September 24, 2006

Come out and WIN

by Mary Flanagan · , 3:51 pm

It was an intense weekend here in NYC where the Come out and Play Festival 2006 was in full swing. I played game designer Frank Lantz’s IDENTITY game, a game of secret organizations, covert intelligence, suspicion, trust, cooperation and betrayal… upon joining the game, every player is assigned to one of 5 secret organizations and given a unique codename, and the goal was to find out other player’s organizational affiliation and identity…


What was most interesting to me about the game design was the combination of competition and cooperation needed to play and the fact that the game play took place all across NYC over an entire weekend, across all of the events (including parties, dinners, waiting in line, or during other games –basically anywhere one might find another player). There was no way to win this game without working cooperatively; indeed, cooperation at times might very well mean lying to outsiders, enlisting identity theft, and other tricks of the espionage trade. There were episodes of double crossing, betrayal, double or quadruple espionage, the use of digital devices for surveillance (apparently some players stood at the windows of Eyebeam headquarters using their digital cameras to zoom in on player’s computer screens as they logged into the game) and lots of other sordid human behaviour that proved to be much fun. I even heard of a wrestling match with Eric Zimmerman in the women’s restroom at Eyebeam over an identity card, but then, who can believe mere rumours?

The winner of the game, the intrepid and talented Tracy Fullerton, a game designer, writer and educator teaching at the Electronic Arts Interactive Entertainment Program at the USC School of Cinema-Television. For those of you who envy her over 1000 point win over other players, check out her workshops !!

Many other games sounded quite amazing, including Jane and Ian’s Cruel to be Kind–which I heard was a blast to play and hope to someday catch it; unf I couldn’t make it due to commitments in my new art studio in Williamsburg –I’m just settling in with NY artist Adam Chapman, also a friend to several GTxA-ers. I’m sure the games will be blogged madly, so watch the blogosphere… I spotted many Tiltfactor Lab affiliates at the events, so perhaps they will add their comments!

3 Responses to “Come out and WIN”


  1. Ian Bogost Says:

    Sorry we missed you in the city, Mary. Cruel 2 B Kind had around 130 players who roamed Broadaway ten blocks south of Central Park, some in stealthy pairs, some in giant mobs.

    You (or anyone else) can run your own game, anytime you want, for 5 people or 150. Just let us know and we can set it up.

  2. Philip Buuck Says:

    Cruel 2 B Kind was an absolute blast, no doubt about it. I privately thought that it could very easily finish very quickly; after all, how hard would it be to spot groups of people walking around complimenting passers-by? But I was surprised: we ended up with something like 15 teams left (I think), and my group 12 was aware of 4 or 5 other big groups, but could not find the remaining ones. Pretty sneaky characters, they were.

    -One woman had a 6 year old with her – maybe her son? Probably? But we were all completely taken off guard by her – we had all expected people similar to us in age and appearance, a mother-son grouping was apparently outside our imagination at the time.

    -Another person was filming parts of the festival. He took his camera with him and introduced himself to the groups as doing a documentary of the entire weekend. People would happily tell him the game they were playing, their weapon, and their weakness, and if he could kill them, he would! If not, he’d just walk away, without letting them in on his secret. I think there should be some kind of innovation award for him.

    -We were following a group of about 40 people at one point (we were a group of 6 at the time) and we were trying to figure out what their weapon was, to make sure they couldn’t kill us. They gave an enthusiastic ‘Way to GO!’ to this older couple walking past them towards us, and as they went by us the woman said to the man ‘I don’t know honey, I’m just trying to avoid them!’ Innocent victims caught in the crossfire.

    -At one point Jesper Juul walked past us and we complimented him. But he said he wasn’t playing and kept walking. I didn’t realize who it was until a minute or so later when someone in the group pointed him out to me. I was somewhat starstruck; I’ve lived in New York for three years and never cared about any celebrities I’ve seen. But when you’re oblivious to Jesper Juul walking by… that’s something different.

    The whole weekend was a blast. After Cruel 2 B Kind I watched some Sonic Body Pong at Eyebeam, and stayed for the panel discussion held afterwards, which was very informative. Later I went to the (private) Chelsea Piers party for a while and made it home to fall asleep and immediately wake up in the morning to head over to the Go Game. That was fun too, I watched from the control room for awhile, and asked about the software being used to run the whole thing. I went into the weekend as a student interested in how the games were being run, but I feel like I left as a full gamer, anxious to try and get ‘just one more round’ in before going home, and excited to see what the next thrill was going to be. It’s one thing to read blogs and journals and books about games. It’s completely different to take part in them, in an environment where 200 other people are in the magic circle with you, and where the street that you walk each and every day suddenly becomes a stage for a struggle to the bitter end. I feel lucky, challenged, engaged, entertained by this festival, and am glad I was given the opportunity to take part in it.

    Oh, and it was very nice meeting you too Ian! A couple people from MIT and myself would like to run Cruel 2 B Kind in Boston at some point – if that ever happens we’ll make sure each and every lucky reader finds out about it.

  3. mary Says:

    thanks a bunch philip for the details! Thoughtful stuff. I’m thrilled that you were interested and able to be there. see you tuesday at the Tilt!

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