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Public play gives you a new way to feel at home in a place

Notes on yesterday’s ‘makers conversation’ about public games at Geek2013

We were all excited by Hide and Seek‘s ‘Tiny Games’ which evolved from a challenge to make a game in 140 characters. I spotted a number of them when I was out and about in Margate. In the summer they made 99 of them- 3 for each London borough. They were each designed for a particular place and took the form of a short set of rules printed on a big, bright, round, yellow sticker.

Because the barriers to play are minimal many more people can get involved in playing (and perhaps making up their own play-rules). The best ones, like People Pooh Sticks and I’m at my tree!  are easily understandable, they change players’ sense of the location and they have simple rules. When they work, Holly Gramazio says they are “a startling amount of fun, comforting and just lovely”.

Furtherfield’s favourite quote from James Wallbank is that “the best art creates new artists” (it’s a New-Beuysian thing) and we can imagine that these kinds of games might create new game designers.

When asked about the social content/effect of public games Holly says that playing gives you a new way to feel at home in a place, or a new way to look at it. To be comfortable enough to play in a place you have to feel it belongs to you. Public play is an assertion of the right to public space.

It’s interesting that funfair-like games like Punch the Custard and Johann Sebastian Joust (both beautiful in their own way) are starting to take over from the more elaborate multiplayer real-world games in which players sign up and play in groups but only after 10 minutes of instruction. These games are good to watch,  so people can stop and look and get involved more easily. However after hearing tales of last year’s multiplayer critical game Incitement I think there is room for both types. 

At the conversation were: Holly Gramazio, Lead Game Designer at Hide&Seek,
George Buckenham, game designer on Die Gute Fabrik on Mutazione and maker of Punch the Custard, Kate Kneale, GEEK Ring Mistress), Gudrun Haraldsdottir, Tim and Nicola from Genetic Moo

Other names for pervasive games: local multiplayer…, real-world…, running around…, big…, street …, … in public places

Custard goes hard under pressure. It’s exotropic- says George, creator of Punch The Custard

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This work by Local Play (based on a collaboration between Ruth Catlow and Dr Mary
Flanagan) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

The free software, that enables anyone to draw, make and play their own platform game levels, developed with Soda was first published to Github October 2013