Beta Public 3

betapublic3

Yesterday, I made my way to Beta Public 3 at Camden People’s Theatre (@CamdenPT).

An event curated by Pat Ashe (@patrickashe) and Thomas Martin (@tjamesmartin) that brings together people to explore and talk about games, performance, play and where they meet. With games set up in both the basement and the ground floor there was plenty of things to see, and that is before the performances (but I’ll get to that in a bit).

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Down in the basement the first game I played was Panoramical by Fernando Ramallo (@compositeredfox) and David Kanaga (@dkanaga). A midi controller was used to control a range of parameters in a landscape as well as levels on a number of sound tracks. The landscape I got to explore seemed like a colourful swamp with mounds and reeds. Experimenting with the different levels I was able to get a myriad of effects. It felt like improvising with a musical instrument.

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I then waited for a turn with Bounden a collaboration between Game Oven (@GameOvenStudios) and the Dutch National Ballet (@DutchNatBallet). Fortunately I managed to find someone to play this cooperative game with, a very nice gentleman named Salman. This game has each player hold one end of a smart phone, they then must manipulate an on screen icon to reach certain points by moving, rotating and pivoting the phone. The affect for both the players and audience is that an improvised dance is created, players moving around each other contorting to reach the on screen goals.

Prowl by Nate Gallardo (@Poxican) and Danny Gallagher was also set up. I did not get a chance to play this, partially because I am put off by the Oculus Rift which although immersive leaves me feeling ill for far longer than the time I can manage to play for. I have a similar issue with 3D cinema. I would like to find out more about the game, and am left wondering if it only works with the Oculus Rift in terms of experience.

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I then played Luxuria Superbia by Tale Of Tales (@taleoftales). Here you control a curser that travels down a tube which appeared to me like the inside of a plant’s vascular system. As the curser touches different elements around the outside of the tube, little quirky animations are revealed (dolphins leaping, anchors appearing, life rings popping up). It was pointed out to me before I played that the game was a metaphor for sex. The pacing of your interactions were key to doing well at the game, unlike most games of this form which are very twitch response based this was an interesting and engaging take on the idea.

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On the ground floor there was Here & There Along The Echo by Cardboard Computer (@cardboardcompy) they folks behind Kentucky Route Zero. A phone and a number were on a desk. Ringing the number gets the player through to a automated response service. Pieces of the narrative are revealed by selecting and exploring through the different options. The space was a little noisy for me to get a real good impression of the game, however it just goes to show some of the creative things going on in games. If there’s something where there is interaction and choices there is an opportunity for a game. This game helps enforce my view that everyday things can be used in new ways in order to find potential game experiences.

The final game on display was Bonus Look by Droqen (@droqen). This is a cooperative game where one player controls a character through a maze of rooms using the curser keys on a keyboard where all other keys have been removed. The other player controls elements of the environment using a second keyboard (holding keys to make the matching letters on the screen passable by the character). The catch, the player controlling the environment cannot see the screen, and the player controlling the character must relay information and commands to them in order to progress. There is something compelling about challenging people to communicate information to another ‘ignorant’ but ‘powerful’ person in order for them to cooperate.

As well as the games on display there was a series of four performances.

The first was by Ellie Stamp (@StampEllie). A performance that explored peoples’ perspectives of each other, and numbers and their apparent meanings when assigned to groups of people. The performance ended with a sing-a-long interjected with suggestions from the audience on how they believe other people perceive them. Also there was mention of Elvis’s love child.

The second was by Coney (@agencyofconey). Each audience member was given a card and as the story of Sally was read out we could collectively vote on which action she would take at certain intervals. This piece brought to my mind the ideas of dreams and reality. As the reader asked, were we each aspects of Sally’s life or something else entirely. The simplicity of the mechanic of voting made it easy for users to take part. I especially liked the parts where voting took part with our eyes closed so we were not able to affect each others votes (intentionally or not). I would really like to see an entire piece like this where both the voting and the audience is blind fully immersing them through the use of language.

The third by George Buckenham (@v21). George played and talked about Panoramical, despite the projector not working properly (no reds) he covered one of the scenes inspired by the council blocks near where he lives. Adjusting the knobs lead to interesting layers of manipulation occurring to the passing image of the buildings and trees. He was excited to talk about how he had found fractals emerge through exploration rather than a conscious decision in the programming. Emergence is something that really interests me, the thin space between, chaos and an ordered dynamic pattern.

Finally a performances by Emma Bennett. Emma piece involved sharing information about birds, in time with photo prompts on the screen she would start stating little pieces of information about different birds and their identifying features, only to interrupt herself when another photo would appear. It was a similar effect to a sound effects board that can only manage one sound at a time, noises and loops of spoken word repeating and causing interesting patterns. The absurdity and dry wit worked well within the piece, a bird table where a bird was waiting for sex provided punctuation throughout the piece and increasing amusement through the audience.

I spend a little time after the performance and got to speak to a few people, many of whom I had met briefly at GameCity just a couple of weeks ago. I really think there needs to be more events like this, and if there already are events like this I need to find them.

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