Category Archives: Experience Games

Gamification is an Ugly Word

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I was recently asked to create a workshop for a conference that would introduce a small group (around 25) to concepts of play for work. Over the last few years I have come to dislike words like gamification, edutainment, or serious games, and what they stand for, but had not really spent much time thinking about why.

There is this idea that if only we could make things which we are not motivated to do more fun, then we would want to do them more. Also games are fun, people often like playing games. So therefore we should make: work, training, learning, education, study, eating well, and exercise more like games, then they will be fun too, and we will enjoy doing them. At least that’s what the plan usually is.

The issue is not only that the execution of this concept is poorly done, but there are often more fundamental issues with it in the first place. Not every task is suited for being made a game of. However, amongst all the mess, there are some good examples of games being used in serious ways, which I will try to highlight later on.

So, I had to prepare a workshop, but I didn’t want it all to be negative, I wanted there to be some positive outcomes for the people who attended. It was also important for me that they went away with more than a simplified idea of how games and work can be mixed.

I observed that there are four broad approaches to mixing work and play, each with their benefits and issues in different amounts. I will go through them one at a time, giving the example of the activity I had the attendees of the workshop complete.

1. Rewards, Badges, Points and Medals.

This is the easiest way to gamify any activity. When tasks are completed, the player is awarded a small reward. The more tasks completed the more rewards are gained. Players can compete with each other to see has the most rewards, encouraging engagement with the game.

It is possible to add timing, reminders, and a little bit of randomness to increase the engagement of the players, see Skinner Box and Operand Conditioning if you are interested in learning more and research out from there, also look at the free-to-play mobile gaming market.

The activity: When the participants entered the room, an equal mixture of black and blue chairs were set out, there were more seats than participants. The group was split into two teams. Each team was tasked with gathering and stacking all the chairs of their teams colour to the side of the room, maximum stack size of five chairs.

Stickers were rewarded for certain tasks completed.

  • First chair moved.
  • Third chair moved.
  • Placed the last chair on the stack.
  • Placed the last chair on the stack three times.
  • On the team that stacked all their chairs the quickest.

Thoughts: The participants did not really enjoy staking chairs, and could see they were being manipulated.

In situations where the person wants to achieve something, is capable of achieving it, but perhaps is not intrinsically motivated to do something, rewards can potentially help. Also, if the activity is optional and engaging, this additional motivation can help. The issue is being forced into a system of rewards and being manipulated, or being told something is now fun because of stickers. Another issue is that people can become reliant on extrinsic rewards. Removing these reward risks removing the desire to complete the original task, even in cases where the person originally enjoyed the task itself.

2. Incidental Outputs of Game are Work

This is a little harder to describe, but the idea is as follows. Sometimes when playing a game, things which are not a major aspect or goal of the game also occur. If the game can be created in such a way that these outcomes are useful, then they could potentially be harnessed for work. For example, although Civilization (Sid Meier) does not explicitly test your knowledge of history, players often get a better grasp of historic events and time periods. Pokémon GO, asks you to collect Pokémon, but to do so successfully requires you to walk around (there are also motivations of play more similar to 1. within Pokémon GO). A really good example of this is how playing games can reduce pain felt (google: reduce pain with games). These games are not designed as training tools for not feeling pain but simply playing games in itself is distracting/engaging enough for it to work.

The activity: I had the participants play Connect-4 with the chairs, placing them in turn into the room. Although the group is focussing on trying to win the game, the nature of the activity means that the chairs were placed in such a way that they could be used as seating again, i.e. returning them to a state similar to when they entered the room.

Thoughts: The participants enjoyed this activity a lot more, however, they noted that it was not an efficient way of completing the task. In general it would have perhaps been a better use of their time to just get the job done, and then move on to something else. The other issue is, an example with placing chairs was relatively easy to determine a game for, but coming up with a truly engaging game with incidental outputs for many jobs, tasks or training would be quite a difficult feat of design.

3. Layered Gaming

In 2. the issue was designing a game that had in game incidental outputs that equated to the none engaging work that was original required. The idea of layered gaming is to further separate the game and the work. Have a game which can be played in parallel to work, an alternative reality that is happening in the same space and time. Depending on the type of work which is required the game must be selected so that it does not interfere with it directly. So whilst doing physically intensive work a thoughtful word or memory game could be played, or vice-versa.

The activity: Whilst stacking the chairs away for the second time, each player was given two scrabble tiles. The players had to form groups which would create the longest work. All players in the group with the longest words would be declared the winners.

Thoughts: In this instance this lead to quite a bit of distraction and not a whole lot of stacking chairs. With more consideration between the choice of game and the work/training activity I think there could be potential in the idea. The difficulty is making the game not interfere negatively with the original task.

4. Just Play

One option, and probably the simplest, is just to make time to play and games. I find it a good way for people to get to know each other. Games allow interaction through systems, and give space for people to both talk about something specific (the game) and about other things in between. There is also opportunity to not say anything and just engage with the game, meaning long awkward silences are far less likely. Finally, games create stories and moments that people can relate to later, and in the case of non-digital games people have to share a space.

The activity: For this example we played a variation of Lemon Joust a game brought to the world by Minkette. Players each balance a lemon on a wooden spoon. When the game begins the players attempt to knock off other players’ lemons with their spoon. Players who have their lemon knocked off are eliminated, the winner is the last remaining player with a lemon on their spoon.

Thoughts: The majority of the participants seemed to enjoy playing or watching the game. This method of just allowing play seems the most honest and least manipulative of the four suggestions. Not to say there are not certain scenarios where each could be appropriate, if well developed. This method is probably the cheapest, but for some reason perhaps the hardest to justify as there is no work being done. All you need to do is a little research and identify some great games for groups of people. With the recent resurgence in board, card and party games there are plenty to choose from. Check out ShutUpAndSitDown for some ideas of games to play.

Final thoughts

Overall I believe the workshop was a success, the participants seemed to enjoy it and gave positive feedback. Of the four activities, lemon joust and connect-4 were the most popular.

There is clearly a spectrum of approaches to mixing games and work. All the way from having games and work embedded in the same system through to having them completely separate from each other.

There is plenty of challenges in making them work together well, and in some cases it may be worth it. However, in my opinion, both the cheapest, simplest and most honest solution is to just create time for play and games, as a different activity to work. This way, there is clearly no manipulation and those that do not want to participate do not have to.

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12 Games for Christmas

1. Bad Present Ninja*

Play this from the early morning till late in the evening.

This game takes a little preparation. Take a small but ultimately pointless item that no one would really want. Wrap this up in as many layers of wrapping paper you can be bothered to, just like you were preparing a prize for pass-the-parcel.

The person who wrapped the present is currently ‘it’.

The player who is ‘it’ plays their turn by secretly putting the parcel somewhere that clearly belongs to another player, i.e. in their pocket, at their space at the dinner table, on their seat when they leave the room for the toilet, in their stack of Christmas presents.

If they do not spot you putting it there, they are now ‘it’. Once they find the present, they remove a layer of wrapping and must place it in a space belonging to another player.

If they do spot you placing it, you have to unwrap another layer yourself and you remain ‘it’.

The loser is determined by the person who unwraps the last layer, or the person who is ‘it’ at the end of the agreed game time. I advise a long play time, maybe all of Christmas day.

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2. Shut that Door – Crimbo Bingo

Play throughout the day, and possible for a bit longer.

Each player requires a used advent calendar with all the doors open. When any other player says a number of an open door you can close that door. Use any tricks you can think of to get players to say numbers, and do it when other players are not about to get an advantage.

Once you have closed all the doors of your advent calendar you declare yourself the winner by shouting ‘Crimbo Bingo’.

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3. Average Christmas Card

Play whilst you’re waiting for your Christmas Dinner to be cooked.

Get some used Christmas cards, each player takes a card and writes a number between 1 and 100 inside it without showing anyone else.

Starting with the oldest player and moving clockwise players each take a turn.

On your turn if you have not already held, you can:

  • Swap your card with another player (who has not held).
  • Or hold (keeping this card till the end of the round).

The round continues until all players but one are held. Take out a calculator or ask your maths savvy friend to add all the numbers written in the cards and divide that total by the number of players. The person with the number written in their card that is closest to this average value wins. The winning player adds points equal to the number written in their card to their score.

Cross out the current number in each card, and play again (selecting a new starting player) keeping track of the total scores.

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4. Table Sprout Splat

Play this after Christmas Dinner whilst someone else is washing up.

Gather round the dinning table once all the plates have been cleared, take one remaining sprout per player if you do not think you will have enough make sure to cook more.

Place the sprout in front of you and place one hand on the table, you are not allowed to move this hand. With your remaining hand you must simultaneously protect your sprout whilst trying to squash the other players’ sprouts.

You win if you are the last player with a sprout intact.

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5. Tinsel Town Showdown

Play this when you don’t like the Christmas present you’ve just opened.

A game for two players wearing Christmas jumpers and with long pieces of tinsel. Each player should feed their piece of tinsel up one sleeve of their jumper and down the other sleeve in such a way that most of the length tinsel is in one hand and just a small length of tinsel is in the other hand. Starting back-to-back the players wait until the adjudicator shouts, ‘Tinsel Town Showdown’ then they take three steps, turn and draw all the tinsel through the jumper using only the hand with the short length of tinsel in. The first player to draw the entire length of tinsel through their jumper swing it round their head wins.

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6. Rip Wrapping Paper

Play this after you have opened all your Christmas presents.

Once you have finished opening all your presents gather the wrapping paper and cut the paper into pieces measuring approximately 3×30 cms, so there is enough pieces that everyone has as many pieces as there are players minus one.

  • 2 players, 1 pieces each, 2 pieces total
  • 3 players, 2 pieces each, 6 pieces in total
  • 4 players, 3 pieces each, 12 pieces in total
  • 5 players, 4 pieces each, 20 pieces in total
  • 6 players, 5 pieces each, 30 pieces in total

The tallest player goes first. On your turn, all other players should rip one of their pieces of paper in two, without folding the paper (or using any other technique) to find the middle. Now you pick one of their pieces for yourself without directly comparing them and they will keep the other for themselves. You are aiming for the longest piece.

Once everyone has had a turn, line all your torn pieces of paper up into one long length and compare it with the other players’, the player with the longest length wins.

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7. You’re a Cracker

Play this before you pull your crackers, otherwise you can not play.

Clear as much space in a room as possible, each player take a cracker, close their eyes and slowly move round the room. The aim of the game is to pull your cracker without being caught, whilst trying to catch other players pulling their cracker.

At any point you may pull your cracker. When you here someone pull a cracker you can try to guess who it is by stating, ‘[Insert name] you’re a cracker’. Only the first accusation per cracker pull counts.

  • If your accusation is correct the caught player must respond ‘You’ve caught me’, pass their pulled cracker to you and is out the game.
  • If your accusation is false the accused player must respond ‘That’s a lie’, nothing else happens.

Out of the remaining players, the player with the most claimed crackers at the end of the game wins.

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8. A Better Joke

Play this once you’ve pulled your crackers.

Instead of reading out your jokes in the usual manner, take it in turns to only read the set-up for the joke. Each other player then suggests a punch line for the joke. The reader of the joke determines their favourite answer (not necessarily the correct answer) and gives them the paper with the full joke written on it as a reward. Play passes to the left.

Do not share the real answers with anyone else who is playing, leave them guessing.

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 9. A Swingers Party for Hats

Play this once you’ve realised you’ve eaten too much and should be more active.

All the players get in to teams of two, make sure you have a Christmas cracker party hat each, and that they are distinguishable from each other (colour, or mark them).

With your hands in your pockets, or tucked into your waistband, attempt to remove each others hat without ripping it before the other teams do so. If your team finish first you both win.

If you find this too easy, try this time to swap hats with each other in the quickest time.

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10. Empty Bottles Full of Music

Play this after you’ve had a little dutch-courage.

See all those empty bottles you have laying around, get one of them each or if necessary share. Look at the back of a Christmas Compilation Album and take it in turns to recreate one of the songs on the back of it using only the bottle. Get a point if you guess correctly and get a point for each person who guesses yours correctly.

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11. Shhhhh the Film is About to Start

Play whilst watching Christmas films.

The person holding the remote control is the current player. As soon as the adverts start the current player presses mute and closes their eyes. When they feel is most appropriate they can un-mute the TV and open their eyes, the closer to the film starting again the better.

  • -2 points for each whole advert that remains.
  • -1 point for part of an advert that must be watched.
  • +1 point if you un-mute on the sponsorship advert.
  • +5 points for the perfect un-mute.
  • -10 if the film starts again & you get shouted at to un-mute the tv.

