Casting my net a little further – writing, art and e-motion

PlayTime: PerplexCity & Oldton

More from PlayTime, London Games Fringe Festival, 4/10/06

Dan Hon of Mind Candy

Dan Hon introduced us to alternative reality game Perplex City, which seems to be a 360 degree kind of game. There are a number of interactive routes into Perplex City, a world of ‘puzzles, mystery and intrigue’. You can play online or as a board game, you can collect the puzzle cards, buy other products, attend live events, listen to podcasts, receive emails, join the community… Mind Candy seem to have all bases covered, and the options could be bewildering, so what pulls it all together?

A real cash prize of £100,000! It’s a treasure hunt and the search is on for the big prize, a lost cube.

They got the idea from Kit Williams’ Masquerade, an armchair treasure hunt book published in 1979, and also the general love of puzzles as exemplified by the popularity of phenomena such as sudoko, crosswords, computer games such as Myst, and The Da Vinci Code…

Mind Candy say there’s a 50:50 ratio of male and female players across a broad age range from children to older people. A team of 5 to 7 writers, led by Naomi Waldeman, keeps the game going, but what’s interesting is the way the players themselves contribute to and so enrich the gaming experience. For example, quite independently of the game creators, a number of players scanned their map puzzle cards to create a complete map of Perplex City that they mashed up and annotated with Google maps.

Tim Wright’s In Search of Oldton

Players collaborating to create a map of fictitional town is also a defining feature of Tim’s new media work In Search of Oldton, a 90% true story, which also led to a pack of playing cards. The difference here is that the map was created by people contributing ‘memories’ of the fictional town of Oldton to Tim’s blog. Everytime a contributor mentioned a feature or place in the town, Tim added it to the map.

At PlayTime Tim said, ‘The online writer needs to be ahead of the game. You don’t know whether your players/contributors are going to collude with you or sabotage your game – but that’s all part of it.’


27 November 2006 Posted by | Play | Leave a comment

PlayTime and the BBC

Next up at PlayTime, London Games Fringe Festival, 4/10/06:

Jamie Cason, Executive Producer for BBC Interactive Entertainment

At the Beeb they’re interested in storytelling using digital platforms and 360 degree commissioning (which usually doesn’t mean much more than marketing popular shows). ‘If TV is God,’ said Jamie, ‘then games are Jesus.’ The BBC view is that interactive = games. What they’re aiming at are those time-wasting moments in the viewer’s day when BBCi can slip in and fill up with their content.
Here’s why the BBC do games:

  • to reach an audience
  • to develop & exploit IP
  • to innovate

The average age of a user visiting a BBC site is 13. Market research has shown that for kids, games are as important as TV and that their PCs are more important to them than TV sets. So the BBC feels justified in spending license fee money on games, although the debate is still open about what constitutes a public service game.

Jamie Kane is an example of an online game from BBC that is not about promoting a TV programme. Wanabees is a forthcoming game to look out for, currently in Beta testing, that consists of broken narratives interrupted by moments of interactivity.

Incidentally, BBC Interactive Entertainment began life as Fiction Lab.

26 November 2006 Posted by | Play | Leave a comment

PlayTime in London – 4 Oct 2006

Play is a serious business

It’s over a month ago since I attended PlayTime! – part of the London Games Fringe Festival – hosted by digital writer Tim Wright. It was a fantastically inspiring day and I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since. Luckily the notes I made at the time make sense (I think), so here goes.

Pat Kane’s Play Ethic

Pat Kane, writer of The Play Ethic: a Manifesto for a Different Way of Living, kicked off with the proposition that:

Play is a way to cope with the 21st Century. Industrial society was dominated by a Puritan work ethic, but now we’re in play times. It’s all about quality of life issues coming to the fore – happiness, well being, play, idleness, slowness, soft power… These are the dominant ideas in a post-work society. Identity is shifting from being defined by routine-work to creative-play. Play is adaptive potentiation (an idea from ‘The Ambiguity of Play’ by Brian Sutton-Smith).

Kane identifies 7 Rhetorics of Play, some ancient, some modern:

Modern rhetorics of play:

  • play as freedom
  • play as imagination
  • play as a developmental process, educational

Ancient rhetorics of play:

  • play as power
  • play as community – carnival, festival, ritual
  • play as fate – the gods at play, chaos
  • play as tomfoolery, knavery, humour

Pat Kane’s mission is to develop and encourage play literacy. An obsession of his is the dark side of play and games.

Think about the shadow side of digital play. Hmmm… I can’t remember if that’s something he said or whether that’s a note to myself – whichever, I’ll think about it.

Poetry rooted in play has a dark side too

Surprisingly, Gavin Stuart – poet, digital artist & academic – carried on the theme of the dark side of play in his presentation about poetry. Surprising because he showed the fun side of poetry and had us all joining in with a poem he usually performs with children. He described poetry rooted in play as something where accidents happen but no one’s to blame, and he said ‘Play is about not being afraid to fail.’ So play keeps ones fears at bay – I think most people could identify with that from childhood, but it’s interesting to think about it in terms of adulthood too. Like Pat Kane, Gavin also believes that play is a survival strategy.

Having set the context of the seriousness of play, the day progressed with many other interesting presentations – Jamie Cason from BBC Interactive Entertainment; Dan Hon of Mind Candy; Tom Hume of Future Platforms; Rob Bevan of XPT; Stuart Nolan, NESTA Fellow & magician; Tom Morris of the National Theatre; and Tassos Stevens of Coney Communications & an associate of the mysterious rabbit; and Tim Wright who had us all in a playing-golf-on-the-moon simulation out on the street.

Much too much to put all into one post, so I’ll blog about others separately.

26 November 2006 Posted by | Play | Leave a comment