Digital Games & More: Playing at Playpublik

October 3-5 I got to play some games at Playpublik with other game designers from around the world. Playpublik is one of the many new festivals of urban games/street games/digital games/play that have popped up all over the world in the past few years (especially in Europe). Playpublik is organized by a group of German game designers called Invisible Playground, who also organize “72 Hour Interactions,” an event where groups of designers have 72 hours to construct a game along with the actual physical structure/playground it takes place on. This year Playpublik took place in Krakow, Poland.

Personally I love video games, and that’s where my background is, but Playpublik was even more broad and included all kinds of games with varying degrees of technology involved- really, it was more about playing than games.

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Tron-like hand blaster for game where you shoot things on a screen with a friend

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Something with a huge ball? Didn’t get to play this one…

Every game designer had a different space in Krakow for a “site-specific” game. One game, for example, was a life simulation in an old courtyard where people yelled down from balconies and had us perform various mini-games in different stages of life all over the courtyard in an attempt to earn the most pretend money.

Another took place in a office room, where we were led in and seated in office chairs, and it was explained to us in a business-like manner that we would be creating a new world together. It was basically a card game, but with delightful visuals mixed in between rounds via a projector.

Others were less “game,” and more just playing around. One involved walking around the city with a smart phone app that played a simple beat that you and other players could manipulate based on your location.

Another game also used the GPS to let players gradually unlock a story by visiting different parts of Krakow and logging in. (I got to draw some illustrations for this one, including a bunch of creepy cute monsters, i.e. my specialty and favorite thing to draw ♡).

Most used a mix of “real” and digital elements and spaces to create fun and playful experiences. Actually, one used technology that I didn’t even know existed. They had one player on a team wear a headset that measures concentration, and in times of emergency that player had to concentrate in order to save their teammates. I got to be the concentrator and it was awesome! I concentrated hard and totally nailed it for my team!

Others involved dancing, hopscotch, bikes, and much, much more!

The general vibe was actually really similar to when I attended Indiecade last year in Los Angeles- people walking around in good spirits looking for fun, with a laid back and playful atmosphere. In other words, I loved it.

There are a lot of festivals popping up like this all over the world. Sometimes they are centered around video games, like Indiecade, but sometimes it is just about play in general, like Playpublik. There is “Playful Arts Festival” in Holland, “Come Out and Play” in New York and San Francisco, and Game City in England (which I’m leaving for tomorrow to play more games!), among many others (huge list here).

It seems like the indie video game movement, the street/urban games movement, and art/academic games are all merging into one mass of play that takes over entire cities. It’s exciting, and I’m looking forward to attending more of these events and seeing where it all leads!

About the blog, it will be back to the regularly scheduled program in November when I’m back from Game City, with a post about alternatives to level grinding in RPGs.

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