yello brick started it’s festival road tripwith Slingshot’s Interesting Games Festival – Igfest. Now in it’s fifth year the festival has grown in strength over the years with avid followers of the festival itself and pilgrims of it’s epic street game 2.8 Hours (now in it’s third year). We arrived in Bristol on an excellent sunny game day – clear skies and not a hint of rain. The familiar road closure signage at the beginning of St Nicholas Street that points you in the direction of the wonderful chaos outside the Milk Bar (Slingshot HQ) wasn’t there to greet us this year which I was slightly disappointed by.
The festival had found a new base, a stone’s throw away and with it a new format: A festival fringe in Castle Park which consisted of an abundance of mini games and three headline games the zombie chase game 2.8 hours, and two premires Cargo Remix and Incitement. The dynamic of the festival had somewhat changed from previous years with this new structure. The space allowed the festival to spread out a bit more and there was opportunity for wider audiences to watch the spectacle as well as participate. However the scheduling narrowed the choices of what you had to play: you could either play the two premiere games or one premiere game and some fringe games or stick with the fringe games for the day. Decisions decisions…..we finally opted for playing the two premiere games – Cargo Remix and Incitement.
Cargo Remix is an interesting collaboration between and Slingshot and the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham, as part of the EPSRC funded ORCHID project. The ORCHID project researches ways in which human and computer systems can work more effectively together and they are currently looking at how this can be used effectively with disaster responses. The premise of the original game is to smuggle your cargo (an appointed team member) across the city to safety. Fastest team wins. In this remixed version you are pitched against a system controlled by artificial intelligence that will either help or hinder your progress across the city. Each group and individual has a card that must be swiped at specified locations in order to collect enough money to gain entry onto your escape boat. At each location you swipe into you are inevitably tracked and the system immediately sends instructions, offers or even threats to your phone.
Although there was some slight technical hiccups during the game, it was a thrilling experience and one that a player could really buy into. Being directed by ‘the machine’ to certain locations to gain more points was sometimes ignored by our group as it was too tempting to go to other locations along the way which prompted a shower of phone calls with messages asking ‘Why do you not trust me’. Spooky – at one point I felt guilty and we started obeying until we discovered one team member was told I had an ‘enviable number of points’ and he should reconsider his personal tactics! Who do you trust…..the machine or your team members….?
Oooo before I forget…..there was a boat at the end…..and no we didn’t win…..we had a moral victory.
Incitement’s introductory story conjures the feel of a modern day Orwellian world where freedom of speech is controlled, books are burnt, history is rewritten and your every move is being watched. The game play reflects this simply: each player is allocated to a sect, all with the common goal of overthrowing The Authority and gaining access to The Platform – a place to have a voice. Our sect Maize, was given a time and location to meet – the bull pit in the heart of the city – we had to bring either wear a hat or hoodie and were told to bring some matches.
The game play was one of stealth and surveillance. Each sect had a secret base that needed to be discovered by gathering intelligence from locations within the city. Once you had found out the location base you could visit it and perform a task in order to gain points. Sounds easy right? Each sect was allocated one sect that they could tag in order to gain points. You could only tag other teams in designated chase zones. This created a circular chase device that meant you had to be extra careful with who you approached and meant the difference between winning and losing. Also there were members of The Authority that patrolled the streets looking to steal points. Sounds complicated? Initially I was a bit overwhelmed by the information that was given to us at first – there seemed to be a lot of rules and a few confused faces.
As the game progressed the rules soon sunk in with help from a quick glance now and again at the rule sheets. The tasks that we had to undertake varied from answering Trivial Pursuit questions to singing about joy and happiness. We found that we collaborated and shared information with the teams that were neither our catchers or our catchees and we started to be quite brutal in our strategy by waiting for unsuspecting groups outside the chase zones before pouncing and taking their points. What I really liked about this game was the fact that the circular chase system created a great randomiser and enabled it to be a bit more sustainable. However I wish the objects we were asked to bring had come into use – otherwise I don’t see the point. The finale had a nice twist and had some great unplanned but very funny public participation at the end.
Overall I really enjoyed the festival but I couldn’t help feeling slightly disconnected from the festival hub and in some ways I felt we missed out on the fringe programme. However a good day was had by all and most importantly – it stayed dry!