After your turn pass the remote to the left. Highest score is the winner.

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12. Chocolates are for Stacking not Eating

Play this in the evening, just before you think you’ll fancy a chocolate.

Place a tin of wrapped chocolates where everyone can reach them. Each player gets one of each chocolate type and puts them in a pile near to them.

On your turn, pick a chocolate from your pile, and add it to your stack.

Each player must then take the matching chocolate from their pile and place it on their stack.

Only the first chocolate you place in the stack can touch the table.

Once you have placed a chocolate you can not move it again.

If your stack falls over at any point eat the chocolate that you were placing or the last one placed. In future games when someone places a chocolate you do not have, instead of adding to your stack you must say, ‘Sorry, I’ve been a naughty’.

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*Bad Present Ninja came from a discussion with some of my second year game design students, so they deserve a little mention here, and a big bit of thanks.

Beta Public 3

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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.

GameCity9: Saturday 1st November

The final day of GameCity and the second day of running Massively Multiplayer Rock Paper Scissors.

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I arrived early so I had chance to see Henry Smith (@hengineer) give a talk about his local cooperative game SpaceTeam. He also spent some of the time talking about his latest project Blabyrinth and his long term project Shipshape.

What interested me most about Henry’s talk was the influences he drew on to create his game. Board games like Space Alert (Vlaada Chvátil), influenced SpaceTeam. Whilst, Escape Curse of the Temple (Kristian Amundsen Østby) and the TV shows Knightmare and the Crystal Maze influenced Blabyrinth. Games including Galaxy Trucker (Vlaada Chvátil) are an influence on Shipshape.

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(more professional GameCity event photos like this one here)

Most of the day was spent manning the table with Massively Multiplayer Rock Paper Scissors, but thanks to my friend Keith who came to help out I had a brief chance to run around the rest of GameCity and try my hand at a couple of things and meet some great people.

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I had a chance to sit down for a couple of minutes and play GlitchSpace (@SpaceBudgie), I turned down the offer of the OculusRift and settled for a standard monitor. This first person puzzle platforming game used the interesting idea of a graphical coding UI to influence the objects in the game world. So in order to navigate the space you would use code to open and close doors, change the length of platforms and other such things.

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I had a quick talk with the creator of Spectral (@FirepunchGames) whilst someone else was demoing the game. Here the player controlled a spectral entity which could manipulate objects in order to solve puzzles and unravel a greater mystery. I wish I had chance to sit down with the game, hopefully I’ll get chance again in the future.

There were plenty of other games/events/talks I heard about whilst at GameCity which I did not get a chance to participate directly in all of which sounded great. It is a shame I did not get more time to wonder round and see all the different things in the constantly changing space. Next time I need to book more time for it.

GameCity Closing Event

In the evening I attended the GameCity closing event at the Nottingham Contemporary (@nottm_contemp). Whilst things were getting set up, I spent some time watching a few people try Titan Souls (Acid Nerve), which brought to mind a punishing 2d pixel art style Shadow of the Collossus. This game is definitely now on my radar.

I got an opportunity to announce the results for Massively Multiplayer Rock Paper Scissors on one of the stages with a microphone. For those that care about these things the results were:

  • Team Blue: 110
  • Team Red: 121
  • Team Yellow: 141

During the event I got a bit more time to play and see a number of games they had set up. These included (but not limited to):

  • Hohokum (Honeyslug) which involves exploring strange worlds and unlocking new paths. This was also projected onto a wall at an impressive scale.
  • Dog Park (@potatojin) a simulation of being dogs in a park.
  • Musclecat Showdown (Major Bueno @ThatMajorBueno), a game of striking poses with your cats by matching the commands on screen. This had amazing cartoon muscly cat poses. from Natasha Allegri (@natazilla)
  • Push Me Pull You (@pmpygame) a game for four people in teams of two (or two extremely dextrous people) involving controlling a two headed creature in a game of ball control. I do not think I few words can describe it, go have a look for yourself.

