Off to igfest!

26May11

This weekend I’m off to Bristol’s mighty igfest, a festival of interesting games. I’m attending as both a designer with my fellow Larkin’ Agents as we debut our game Gate Crash. I’ll also be attending as a player. There are loads of games to look forward to and one in particular that I’m a little bit anxious about.

On Friday night, I’ll be hunted through the streets of Bristol by a horde of zombies during the headline igfest game 2.8 Hours Later.

Now, I have had a life-long love of all things zombie. I’ve played a lot of zombie-survival-horror games and enjoyed some super zombie trash cinema. However, I seem to have recently developed a quite severe fear of the walking dead. Really severe. Just in time for igfest.

Marvellous.

2.8 Hours Later from SlingShot on Vimeo.


I ran a game called 7:Candles:Mcr at an Old Trafford based pervasive gaming event for young people. The lovely people at Let’s Go Global filmed it. They almost made me look good! Almost.





My new game is now live!

It’s called 14 Days of Chorlton and it’s based in Chorlton-cum-Harder, Manchester, UK. It’s a fringe event for Chorlton’s Big Green Festival and will run for two weeks: 3rd to the 16th April, 2011.

If you’re in the area, come and play! If not, you can watch it unfold via the hashtag #14daysofchorlton.


As you may know, I am part of Larkin’ About, a Manchester based pervasive gaming group supported by greenroom theatre.

Our next big event is on July 16th, July 2011. Here’s how you can get involved.

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Want to be involved in the next Larkin’ About event? It’s the end of the world as we know it….

The Apocalypse is a pervasive narrative that will unfold on the streets of Manchester on Saturday 16th July from 12pm to sunset.

The story will be told through a series of pervasive/immersive happenings that range from theatrical events and installations, to games and last suppers, sightings and signs that will culminate in a large-scale public performance at sunset.

Larkin’ About is looking for submissions from artists who would like to contribute to the end of the world. The event will have a cross-media format, therefore any artform will be considered. Each element will contribute thematically to the apocalyptic narrative and will be encountered by the audience over the course of the day. Elements can take place in open public space or in site-specific locations within Manchester city centre.

Audience members will navigate The Apocalypse in small teams. The narrative as a whole will be ergodic: unravelling it will require a conscious effort on the part of the audience. This effort may be as ’simple’ as traversing Manchester’s city centre, or it may require the more focussed effort of puzzle solving. Game mechanics such as chases and races, collection and resource management, code breaking and puzzle solving, movement and role-play will all be used to lead teams to the various performances that will constitute The Apocalypse’s wider narrative. However, a prior knowledge of game structures will not be advantageous to the audience. The challenges they will face will be unique to the event, levelling the playing field.

About Us

Larkin’ About hosts a series of game-based events throughout the year, bringing playful experiences to the people of Manchester. Larkin’ About designs its own games under the name Doldrum, but also creates platforms for others to design and test games. Larkin’ aims to create a culture of sustainable game design and play within Manchester.

With The Apocalypse, Larkin’ About wants to give artists who specialise in the areas of performance, theatre, visual art and live art the opportunity to show their work as part of a larger context, where there is an element of challenge presented to the audience in finding the work.

Provocation

We live in interesting times.

Every day we we are bombarded by things that threaten us: funding cuts, religious extremism, climate change, terrorism, the financial crisis, natural disasters… Collectively, as a society, we are fascinated by the end of the world (or at least the end of the world as we know it) and by the things that will bring about this change. The mythologies that make up our imagined histories and futures are full of versions of the apocalypse, from the four biblical horsemen to Mad Max, from 28 Days Later to Noah’s Ark. It is a narrative that we all know and that we look for in the events we see happening around us and across the globe.

But these stories are interspersed with hope; people resist and find ways to save the world. And, as in the fictions and myths that we all know so well, we see people resisting, people saving their worlds every day. Across the Middle East and North Africa popular protest movements are toppling dictatorships, closer to home student groups and unions march against cuts, strangers group together to protect access to forests. Around the world we see leaderless movements of everyday people doing what they can to save their worlds. Maybe, as never before in history, we are moving into an age when access to information and mass communication is empowering like-minded people and teaching us that together we can be stronger.

We can be our own heroes.

Submission Format

*Title

*Artist/Company

*A description of what you will do in less than 150 words

*A description on how this fits in to the larger narrative of The Apocalypse in less than 100 words

*Location of work. Must be in or walking distance from the city centre. This can be very specific e.g. ‘Piccadilly Gardens’, or vague, e.g. ‘a busy city open space’.

