The Play Spectacular was a free night of play at Wellcome Collection on Friday 3rd July. We filled the building with games, talks, words, puzzles and all sorts of strange activities – the gallery above has pictures of most of the different things that were going on (not quite all)!

The Wellcome is an amazing building, and so well-suited to play – it’s already filled with strange sightlines, enticing corners, and interactive exhibits. We did our best to take advantage of that, while fitting in among the existing exhibitis.

On Level -1 we had a series of talks from biologist Isabel Behncke Izquierdo, curator Irving Finkel and journalist Leigh Alexander. We also had a room full of games related to intimacy. Some of them were about sex, and some of them were just about hanging out and connecting with people – Stick Shift by Robert Yang; Egg Boss by G.P. Lackey, Paloma Dawkins and Ylang Ylang; Sext Machine by Mike Lazer-Walker; An Encounter in the Woods by Sam Sheffield; Campfire by Florian Decupper; and Plug & Play by Etter Studio.

On the first floor, in the Medicine Man gallery, we had Secret Habitat by Strangethink and Sembl by Catherine Styles – games about galleries and gallery exhibits for the most traditional gallery space in the building. Elsewhere across the floor, we played games that sit between physical and digital. The space opened with two different distorted billiards games, one physical (Ed Saperia’s Home Turf) and one digital (Nerial’s Magic Shot). From there, we had Ludosity’s upcoming Progress, Robin Baumgarten’s Line Wobbler, Alistair Aitcheson’s Codex Bash, and Deep Dark Hole’s Elbow Room. Finally, in the studio – decorated with astroturf for the occasion – we had a programme of three sport-style games, Steven Goodwin’s Reversed Reversi, Ivan Gonzalez’s Goggle and Brian Peterson and Arkadium’s Light Fight.

The Reading Room on the second floor was filled with games relating to words – old-fashioned parlour games; a pile of game books to nestle into the armchairs with; Emily Short’s San Tilapian Studies; game poems from Hannah Nicklin, Harry Giles and Adam Dixon; Squinky’s Interruption Junction; and new Twine games from Alice Maz, pyun-pyun and Nina Freeman.

On the top floor there was a board game lounge. New works (our own Racing Line and Nicolas Maravitti’s Tag Mixing) sat alongside a mix of modern board games and reproductions of old games from Wellcome’s digital collection.

Finally, roaming around the whole building we had two more new commissions: Hilary O’Shaugnessy’s Not for the Fainthearted, putting players in the role of museum invigilators, and Block Stop’s Final Call, where players direct a performer elsewhere in the building as she attempts to commit a covert assassination.

We’d spent a lot of time thinking about how to coax people into play – but in the end, we shouldn’t have worried! Everyone was so willing to look and think and comment and join in – engaging with the games and with Wellcome Collection’s ongoing exhibits throughout the night. We had an amazing time. Thank you to everyone who showed a game, and everyone who came along and played.

All images copyright Wellcome Collection.