At a pervasive games lab

The other week, I was invited along to a pervasive games lab at the MAC. Fierce organised it and Hide & Seek hosted it. The other invitees were artists (of various stripes), filmmakers, webby types and developers of serious games.

Pervasive games might involve roleplaying, running about, technological doodads, funny hats, location-based tomfoolery and all sorts of other things. Often the games take place in the ‘real world’ (the very fact that it’s necessary to point this out is instructive). Games might last ten minutes or run for days at a time. It’s a broad church. Street games and alternate reality games are similar/related.

I’m consciously avoiding any proper sort of definition because no-one seems able to agree on one, leading to all manner of tedious hairsplitting.

Labs, just to clear this up, are workshops but… um… edgier. Maybe?

After some general orienting in the morning, we spent the afternoon devising games for Nikki Pugh’s whale hat which she explains here along with videos like this one:

All in all, it was nice to mess about with something a bit different for a day and to make some new friends. What’s more, Nikki’s gone on to develop the whale hat into a game called The Bloop which became something of a media magnet in the run-up to this weekend’s Hide and Seek weekender at the National Theatre.

Going all big picture for a bit, there seem to have been two motivators for the day; to give some WMers a kick up the backside and to get some cross-sector collaboration going in a growing market.

Reticent West Midlanders

Fierce had an event happening at Warwick Arts Centre on 26 June. They’d put out a call for proposals – offering cash for artists to come and do stuff . There was apparently loads of interest from around the rest of the country, but not much here.

This ‘lab’ was partly an attempt to coax out a few more applications and develop some games that could be tried out at that Sandpit event on 26 June. We didn’t quite get that far – half the group had to leave after lunch and many had brought projects they were already working on and couldn’t really give up to this process. That stunted things a little so hooray for the whale hat.

I hear this sort of thing from time to time. To pick two off the top of my head, the West Mids has/had the lowest number of bidders for upcoming Olympics contracts and a (Birmingham-based) BBC chap I met was saying that he gets pitched digital stuff all the time, but from agencies outside the region. It’s rather frustrating.

Getting all collaborative

There are a whole bunch of initiatives going on that are/have been trying to draw links between different sectors and disciplines. Hats off to Screen WM for being active in a lot of that, Producers Forum are working with others a bit, 4iP has been a beacon for that kind of thing, the TSB are trying (in their own mildly incomprehensible way) and there’s a new thing called Switchboard which is a next step in bringing together various creative industries strands.

As well as the general benefits that collaboration brings, pervasive games, transmedia projects and multiplatform approaches are all the rave at the moment. I imagine there’s a sense that the region could do quite well in this emerging area if people got their heads together. Where the best transmedia producers come from is a tricky one, but these sorts of sessions will help.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.