Isaac Bluefoot believes card games premised on cooperation, collaboration and emotional acuity have a place in a world which is largely trained to sort the winners from the losers.
Bluefoot, an Arcata resident, is the creator of the OmenQuest World Deck, a deck of over 80 cards from which these cooperative games are fashioned.
He has been a painter for most of his life and designed every aspect of each card.
“My oldest memory is holding a paintbrush,” he said.
In 2002, Bluefoot moved to Humboldt County with his 6-month-old daughter. About a year later, the mother of Bluefoot’s daughter suggested he make the cards. Bluefoot attended Humboldt State University during this time, and worked on drawing the cards in between semesters.
Four years later, Bluefoot printed the first deck on 3″ by 5” cards over the course of five days.
“I didn’t sleep much over those five days,” he said.
The completion of the first deck however, marked the beginning of a tumultuous time for Bluefoot. In 2008, Bluefoot was divorced. Then in 2009, Bluefoot’s academic advisor, Wayne Knight, who was instrumental in crafting Bluefoot’s custom major plan, passed away.
“It left me with no supervision, no one understood my plan,” Bluefoot said.
Bluefoot took a sharp turn afterwards, and shifted from an introverted painter to an outgoing puppeteer. In 2010, he created the Kinetic Paranormal Society, a puppet troupe which has participated in the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race since 2011.
The puppet troupe “is a sitcom where they go on escapades through time and space in multiple dimensions,” Bluefoot said. “It’s been so well received.”
Recently, Bluefoot said, OmenQuest has been receiving a warm reception as well.
“It seems like 99 percent of people who I introduce it to are really into it,” he said. “It’s almost bewildering, I’m hoping to make it a national thing; I’m hoping it goes international. My wish is that everyone plays.”
He said the game is tied to emotions.
“When people get a chance to taste it, they know they’ve tasted something different,” Bluefoot said. “You feel like you really overcome something, there’s a lot of emotional gratification.”
How to play
Bluefoot’s games employ radical out-of-the-box thinking that, he said, tends to unsettle first time players.
“It usually takes about three hands before a profound shift happens from people saying ‘I can’t’ or ‘I don’t want to do to this’ to ‘This is something I’ve never done.’”
Each card in the OmenQuest deck provides an example of a landscape, such as a pond, a tree, or galaxy. Bluefoot focused on landscapes because “locations mean so much more than a place to be.”
Each landscape location, he said, triggers a unique association for each individual who sees it.
Jeff Jensen, a friend of Bluefoot’s, said he plays OmenQuest with his family. Jensen said if he got a tornado card he might associate it with turbulence in life. Paired with a headwaters card, he might say, “I was all torn up inside until I reached the source at the headwaters.”
Each game format promotes players to explore their relationship with these associations while creating poems, stories, imaginary family trees and more. In essence, the games promote self-reflection as a group activity. In one game called Hi Q, players pick three cards from their hand and lay them down one by one. As each card is laid down, the player says their association out loud, creating a haiku-like poem of three words.
Jensen said when he plays, he enjoys taking more of a narrative route, which involves creating stories with the cards. “Often time they are based on emotions that I’m going through at the time,” Jensen said. “It can definitely be very cathartic. It offers an outlet to express emotions and feelings that normally doesn’t exist.”
“Sometimes you end up with cards that are challenging,” Bluefoot said. “Subconsciously, cards may be problematic to you.”
Overcoming life’s challenges
OmenQuest can be a way to identify and overcome challenges, Bluefoot said.
“It’s therapeutic for me,” he said. “I had someone say that ‘group counseling is going to be boring and awkward’ after OmenQuest.”
When you’re with friends, Jensen says, activities like OmenQuest are a no brainier.
“If you can’t express your emotions and be vulnerable with the closest people in your life, something may be wrong,” Jensen said.
Besides, he added, it’s a creative way to do so, and you aren’t getting into literal details.
Cards that build community
Malia Matsumoto works as a clerk at Art Center Arcata, which used to sell a previous version of OmenQuest.
“We like to foster imagination and creativity, and that card deck is very strong in using image and creativity,” Matsumoto said. “It uses out-of-the-box thinking, which is one of the things that is really strong in our community as a whole.”
She was struck by the creativity and artistry of the game.
“It’s a beautiful card game with wonderful illustrations,” she said. “The more creative you get, the harder and more complex you can make it.”
Matsumoto said she found the game to be free-ended, open and cooperative.
“Such is life,” Malia said. “We all live together, play together … building bridges of cooperation is important. The mindset that we’re all in this together, and that it’s not about individuality is really important in our community.”
Bluefoot is now focused on launching a Kickstarter campaign on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. to breathe new life into OmenQuest. The campaign’s goal is to generate $9,980. The funds will be used to print the decks at a quantity which will allow Bluefoot to sell them affordably, while still generating enough revenue to sustain them business wise. Readers can find the Kickstarter by searching “omenquest” on Kickstarter.com — but the site for the crowd-funded project won’t be live until it launces. For more information about OmenQuest, go to http://omenquestcards.com.
“It’s the best way to see your friends shine, you’ll see friends overcome challenges and see them in their prime,” Bluefoot said. “That’s what happens when you play OmenQuest, a lot of high fives will get handed out.”
Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.