Next week, I’m going to be speaking at Together We Move, an Active Lifestyles conference facilitated by Coca-Cola. Brands are taking a lot of interest in public play at the moment, and in particular, the way that play can help people get more active. I’ll be talking about Tiny Games and how they relate to movement – how games can help make moving around a natural part of each day.
We don’t set out to make sports, but our games often result in intense movement. It’s amazing, what a simple game can do. Take “Tree Betweeners”, for example – a chase game for two players whose roles swap between “chaser” and “chased” every time a tree passes between them. Playing the game in a grove of birch trees is a sneaky, wary experience – you’re always desperately aware that even when you’re the hunter, you aren’t safe. In a spacious park, it’s very different: more desperate, more exhausting, faster, yet somehow less tense.
What that example shows, I think, is how much place and context matter to Tiny Games. Like a lot of our work, Tiny Games is about play situated in the real world, about physicality, about context. You fire up the app, tell it where you are, and a few more things, and it recommends the right game for you. By linking simple game rules to physical locations, we give players a reason to play right there and then. See those trees? Okay! Let’s go.That impetus is important – it gets you over the barrier between not-playing, and playing. We need that to get us started, and then we’re off.
And I think it’s important that we’re not asking people to play a sport. Like many people, I was moved by the Nike Running ad that launched during the Olympics:
What this campaign was all about for me was the universality of running. A simple game, to push your two feet as far as they will carry you. I think it’s really powerful for Nike to show that everyone with a body is an athlete, and a potential Nike star. And I think it’s important to locate game-playing as a much broader space than sports. Many of us got switched off from sport at school, left out of the team for whatever reason, but we didn’t leave our desire for competition, for play, for physical intensity behind as well…
Having said that, I was fascinated to read about the games Judy Murray invented for her sons to play when she couldn’t afford to take them to sports facilities. Andy and Jamie Murray cut their teeth on super-fun games like Cereal Box Tennis and Jumping The River, and it worked out pretty well for them…
So I think Tiny Games can play a great role in finding ways for players to indulge their desire for activity without having to frame it in the language of sports. Through the Tiny Games app, we can start playing right here, right now, and in a moment or two we can be racing through our environment, out of breath, having fun.