*Larkin’ About is applying for funding to cover the costs of The Apocalypse. We hope to be able to grant small commissions to chosen artists of up to £250 each. In the event that we do not receive support, please state whether you would still hope to be involved.

Please send to larkin.about2009@gmail.com before Friday 2nd April 2011. If you would like to discuss your idea informally or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.


I was invited to give a paper on pervasive games at the Centre for Media Research‘s seminar series at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland on the 16th of March. I had a great time chatting about pervasive games with some really interesting academics and designers. My gratitude to the University for the invite and to @alan_hook for putting me up and for some really useful feedback, comments, and inspiration for the future.

Here is the Prezi I presented with. I appreciate it won’t make much sense but should give an idea of the structure and theme of my paper. Below the Prezi is the synopsis of the talk.

If you’re not used to Prezi, navigate the presentation using your left and right arrow keys.

 
 

At a time when the act of console-centric digital gaming has become increasingly popular both as a legitimised past time and as a subject of theory, an apparently contradictory phenomenon is occurring. Designers and players alike are engaging with a distinct mode of play that has come to be termed ‘pervasive gaming’. Pervasive gaming is a form that, at least on the surface, is as much defined by its physical, non-digital elements as it is those aspects it shares with digital gaming.

Pervasive game designers have brought gameplay back into everyday urban spaces and, consequently, alter perceptions of those spaces, sometimes temporarily for the sole purpose of play, increasingly for achieving specific and permanent goals within communities. This paper explores pervasive games by defining the medium and situating it within a wider media context. It will also examine the social intentions of pervasive games through an analysis of case studies drawn from my own practice as well as from the work of other designers working within the field.


After marvelling along with the rest of Twitter at the #supermoon last night, I went along to the launch of Hooker‘s single Dance to the Beat of a Lonely Heart. What an excellent gig.

It was held in the Nip and Tipple in Whalley Range, Manchester. I must admit, I haven’t been the biggest fan of the Nip. It’s always had to compete in my mind with the Range’s rather excellent Jam Street Cafe and The Hillary Step for my attentions. But as a venue for the gig, it was a perfect.

The Nip was packed to the gills. Hooker took to the stage and played a perfect set of powerful riot/punk, a selection of old and new that neatly showcased the evolution of this local Manchester based band, and in particular, the perfection of frontwoman Zoe McVeigh’s always incredible vocal style. Needless to say, the crowd ate it up. The highlight of the evening, and rightly so, was the single Dance to the Beat of a Lonely Heart. It really is a dancing song. Hooker’s tracks are always guaranteed to make you move but for me, this is a song I know will drag out my best moves on sweaty dancefloors for a long time to come.

You can get your copy here. Might just be the soundtrack to your summer.


On Friday 18th March, greenroom played host to a double bill of two wildly different but exciting pieces of theatre.

Trace Theatre’s Once Upon a Something was all heart. It genuinely made me laugh out loud during most of it. I’ve seen funny shows before but Trace Theatre displayed a sense of comic timing and physicality that is very rare. While Once Upon a Something wasn’t overtly autobiographical, there was a strong sense of personality bleed between the characters on stage and the people who played them that laced the humerous moments with vulnerability and a certain sadness that I could really connect with.

Beautiful.

 

The second show of the evening was Drunken ChorusAnd Hell Followed With Them. It was all soul. I have to be perfectly honest and say that I thought, up until the last 15 minutes or so, that I only liked the show because of its technical proficiency and cerebral qualities, but in the final moments of the show, it totally came together for me in a big way. And Hell Followed With Them is a stunning piece of work that is framed around atomised sequences of Lynchyian style horror, made all the more effective for the lack of overt narrative. Characters actions are repeated, complicating notions of who done what, but this slippage was one of the fascination aspects of the work for me.

And Hell Followed With Them is a work about soul. But it’s a difficult and disturbing reflection of the recesses of the soul we least like to look at, and perhaps, the parts of ourselves that we most fear.


 

Links:

Trace Theatre.

Once Upon a SomethingTour Dates.

Drunken Chorus.

And Hell Followed With ThemTour Dates.


On Saturday 5th March, Madlab played host to a Shareable Music Night. This rather interesting event was partly an opportunity to investigate and discuss the shareable music scene, and partly an opportunity to share and discover new music. Or, in other words, we broke up our discussion with sound system interludes. I might make this a mandatory feature of any other discussion/presentation I attend in future.

Michael Dorrington of Manchester Free Software led the discussion, delivering a fascinating presentation on the issues at stake and his experiences with shareable music, copyright issues, and free culture in general. Loz Kaye – Oldham East and Saddleworth’s Pirate Party candidate – was also in attendance and contributed to the discussion from both a political and personal perspective.

