This Wednesday, thirty designers and players and interested strangers came to the Hide&Seek office to talk about this year’s Sandpits and Weekender, our playing and playtesting events for new games. Thank you so much to everyone who came – we’re still processing all your suggestions and feedback, and trying to figure out what to keep and what to change and how things will work this year.
We’ll be absorbing all of this and working out what we should change, what can be different in time for the Sandpit on 25 May, and what needs to happen over a longer timespan. For those of you who were interested but couldn’t come, these are the main things we talked about, and our initial notes from discussions… if you have anything to add, or think something below is a great or a terrible idea, then please do comment!
We talked about artists, designers and makers and what they find valuable about the Sandpit, and what we could change to make it more useful or fun. There were a few suggestions and thoughts that kept coming up…
- People would like to be hooked up with actors/musicians etc who might want to be part of the game
- Qualitative feedback would be great for designers
- It’d be nice for designers to be able to see each others’ games
- Some sort of discussion forum online would be useful in the design process
- Being made to do a three minute explanation of rules is very useful
- A comments booth/wall/cave would be a nice place for players to write their feedback
- It’s important to signal to the audience that this is a testing event rather than a load of finished products
- Starting games on the half hour is good, rather than a more convoluted schedule
- Playtesting is very valuable and works pretty well in the H&S office
- Not having a totally packed schedule is good, and gives audience time to mull etc
PLAYERS / AUDIENCE
We asked for people to let us know how they felt about the experience from the playing perspective, what might make them feel more welcome, or more easily able to navigate the schedule and work out what they wanted to do, what types of games they would like to see more of, and generally what would make Sandpits better for them.
- The programme layout needs to be more user friendly, with a clear timeline of what you can do and when
- Maybe we could split up games into categories: feeling energetic / feeling loud / feeling puzzle-solve-ey
- Diagrams and symbols could be used – eye catching and simple
- A smart phone app or website with more info would be useful
- Maybe we should make the programme more playful or interactive
- Maybe we should mark the games that are good for newbies – make it more accessible for those who have never been to one of these events before
- Let people know clearly whether a game is performative or not – often people are put off by the thought of performing in front of others
WATCHING / PARTICIPATING
- For a game to be fun to watch it needs to be visually exciting or funny to watch
- Often games are sporadically spread and don’t give the opportunity to be viewed
- Big group games / contained spaces for games
- People would like a space to actually watch the games: a viewing gallery, commentators, screens with live relay
- Ways to understand games are good: signs explaining what the games are / rules, helpers at each game explaining rules, games that can be understand by watching play
- An audience guide should show which games are good to watch
- Bigger signs
- “I don’t want to book in advance – I want to see what looks good on the night and be able to sign up to it there and then”
- We could build up players’ confidence through less demanding (but equally fun) games
- Games are more exciting to watch when the audience knows more than the players – when they’re in on the secret
- It’s good when the audience can be involved somehow: as judges, as obstacles in course
- Volunteers should be briefed better to know what each game is
PICK UP AND PLAY BOOKLETS
- You’re less likely to actually play something there and then if you just see the book on a table – facilitated play is better
- PUAP booklets could be given out at sign up desk
- We could make games more visible – ‘ooh what’s that they’re playing? oh – it’s a game from this book; let’s all join in!’
- There’s too much choice in books – not sure where to start. Maybe BGRK style cards, with one game per card? Helpers to encourage specific games?
- A manned PUAP space for people to turn up and play
- A more visually exciting format – a playful layout? Fewer games, more visually presented?
- Could there be rewards for loyalty? Incentives to come back again
- Back by popular demand: could there be a game that gets voted for y makers to return
- Everyone wants to play Sangre y Patatas again…
We asked for thoughts on logistics, the website and what would be useful there, how to make it run more smoothly, andin particular for thoughts on booking places in games. Some of the responses that kept coming through were…
SCHEDULING AND TICKETING
- Trying to get a space can be frustrating
- There are conflicting times and a rush as soon as the door is open – the regulars get all the spots in smaller games
- Flexibility is important – running a game more that once
- A balance of drop in games
- Game designers relying on volunteers needs time to brief them to make sure they know what they’re doing
- Let people register for games in advance (iPhone app, website, scanner register)? How to deal with the fact that people often don’t turn up?
