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Playable Patterns

We recently spent a week at QUAD in Derby as part of our digital participatory artist residency. We’ll be going back in February; this post discusses what we’ve been making so far, and the games we’ve been testing out with different groups of players at QUAD.

When we play a digital game, we expect the game to pay attention to us. To know what we’re doing. To respond. Which is reasonable, right?

But the board of a board game doesn’t know what piece you’ve put down (well, with some exceptions). A hopscotch grid chalked on the ground doesn’t light up to let you know where your stone fell.

During our time at QUAD, we’ve been thinking about what happens if you try to make digital games where the play is socially, rather than technologically, mediated. What possibilities exist in this design space that are different from both traditional digital games, and from purely analogue installations?

Playable Patterns is an ongoing experiment in playable digital work where the interaction and play happens purely between people; where the computer doesn’t look at what you’re doing. Specifically, it’s a series of patterns that move and change in particular ways, designed to be projected onto walls or floors in order to enable people to play.

Games We Found at the V&A

used with permission from The Victoria and Albert Museum: Photographer – Gabriel Bertogg

The V&A is in an extraordinary place. Every surface of the Victorian building is embellished, and once you start looking at the building between the exhibits it’s hard to stop. Every section of floor seems to have a different pattern of tiles. Each stairwell has its own visual schema.

Drawing Games

Paper is pretty neat: cheap, portable, foldable, strong, easy to decorate, easy to tear. You don’t need to get it made specially from scratch. You don’t need to teach players what it does.

For New York University’s No Quarter, coming up at Starr Space Gallery on 28 October, we’ve made a set of games that explore paper as a medium. We’re looking specifically at the interaction between gameplay, rules and drawing, trying to create games where people’s responses to the rules create both a gameplay experience and a visual artefact. The games themselves are pretty different – a set of three two-player strategy games, a game of communal drawing over an evening, and a multiplayer party game – but they all come out of this area of overlap.