Michael started the evening by discussing copyright, dispelling the myth that authors or creators of a work need to register in order to be granted rights over distribution and expression of the piece. Copyright is automatic and prevents others from using an author’s work without their permission. We discussed how, while this may protect the author to a certain extent, default copyright is limited in its ability to enable or feed into the viral nature of today’s online communication of ideas and art. To this end, Creative Commons has become a popular way for authors to extend certain permissions while still protecting their claims to the creation of their work.

As an organisation, Creative Commons created a series of licenses that authors can apply to their work according to their needs. Apart from Creative Commons Zero (CC0), all Creative Commons licenses ensure that any use or distribution of a licensed work must be attributed to the original author. There are six main licenses that govern commercial use, modification and distribution. For the completely altruistic amongst us, CC0 waves all the rights of the author, gifting the work into the public domain.

Music is, of course, just one of the art forms that people have started to release under Creative Commons licenses. We discussed the change in the production and distribution of music over the past few years and how the internet and the shareable/free culture scene has influenced musicians and the music consuming public. While Nine Inch Nails famously released material under a Creative Commons license, it is the lesser known and emerging artists publishing under CC licenses that are creating a vast database of searchable and shareable music available for everyone.

Michael highlighted the website Jamendo, a site that allows users to stream and download music published under CC licenses for free. Jamendo currently boasts just shy of 300,000 tracks. This is an impressive figure for free, legitimate, online music. We also discussed SoundCloud, a free service that allows musicians to upload music to share across social networking platforms and websites. SoundCloud seems to be making gains where MySpace is badly losing ground and, interestingly, SoundCloud makes it possible for artists to select CC licenses for their tracks at the point of uploading.

We had an interesting and topical discussion about the role of libraries in the face of changing attitudes towards and use of copyright. Generally it was felt that libraries might future-proof themselves by focusing on the role of archiving and providing access to CC licensed and public domain materials with an emphasis of free unlimited access to those materials than the traditional ‘loan of a copy’.

On the subject of copying, Michael rounded off by showing a video that I found particularly inspiring. All Creative Work is Derivative is by artist and animator Nina Paley. It’s because of seeing this for the first time at Madlab that I’ll be changing the CC licenses on my own creative pieces from the most restrictive to a license which allows others to modify and play with my work. After all, that’s how art functions and I’m glad that the Shareable Music Night reminded me of that fact.

You can watch Paley’s excellent (and derivative!) video here:

This blog post first appeared as a guest blog for MadLab.


Sex Idiot

06Mar11

I was lucky enough to see Sex Idiot at Contact Theater on Friday. I want to write at length about the performance but I won’t. It’s something you just have to see.

Sex Idiot is written and performed by Bryony Kimmings. It’s a one woman show that constructs its narrative from the author’s sexual history following her discovered contraction of a common STD. This uncompromising tour of said history also serves as a brutal examination of modern relationships, be they lengthy and significant or trivial and brief. The show is supremely funny, in the most uncomfortable way, and it’s painfully sad, but beautiful with it. Kimmings’ performed some of the best comedy I’ve seen in recent years, but I would in no way call it a comedy show. Sex Idiot is laced with songs and decked out in costumes that I still now find myself smiling at. However, the show’s comedic elements only serve to pull you in close enough to throw you off guard before levelling you with more intense and disturbing emotions. The show was autobiographical but in a universal manner that immediately caused me to examine my own behaviours and tendencies.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t advocate spending an evening drinking whiskey and lamenting lost love and poor choices, yet I was moved to do so during the course of Kimmings’ compelling performance and felt lighter for it. Besides, the booze was thrust upon me.

In the end, what I really adore about this project is that underneath the humour, alcohol, and bizarre musicality, Sex Idiot contains a blazing heart of unflinching hardcore performance art. I just loved it and I’ll be making an effort to catch another performance during this tour.

IMG_2419
Image by Liquid Photo

I can just about stick my head over the parapet to spread the word about a new game I’m working on with Larkin’ About.

It’s called Stranger on the Eleventh Floor and will be starting at 10pm at Manchester’s Nexus Art Cafe on 26th February. That’s this Saturday night! Wear shoes you can run in and think

and

when picking your wardrobe for the evening. And don’t forget your sense of adventure.

To wet your appetite for #eleventhfloor, Larkin’ About’s Spring event will be kicking off in the bar of greenroom from 6pm on the same evening, offering a stack of awesome games for your playing pleasure!

All free.

Let’s Play.




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