Matheson Marcault: Two Years Old Today

As of today, it’s been two years since Matheson Marcault sprang into existence!

And gosh, it’s been an interesting two years. We’ve spent the time making our own work, curating events, consulting on other people’s projects and slowly feeling our way towards our core area of practice, somewhere at the overlap of game design, writing, research, history, and physicality. Stuff people play in places. Gamey things that use bodies. Weird bits of the past re-presented through interaction.

We wrote up our first year, a year ago; in the year since then we’ve:

  • Run Now Play This again, once more at Somerset House as part of London Games Festival, with Jo Summers and George Buckenham
  • Curated Game Changers at Somerset House – a free month-long exhibition looking at how games change over time, focusing in particular on chess, billiards and mazes, using a mix of playable contemporary work and historical objects and images
  • Thrown beanbags at planets and planets at the sun in the Scientific Village Fete at New Scientist Live
  • Filled the quad at King’s College London with a playable installation called One Easy Step, a mix of patterns and plinths (above)
  • Designed four boardgames to play with different parts of the V&A building, printing different patterns from the walls and floors onto game boards
  • Made all sorts of moving shapes and patterns to project onto the floor, and played on them, during a residency at QUAD
  • Created a set of games about drawing, for No Quarter at New York University, then developed one of those games further as part of the London Creative Network
  • Made a game in Twine about the aviator Amy Johnson, and her solo flight to Australia
  • Developed some of our one-off games so that we can easily run them at other events, and then done just that – including Manifesto! in Oxford and Corby, and The Racing Line at Nine Worlds in London
  • Consulted on projects encompassing location-based audio, expressive storytelling through gameplay, puzzle design for online events, and physical games for learning outcomes
  • Spoken at conferences and workplaces about play that encourages creativity, about games in museums and public spaces, and about the strange history of games

Which was a pretty busy year, all in. But an exciting one, and one where we feel like we’ve really begun to establish exactly what it is we’re interested in, what our area of expertise is, and what sort of projects we want to be writing about this time next year.

So, time to get started on our third year! Gosh. We’ve got quite a lot planned already:

  • We’re working on a design for a set of hoardings in King Edward Memorial Park in Shadwell, giving people games to play in the park – in fact we’re playtesting on 7th June 4pm-5pm, meeting in the old bowling green, so if you’re in the area, pop by!
  • And on two games about Skegness for SO Festival, looking at different aspects of the town’s history – a digital game, and a treasure hunt leading around town
  • We’re taking some of the games from the Scientific Village Fete to Singapore(!) with GEEK, alongside a game based on one of the playable patterns from our QUAD residency
  • And working on a whole new set of scientific fete ideas, this time from THE FUTURE
  • We’re writing up a set of short essays covering the historical elements of Game Changers, and a much longer essay about play in public space, combining research, personal experience and two weeks of observations made during the King’s College project
  • We’re continuing to develop Art Deck (one of the drawing games we originally made for No Quarter), with an eye to printing it and making it more widely available (mumblemumbleprobablyakickstarterinoctobermumble)
  • We’ve started a research project into creating playable installations which work as games and also help communicate particular information, which we’ll be writing more about soon
  • And of course, we’re in the very early stages of planning Now Play This 2018…

It feels like we’ve really begun to work out what we care about, what we want to concentrate on. Games inspired by physicality, place, history, science. Playful work using words, paper, touch. Projects that get people acting creatively: making stuff, inventing ways to engage. Curation that presents games and playful work in welcoming ways that get people playing, and provide cultural or artistic or historical context. If you want to talk about any of this sort of work, do drop us a line.

Right! Time to see how it goes for another year.

Events, Games

Now Play This 2017

Now Play This 2017 is over! It ran from 7-9 April, and we’ve collected a few pictures (taken by Ben Peter Catchpole) above – click through the gallery to see them, or pop over to our Facebook gallery to see a larger selection.

You can also read about how other visitors found the experience, and catch up on their pictures, with:

And don’t forget that until 7 May, you can still visit Game Changers: Another Way to Play, an exhibition looking at billiards, chess, mazes and their evolution over time. (We’ll write a little more about Game Changers next week…)

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.