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(photo from Brendan Caldwells (@Brendy_C) article on Rock, Paper, Shotgun)

As well as meeting and speaking to some fantastic people, I have to say my highlight of the evening was the spoken word piece by Hannah Nicklin (@hannahnicklin), Games We Have Known and Loved. Hannah gave the titles of all the stories she had exchanged during her day at GameCity, breaking the list to expand on certain stories (mine included amongst them). She highlighted towards the end how we all had a story to tell and with just a little prompting we can find something interesting to say. I reflected that although I was initially racking my brain to think of something on the spot I have since recalled many more stories of games with friends. One of the stories Hannah told was of a girl whose last gift from her father before he past was a Playstation, that is still running today, really moved me. I too am left with the hope that this Playstation never stops working. I am left at the end of all of this with the confirmed impression that games are really important entities/experiences in our lives – individually, socially and culturally.

GameCity9: Sunday 26th October

GameCIty9: Thursday 30th October

GameCity9: Friday 31st October

GameCity9: Friday 31st October

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This time I made my way to GameCity not as a member of the public but as an exhibitor. I was surprised to find that I was given a position on the ground floor right next to the steps that lead up to the other four flours of gaming delights, a prime position.

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After a few attempts I got the explanation of my rules for Massively Multiplayer Rock Paper Scissors almost perfected.

Massively Multiplayer Rock Paper Scissors. There are three teams: red, blue and yellow. The wristband you wear represents your team, should you come across a player from a different team whilst wondering around the rest of the building, you can challenge them to a duel. You play a game of Rock Paper Scissors, the loser gives a heart tab to the winner. Any heart tabs that you win, you return here and put in your teams pot. At the end of GameCity we will find out which team has collected the most hears and won.

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Not far from me was Kim Foale (@kimadactl) had brought with him a collection of children’s musical instruments. Kim had also brought along a game of his own design, Art of Noises. The game involved a deck of cards with a range of prompts on them, for example, ‘Green’, ‘David Cameron’, ‘Alien’, ‘Vodka’, and ‘Printer’.

Five cards where placed face up on the table next to a number (1-5), each player was given a set of cards (also 1-5). The player whose turn it was, would, without indicating to the rest of the players, pick a card and then try to ‘describe’ the text on the card using only the available instruments. The other players would then have to guess which of the five items it was. The players who got it right got a point, and the player whose turn it was got a point for each correct guess.

I had a lot of fun playing this game, and saw many others enjoying it as well. It was really interesting having to convey concepts and personae through noise alone.

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Other than this game I did not really get chance to play anything else that day. I did however grab a burrito with Matt Syrett (@syrettdesigns) from Tableflip Games. They were exhibiting a running game Sure Footing that they are developing. Interestingly they were helping out with research that was looking at the perception of human vs computer generated levels through their game.

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That evening I went to the “Gisborne Industry Launch Party” at Nottingham’s Masonic Lodge building which sounds like something from a H.P. Lovecraft novel. It was here that the news was revealed that Mike Bithell’s (@mikebithell) Volume would have the voice talents of Andy Serkis (@AndySerkis) to put to the character of Guy Gisborne CEO of the fictional Gisborne Industry. There were demo units set-up, but I did not get a chance to play. I am interested to see how this game compares to Thomas Was Alone, which was one of my games of the year, once I finally got round to playing it.

GameCity: Sunday 26th October

GameCity: Thursday 30th October

GameCity: Saturday 1st November

GameCity9: Thursday 30th October

I returned to GameCity 9 on the Thursday, where I had signed up to a couple of talks and got chance to have a look round at a few of the exhibitors.

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The first talk I attended was with Prof. Richard Bartle, co-creator of MUDs (multi-user dungeons). Richard spoke humorously about developing MUD and sincerely about how he envisioned it as a social equaliser, where in a new virtual world your background would not matter.

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On my way between floors I was beckoned into a room by the eloquent Hannah Nicklin (@hannahnicklin), theatre maker, producer, and games designer/writer. Who was running Games We Have Known and Loved.

In front of me was a series of cards each with a title on them, I was allowed to pick one to hear that story on the basis that I would give a story back in return. All the stories were about games. I picked Basement of My Neighbour’s House. I heard the tale a young boy who use to visit his neighbour’s basement to play video games, and how they decided whose turn it would be. In return for this I told my story about how me and my brother played a physical version of Pong in our living room with a tennis ball and a settee and bay window for goals. I got to keep the card with Basement of My Neighbour’s House which was replaced with my story Physical Pong.

