Obscure Games is a Pittsburgh-based group that runs Steel City Games, one of the the ever-growing family of pervasive game festivals – in fact it’ll be the last festival of this summer games season, running on 27 August.
All the different game festivals have something that sets them apart, and in the case of Steel City Games, it’s that the people who run it are… well… pretty athletic. They jump over things. They run around for fun, then come up with excuses to run around some more. They explain games using phrases like “well it’s human pinball meets baseball. And soccer. Played on a hill.” Along with the New York-based Institute for Aesthletics, they may own more sports bibs than every other game design group combined.
The other thing that feels really special about them is how often they run with other people’s games, taking rulesets available on Ludocity and coming up with newer, often rather stranger, variants. There’s Black Stag, a scarier version of the Soho Stag Hunt (which was first played in London back in 2007). There’s Visible Cities: Special Delivery, a version of Visible Cities (first played at the ICA and the National Theatre last year) that adds a new aim for players and a different type of urgency.
This sort of development feels enormously valuable: designers taking other rulesets and game ideas, and building them, and then putting them back into circulation. It helps turn the pervasive games world into an actual community and a growing form, with discourse and development and responses and the capacity to build on itself. And it means the things they make are important even to designers and game groups who aren’t ever going to actually go to Pittsburgh: the games may be location-specific, but the knock-on effects aren’t.
Obscure Games currently have a Kickstarter up for their festival; they’re looking for supporters to help them sort out all the boring game details like insurance, and all the ridiculous exciting game details like running 24 games in 24 hours(!).