Sunday, September 24, 2006

Come Out N Play (yo)

(Photo: Our Cruel 2 B Kind team "steak out" in a courtyard.)

This weekend (technically ending today), we participated in the Come Out And Play Urban Games Festival. Our participation included everything from playing games to listening to gamer theory to blowing up balloons (for the opening ceremony). The headquarters for this festival was located at Eyebeam , a design, research, education, technology/art lab. It is an interesting place, and is definitely one at which I could see myself working because of the many interesting projects going on, and their focus on making art and technology accessible to the general public, not simply the elite.

Personally, I played one game, volunteered at another, and helped with festival breakdown at Eyebeam. The game I played on Saturday was called Cruel 2 B Kind, and basically consisted of different teams trying to "kill" the others with compliments. The game location was restricted to Broadway, between 48th and 58th streets, meaning that the teams had to loop around this 10 block area while determining who to assassinate with compliments. Sorry to say, but as soon as my team (Rachel, Susan, Julia, and I) arrived on site we were killed. I would, however, like to claim that it wasn't technically our fault, as we had just received the text message containing the phrases that were our weapon (have a fabulous day) and weakness (well done). We were supposed to use the phrase "have a fabulous day" to "kill" other teams and gain points, but before we even knew what was happening, a couple with a map asked us to help them find Rockefeller Center. After we told them, they said "well done," and we were extremely confused; wait a minute, are you playing Cruel 2 B Kind? Are we dead? We were incredulous. We hadn't even thought of using trickery, or as we later saw, disguises in order to kill others with kindness.

There were a couple of pretty funny things about this game. The first was that when a team was "killed" they had to join the team that "killed" them, so as we played our group turned into this enormous mob whose weapon was the phrase "Can we help you?" This lead to the second funny thing, which was that our team and the other massive teams were shouting biazrre compliments at each other down the streets and across the streets at random intervals. And as we played, that particular stretch of Broadway became incredibly full of tourists and people going to plays and musicals. So there we were, asking random people if we could help them. As response, we mostly received confused looks and smiles, with a few wise guy remarks, which I can actually understand; I'm not so sure how comfortable I'd be with a huge group yelling a somewhat sarcastic sounding remark at me.

Incase you're wondering how the Urban Games Festival relates to New Media, there is a simple explanation: most of the games relied on the mobile technology of cell phones, computers, or projectors in order to function (exchange information, record points, etc). Some of the games even included the theme of psychogeography, in that they mapped different locations over Manhattan (such as Baghdad). I think the main point of the festival was summed up by what one of the speakers said, which was that we all just want to be a bit happier in life, and that games help us fulfill that desire. The people that I saw certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I guess that's true.


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