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I got to meet Geraldo Nascimento and try the game he was working on with CrazyArcadia. Gunkatana is a four player couch co-op where players move around a shared screen trying to kill each other with their Gunkatanas (blades that also shoot ricocheting laser beams), trails on the floor allow the players to boost their speed, and a spinning attack deflects the attackers beams. After killing myself countless times, I finally got the hang of the game and managed to win three games in a row.

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Finally I got to try Nidhogg by Mark Essen (@messhof) against another human being, sadly I lost two out of three of our games, but the game is vastly improved by a real world competitor and a giant screen.

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The second talk of the day, ‘In the beginning was the word’. Chaired by Professor James Newman (co-founder of the National Videogame Archive), Professor Richard Bartle and Kieron Gillen (@kierongillen) (Marvel-writer). An interesting discussion on the role of text in computer games.

mouseguard

The final thing I had signed up for was a game of the Mouse Guard RPG, which was run by Tom Hatfield (@WordMercenery). For those that have not read the Mouse Guard books the rpg is based on, they should, the art is incredible.

I’ve been wanting to play Mouse Guard for a while, think I will need to play it again to fully get to grips with a system. I think two hours was a little short, we had to finish by the time we had got the story moving. Definitely want to play this one again.

GameCity: Sunday 26th October

GameCity: Friday 31st October

GameCity: Saturday 1st November

GameCity9: Sunday 26th October

I managed to get to GameCity on Sunday after packing up to move house and before having to get a train to London. I only had an hour and a half but I saw some good things.

foodfriend

The first thing I got to take part in was Cooks of Play by Zak Wood (who also has a blog), which was with four players.

Zak had a cook book full of recipes for playing games; starters, main courses and desserts. All the games had a cooking/food theme.

Starter: We decided on an action that represented us enjoying food. Any time someone made that action, everyone would repeat a noise. If someone made the action again, you could change the noise you were making. If you had heard a sound you particularly enjoyed you were to make that noise. Once everyone was making the same noise, the game was over.

Main Course: A truth and lies game. Each player took a turn to tell a story which was either true or false focusing on the theme of food. The other players could challenge them if they thought it was a lie or pass if they thought it was the truth. When a player challenged another player, they would have to bet a number of tokens ‘food friends’. If the challenge was correct they would win that many food friends, if they were wrong they would have to give up that many.

Dessert: Every player except one holding a spatular makes a cooking/food related action (mime). The player with the spatular then can tap them with the spatular and say ‘I like the way you are … but you should do … here (passing the spatular) let me show you.’ Thus passing the power of the spatular to the next player. The general idea was to interpret the players actions in crazy ways. Me chopping food became someone playing the drums. Someone mixing a bowl of food, became swinging a child by its hair, and so on.

I have to say the dessert was my favourite course. Basically a good excuse for silly and creative improvisation. The only thing that might make the game even better is having some way to stop the other players overhear what the suggestions from the spatular wielding player are. Or maybe have multiple groups in different spaces and the spatular players moves from one group to the other, so there is the opportunity for misunderstanding how people are miming.

InductionFlyer

I managed to have a try on Bryan Gale’s Induction. This was a beautiful little puzzle game with a neat time/clone mechanic. The neat and clear aesthetics really made this game stand out for me. Hopefully I’ll get chance for another go.

taphappy

Finally I got to play Tap Happy Sabotage – Dash and Bash Edition. A physically interactive re-imagining of Alistair Aitcheson’s touch screen installation game Tap Happy Sabotage.

In this game there was a small room with four screens each with a large button underneath them. We got to play with 8 players in teams of two. I was on team lemon with Alistair himself. The other teams had other symbols; a three leaf clover, a parrots head and bee.

We played a series of games where we had to hit the button beneath the screen with our own symbol whilst stopping the other players doing the same. These games got trickier and tricker as time went on. Starting with a single card on the screen, then multiple cards, then rotating cards, and cards only counting when they were upside down. In one instance we had to stop our card being eliminated instead.

I have to say that this is a great game. Personally I’m all for games as installations, mixed medium games and physically social games and this game delivered on all fronts. Hopefully I’ll get chance to play it again before the end of the week. This seemed to be the game that everyone was talking about. Check it out.

GameCity: Thursday 30th October

GameCity: Friday 31st October

GameCity: Saturday 1st November