PLAY Pilots

Three PLAY Pilots live games

Con­text

PLAY is the work­ing title of an ini­tia­tive to cre­ate a place for play­ful cul­ture in the city of Utrecht. It is the brain­child of Jeroen van Mas­trigt and was con­ceived at sev­eral city labs with munic­i­pal and provin­cial sup­port. Lead­ing up to the real­iza­tion of this place for play­ful cul­ture, PLAY’s stake­hold­ers felt the need to ini­ti­ate projects at a smaller scale and with a more prag­matic bent. In this man­ner, the ideas around PLAY would be embed­ded in the city’s cul­tural ecosys­tem and aware­ness would be raised amongst the public.

Brief

We were asked to lead the pro­duc­tion of a series of games for a num­ber of the city’s cul­tural fes­ti­vals. Each of these so-called live games would be cre­ated by a local games stu­dio. In this man­ner, the hope was to demon­strate the value of play for more tra­di­tional cul­tural domains. Through play a festival’s cul­tural offer­ing would be made acces­si­ble in an alter­na­tive man­ner, with the ulti­mate aim of attract­ing a larger and more var­ied audience.

In addi­tion, we were expected to pro­duce a web­site that would present these games to a wider audi­ence. This web­site would not only list the games, but also cre­ate a record of people’s activ­i­ties at the live games. We were also asked to think of a way to con­nect all these play­ful activ­i­ties online and to cre­ate a place where the cre­ative process behind the live games would be visible.

Process

The first activ­i­ties around this project con­sisted of a round of inter­views with around 10 Utrecht fes­ti­vals. We used these inter­views to get a sense of each festival’s aims, its audi­ence and any spe­cific chal­lenges it might be fac­ing. We also spent some time dur­ing each meet­ing to brain­storm pos­si­ble appli­ca­tions of play for the festival.

We then went back and sketched con­cepts for each fes­ti­val. We pre­sented all of these ideas at a city lab meet­ing attended by all fes­ti­vals as well as a num­ber of Utrecht games stu­dios. Dur­ing this meet­ing we were happy to get an enthu­si­as­tic response from both fes­ti­vals and stu­dios, giv­ing us the man­date to move ahead.

Con­cept sketches

Sub­se­quently we selected three fes­ti­vals for which a live game would be cre­ated and selected stu­dios that would be a good match for them. We wrote briefs for each live game and coor­di­nated the pro­duc­tion of them.

In par­al­lel we planned, designed and pro­duced the web­site. We named the project PLAY Pilots and cre­ated a brand iden­tity. A first ver­sion launched shortly before the first live game. Sub­se­quent updates included gen­eral improve­ments as well as the fea­tures required to con­nect the live games to the website.

The PLAY Pilots logo

Of course, we also attended the fes­ti­vals them­selves, assisted with the live games where required and observed their impact on the event audiences.

Out­come

This pro­jected resulted in three live games by three stu­dios for three fes­ti­vals. They are, in order of launch date:

Wip ‘n’ Kip by Fource­Labs for Stekker Fest

Claim­ing Wip ‘n’ Kip race data

Wip ’n’ Kip by Fource­Labs for Stekker Fest. Play­ers raced each other on adult-size spring rid­ers that con­trolled a dig­i­tal coun­ter­part on race­track on a huge screen. Each race was recorded with a high speed video cam­era. The record­ings and the race times could be claimed online.

De Stere­oscoop by Zes­baans for the Nether­lands Film Festival

Claim­ing Stere­oscoop achievements

De Stere­oscoop by Zes­baans for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val. Two turnta­bles allowed play­ers to scratch and mix sam­ples taken from 30 Dutch films from the past 30 years. The instal­la­tion con­tained around 200 such sam­ples. Play­ers were awarded for inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tions with achieve­ments which could be claimed online.

Band­jes­land by Monobanda for Le Guess Who?

Band­jes­land record­ings online

Band­jes­land by Monobanda for Le Guess Who? A col­lab­o­ra­tive dance music mak­ing machine that used old-fashioned cas­sette tapes stuffed with new-fangled RFIDs. By plac­ing tapes on a table loops would start play­ing. Play­ers could record their own sam­ples at the event and link them to these tapes for imme­di­ate use. All music and sam­ples were recorded and made avail­able online.

The stu­dios as well as the web­site team wrote so-called wee­knotes on a process blog. All the posts are still avail­able and pro­vide a wealth of infor­ma­tion with regards to the con­cep­tual and prac­ti­cal chal­lenges con­nected to mash­ing up games and tra­di­tional culture.

The PLAY Pilots online game

The web­site itself con­sisted of pages describ­ing each live game, the related stu­dio and fes­ti­val and a record of the play­ers’ activ­i­ties. The web­site — which is still online — also con­tained a social game that pig­gy­backed on Twit­ter and allowed play­ers to bat­tle each other using ‘moves’ from sub­cul­tures in a kind of com­pet­i­tive slot machine.

All live games got tremen­dous responses from play­ers. Fes­ti­vals got valu­able expe­ri­ence with com­mis­sion­ing games, and an increased under­stand­ing of the work that goes into games like this. Stu­dios were able to present their work to a large, non-games audi­ence. And per­haps most impor­tantly, all par­ties involved are keen to con­tinue to inno­vate in cul­ture using play and games.