- Think about the one on one festival format at BAC – with a menu, you pick what kind of experience that you want (“scary” “scarier” “lovely”) and get a set of 2-3 games
- Have themed desks – “storytelling games” “running games”
- Book in advance but if you don’t turn up it becomes available? How to manage the fact that games will book out and that will put people off, but many of the people who booked won’t turn up?
PROGRAMMES AND SPREADING INFORMATION
- Have symbols for physically active games
- Big signs that say something useful – spaces left in different games on a projection screen?
- Think about “If I walk in as a stranger how do I read this?”
- “This is what it feels like” so people who don’t play usually can connect with it
- Communication between signing up and knowing where to go
- A pick and mix menu? Recommendations? “recommended game journey”?
- Get better at email address capture
- “You can’t sign up – but go and watch this…”
- Facilitated pick up and play?
- How to deal with people who lose their stickers
- Staggering – you can’t sign up for everything
- Maps are always great
- Feedback from audiences is important
- Roping in audiences – whose responsibility is it to fill the game?
- Fewer games running more frequently?
- A record of games would be good – “What games were played at that sandpit?”
- A way to link games networks
- Video documentation – release forms?
- More opportunity for feedback – online space for commenting
- Blog posts about specific games are great
- Capturing interest – games to play online?
- Games that are coming up – discussion and game development?
- Comperes are good
- One person to worry about the telling of everyone else
- Coloured balloons? More bunting? Clearly marking the space
- More readily identifiable volunteers / briefers / team members
- Good props
We talked separately about each of the four themes, and people came up with bundles of possible approaches and ideas…
SPORTS AND GAME SHOWS
- Drawing players from audience, audience participation and yelling out
- Prizes in game shows (they are often nominal, and not really the point/draw)
- People identifying with game show contestants and thinking what they would do – “I would be so good at that” or, “I’m so glad I’m not the one doing that”
- Audience knowing/seeing more than the players
- Using the identification between players and audiences
- Individuals acting as superheroes, versus a team and tribalism
- People can immediately identify with a team
- People support contestants/players because of “the story” – like “housewife from Manchester”
- Consider an overarching game/competition throughout whole Sandpit – scoreboards, house points and colours
- Existing games/performance: charades, lying and acting, pantomime
- Use props – they help identify players, are vehicles for performance, give people an excuse to play
- Props can also be given to observers, creating a way for observers to become participants
- Using screens and silhouettes to make the game observable in an unexpected way
- Give audience members a way to control the performers
- Games that have a basic rule for joining and anyone can come and go as they please, like the “human instrument”
- Could there be an overarching narrative or metagame (like the Rubik’s cube game)
MOVEMENT AND SPECTACLE
- Design games to be expandable, so more people join throughout the course of it
- Bear in mind the type of foot traffic going by
- Use/create locations that are spectacles in themselves
- Games that structure in different levels of participation
- Games that structure in checkpoints scattered around, where you can start at any of these, reducing the barriers to starting play
- Different team options:
- All adults versus all children (although these oughtn’t be too physical, because that can be scary for children, unless adults have handicaps i.e. binocular football)
- Parallel games rather than oppositional (so parents can egg children on and vice versa)
- Each family a team against other families
- Having different roles within a team, some of which children will be better at
- Take advantage of children’s strengths: creativity, interpreting the world differently, being small and able to crawl through small things, not feeling as self-conscious
- Don’t just think about stereotypical family with small children – there may be grandparents, teenagers, one parent with three children, two parents with one child
- Parents get really competitive on behalf of their children – can we use this?
- Predicting preferences (like the game Mr & Mrs) could be fun with children who change what they like on a whim
- Situations where roles are reversed – children have power over their parents, are instructing their parents where to go (although it has to be enjoyable for the parents too!)