Postmortem – 7:Candles:Mcr


7:Candles:Mcr was a pervasive game I designed for Larkin’ About‘s winter event on 27th November 2010 at greenroom. The theme of the event was Winter Solstice and I designed the game with the idea of ‘driving back winter’ in mind.

The game required players – in teams – to find six specific locations within a five-minute walking distance radius of greenroom. Each of these locations was classed as a level. Visual clues in the form of photographs were uploaded to the 7:Candles:Mcr site (which was promoted prior to the game) and teams were also given an A4 sheet containing game rules and image clues printed on the night.

To complete a level, each team needed to find the relevant location and tweet an image of themselves holding a lit candle (provided) along with the hashtag #7CandlesMcr. This earned the team 10 points. An additional 10 points was available in each location if the team tweeted their ‘Words of Power’: a statement, sentiment, song lyric, or similar to help ‘drive back the night’.

Teams could find their own seventh location, a place they determined to be most in need of a little light and cheer, for an extra 40 points (20 points for tweeted image + 20 points for Words of Power)

(Potential) players were directed to the 7:Candles:Mcr site prior to the game to familiarise themselves with the game rules and to ensure they had the correct hardware (internet enabled camera phone) and, in some cases, software (image uploading Twitter client) to play the game.

On the night, players registered their team’s twitter name with me at 6pm, when the game began, and collected their team candle, matches, and game rules.

Teams could choose to complete all levels at once or drop in and out of the game during the course of the evening, therefore allowing them to participate in other games during the event.

I monitored the #7CandlesMcr hashtag for the duration of the game and announced the winner at 23:40 when the final game at the event had finished.

What went right.

Five teams actively participated in 7:Candles:Mcr (one team registered but didn’t score). Feedback on the night from teams was that it was fun and enjoyable. Three teams completed all the levels for a maximum score of 160 points.

I had been concerned that players would get confused about what to tweet and where to, or that they would forget the #7CandlesMcr hashtag but this was not the case. In fact, players streamlined the process instinctively. I had envisioned that teams would tweet twice, once with the image and once with the Words of Power, because of Twitter’s 140 character limit. However, teams used only one tweet per location while managing to squeeze in their text, image url and hashtag.

Finally, monitoring the twitter search stream #7CandlesMcr provided me with a powerful way to interact with players while they were out playing. I could provide current scores, comment announce when new teams had joined in, and call the game to a close.

What went wrong.

It became obvious even before the game began that many people that might have played the game did not because they did not have a phone that could access the internet and/or take pictures. I intended for the game to be played this way as part of my agenda is to create games that simultaneously subvert social media spaces as well as urban places. On the night, however, this justification felt weak in the face of potential players who actively wanted to take part but could not. I had encouraged individuals without the correct technology to join up with a team that had or (prior to the game) encourage a friend with a smartphone to play. It was unclear how successful this strategy was.

The team that did not score came from outside Manchester. I did not have a strategy in place to facilitate teams that were not familiar with the city and so this may have directly resulted in the lack of participation or inability to score.

I also felt that the rules were too dense and wordy. That the players themselves streamlined the scoring steps meant that I could have rewritten them in a more concise format. In turn, this might have encouraged a higher level of participation.


7:Candles:Mcr was a positive and fruitful design experience. It was insightful to come face to face with players as I had had only online communication with players of my last game 14 Days of Manchester. It was also interesting to find that my theoretical approach to pervasive game design excludes potential players without access to the required technology. This has led me to consider other ways of inclusion and will certainly feed into my next design.


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