Martina Paukova. Here, Holly shares a few of her thoughts on the ‘gaming’ industry. 

When people talk about ‘game designers’ they usually mean people who design video games. But you actually design games that don’t involve a screen, right? 

That’s right! I usually make games that happen in the physical world – things with walking or sneaking or running around or looking.


Tell us a little about 54 Cities. What inspired you to create this ‘card game/puzzle’? 

There’s a reference in Thomas More’s Utopia, which was one of the themes of this year’s InTRANSIT festival, where he talks about the 54 cities of this imaginary island he’s writing about. It struck me as an interesting coincidence – there are 54 cards in a standard deck of cards (52 suit cards plus two jokers) and that got me thinking about how it might be neat to find little fragmentary stories and histories and alternate visions of Kensington and Chelsea and put one on each card in a deck.

54 CitiesIn creating 54 Cities, what have you discovered about North Kensington and the surrounding areas?

Oh I can’t tell you that, you’ll need to play the game to find out…

What were some of your favourite games when you were a child? Has your taste in games changed much since then? 

I liked a lot of different board games and playground games! I liked computer games as well when I got the chance, but we didn’t have a computer or a console when I was small. I definitely remember standing on benches and bossing people around, getting them to play some new game; lots of stuff with hiding and sneaking and exploration.

I liked games with elaborate rituals, too – there’s a playground game called Eggs, Bacon, Chips and Cheese we used to play that had about twelve different steps. Really overcomplicated and when I think back I don’t actually think it made much sense as a game, but I liked the ritual of it!

Back in my hometown (i.e. Canada), there is a holiday called Family Day that gives people the day off work/school to spend time with their families, with a focus on playing board games together. I’m pretty sure Hasbro invented it to increase sales, but anyway. In your opinion, why is it important for people – whether children or adults – to play games with each other? 

54 Cities 1I think play is one of the main ways we can interact with the world – in the same way that we can tell stories about it, or create images of it, in order to notice new things and communicate and connect. I think playing is a really good way to . Plus we only really tend to play with people and in places that we feel safe with – so it can be a great way to deepen our connection with a person or a place.

54 Cities is available for purchase online via InTRANSIT Festival, or in the following W11 shops. And there are 10 prizes to be won for completing the puzzle. Happy puzzling!

Daunt Books, 112-114 Holland Park Avenue, W11 4UA
Honeyjam, 2 Blenheim Crescent, W11 1NN
Lutyens and Rubensten, 21 Kensington Park Rd, W11 2EV
Book + Kitchen, 31 All Saints Road, London W11 1HE

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