By: Greg Trefry, Gigantic Mechanic / Come Out & Play
Players will have a chance to practice their remote control prowess in Sesame Street Box Heads, made by Gigantic Mechanic.
Physical games can be a great way to teach, engage, and provoke both players and spectators. While video games and board games can deliver lots of information to players, physical games let players embody a role and bring an idea to life in a very visceral way. We should know. We’ve been running Come Out & Play, the annual festival of street games for eight years and have seen all manner of interesting real-world games. For this Games for Change Festival (April 22-24 & 26) session, we have assembled a diverse set of physical games exploring topics from executive function to Roman history to banks and bull markets.
As with any game, we think the best way to understand it is by playing it. During the session the designers will lead players through their game and then discuss the design and aesthetic goals driving the game.
When Asi, Games for Change’s president, asked if we would help curate a set of physical games we were very excited. Come Out & Play and Games for Change worked together several years ago to run a contest that challenged designers and developers to create a physical real-world game that literally left the world a better place in the area that it was played. The winning game, The Commons was built and run at Games for Change in the area around City Hall in 2011.
The Commons was a great example of a physical game with interesting aspirations for change. And it certainly wasn’t the only one. Over the years we’ve seen a lot of interesting games that sought to provoke, teach and cajole players into learning and action. Come Out & Play is a very player-focused festival. We draw regular folks looking for something fun to do on a summer weekend and offer them a host of weird, exciting, fun, and sometimes educational games to play. Through games like Running of the Stocks and Humans vs. Mosquitoes, we’ve exposed a lot of people to some interesting ideas. We saw the Games for Change session as a way to share some exemplary games with the serious game community and show them how regular players are already engaging with fun, smart physical games that expand their horizons.
But we didn’t want the session to turn into a showcase for the same type of learning just in a physical format. So we picked a wide range of easy and quick to play games that explore a range of ideas and approaches to educating.
Running of the Stocks
Designed by Nick Fortugno of Playmatics, Running of the Stocks was originally made to be played on Wall St. in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The game is a piece of sly commentary on bull markets and the frenzy of investors. Players run down the street grabbing stock certificates off the ground while being chased by runners with bull horns. Get caught by a bull, and you get gored. But if you manage to make it to the end of the street with a fistful of stocks, you can sell or trade them with the banker. Through clever use of location and simple mechanics, the game creates a frenzied, fun experience that casts a suspicious eye on the market. For this session, we’ll be staging the game up in Greenwich Village, and while we may be missing the NYSE façade, we’ll still have the fun and frenzy.
Players trade cards as part of Antidote Games’ Sandwich Shop
Sandwich Shop, created by our friends at Antidote Games is a card-trading game to help players understand the systemic effects of public defecation. Players compete to make the best sandwiches by strategically trading for the best ingredients. Each sandwich consumed gets you closer to winning, but just like in real life, produces a bit of human waste in the process. Can you successfully navigate an increasingly dirty environment to come out on top?
Death Throes of the Republic
Created by game, media and experience designer Pete Vigeant, Death Throes of the Republic is an epic live-action retelling of the fall of the Roman Republic, inspired by Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History.” Three selections from the piece will be premiered at Games for Change as a series of games that teach players about Roman history and rituals through simple physical games. As a senior designer for ESI Design, Pete leads the ESI Game Lab and draws upon his passion and expertise in game and youth-focused design to lead and develop interaction, media, concept, and game design for numerous ESI projects. He has created and launched a series of immersive live-action group experiences to promote collaboration through play, spectacle, and narrative gameplay.
Sesame Street Box Heads
In addition to helping run Come Out & Play every year, we at Gigantic Mechanic also make our own games. We’ve done a lot of event games aimed at teens and adults. But for Games for Change we wanted to challenge ourselves to make something a bit out of our wheelhouse by designing a game for a younger audience. We called up our friends at the Sesame Innovation Lab and they too were excited by the idea of making a fun physical game. We decided to base the game around the principle of executive function. We brainstormed a number of approaches, playtested them and landed on . In the game, kids use a Nexus 7 tablet as a joystick to control blindfolded grownups who receive directions through Bluetooth-enabled headphones. Unable to see where they are going, the grownups listen for audio commands like “turn,” “go forward,” and “grab the cookie!” The kids use the arrows on the tablets to race Elmo and Cookie Monster to catch the cookie. It makes for some empowering fun for kids while helping teach left, right, and a bit of patience.
We’re excited to have you come play with us on Wednesday April 23. We’re also excited to share these games with the general public at the Games for Change’s part of the Tribeca Family Day on April 26. Are you ready to come out and play? We are!