Johann Sebastian Joust – Games with Audiences #1

03 May 2012 | 0 comments

Over the next week or so, we’re going to publish a series of short posts about what we mean by Games with Audiences, by calling out some of that games that particularly inspired us when we were deciding on this year’s theme. That list includes:

  • Segue by Enterplay
  • A Small Town Anywhere by Coney
  • Scoop! by, well, us.
  • Moveyhouse by Andy Field

So we’ll get to all of those soon! But for now, a game that has had nothing to do with Sandpit (SO FAR), the mighty IGF-nominated global folk game megahit, Johann Sebastian Joust.

If you haven’t played the game yet, then please watch the following video:

Johann Sebastian Joust! from Die Gute Fabrik on Vimeo.

So now you know how to play the game. Because the first reason why JS Joust is an excellent game for audiences is because you learn to play by watching. It’s simple to grasp – protect your Move controller while disrupting others – and you rapidly start building strategies for how you will play when you get the chance. Tied in with this is the fact that each JS Joust game lasts a minute, maybe two – and that means you see the game end-to-end and over and over, embedding the whole structure in your mind. Short Sessions was Frank Lantz’s answer to pretty much every game design problem presented at last year’s Practice conference – and one of the things that Short Sessions enable is your audience to become ready participants. Tagging out of the game is as simple as handing your controller to another player.

This means that the game space of JS Joust encompasses both players and audience members, and the transition from one condition to the other is as easy as it’s possible to be. This, for me, is the most exciting part of JS Joust as a game with an audience – the way that players and spectators are part of one experience, and your status as either is freely decided by you. I’m really hopeful that we’ll see many games in this year’s Sandpit series that draw inspiration from this model of permeability and freedom.

Finally, it’s super-important to note that JS Joust has awesome production values – the glowing Move pixels, the gorgeous soundtrack – and that it generates moments of performance. You can play it to win, just for fun, or to show off. Those who know me will be unsurprised to discover that I show off a bit while playing it, including a memorable bout that culminated in two players duelling along a row of picnic tables. These moments of performance can emerge accidentally or through player intention, and frequently, they can be dazzlingly funny.

So.

Learn to play by watching.

Short sessions.

Awesome production values.

Generates moments of performance.

These are our first touchstones for amazing Games with Audiences.

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