Thursday, June 28, 2007

Game Friday: Bigger is Better

What museum hasn't benefited from a giant blow-up dinosaur on its front lawn? Flying into San Jose yesterday, I laughed out loud when I looked out the window and saw Clifford the Big Red Dog below me, a cheerful addition to the skyline (thanks to the Children's Discovery Museum).

But there are gamers out there doing one better. If a giant blow-up thingy is good, how about a giant blow-up thingy you can interact with?

Enter area/code, an extremely cool NYC-based game company that produces Big Games. According to their manifesto,
Big Games are human-powered software for cities, life-size collaborative hallucinations, and serious fun.
And fun they are. Big Games are technology-rich (using mobile devices, cameras, GPS, etc.) and neighborhood-based. For example, the image above is from a game called BUG (Big Urban Game), developed with the University of Minnesota, in which three teams of players in St. Paul/Minneapolis called in or voted online to determine the movement of large game pieces (see above) each evening throughout the city. Each day, there were newspaper announcements of the pieces' whereabouts, and players could roll giant dice at the site of each piece, accumulating "points" that gave the pieces relative headstarts on each evening's journey. The game allowed for casual drop-in players of all types: on the internet, phone, local media, and on the streets. Like all Big Games, it was highly visual, and served as half-game, half-spectacle.

area/code is perhaps most famous for Pac Manhattan, in which players dress as Pac-Man and the evil Ghosts and run around the Washington Square area of Manhattan. Pac-Man tries to eat dots, and the Ghosts try to tag Pac-Man. All the players in the streets have virtual "control" partners who track their progress via a control panel (which looks much like the real Pac-Man game). The control panel is then broadcast on the internet for anyone not in Manhattan to follow the game.

I love these games because they use web and mobile technology as springboards to facilitate fun in the real world. These games aren't "simulated"--they are physical, visual, of, by, and in the community. By embedding the technology instead of showcasing it, area/code powers unusual in-person experiences. area/code understands that these technologies don't have to exist in opposition to "real world" experiences; they can be used to enhance and expand them.

And thank you Mike Ellis for inspiring this post with a hilarious and highly relevant video of Japanese game show contestants trying (and mostly failing) to play Human Tetris.

1 comments, add yours!:

Anonymous said...

I once played a giant game of Boggle: