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The Scientific Village Fete

Have you ever been at a village fete, and found it just a little too… unscientific? Or wandered around a science festival and wished for some real festivities?

Well, we’re coming to New Scientist Live – a four-day festival of ideas and discovery, taking place at ExCeL London – with a solution to exactly those problems. You can challenge your friends and beat the clock in four cosmos-themed events at this space age fair:

  • Knock the planets from their perches in our Planet Shy – but be careful, the planets are made to scale, so your aim is going to have to be pretty good if you want to get Mercury.
  • Overcome the fallibility of your delicate human mind in So Wrong It’s Right, a head-to-head gameshow that pits you against your friends and against the Stroop Effect
  • Become master of the solar system in The Two Body Problem, a gravitational simulation that challenges you to choose an orbit that isn’t immediately disastrous
  • Prove your worth as an astronaut in Saffron Parker’s Space on Earth, a co-operative game that asks you to work with a friend while you both wear spacesuit gloves

The Scientific Village Fete will be running at New Scientist Live from 22 to 25 September.


Interview with Greg Trefry

As part of our research project for the King’s College London Arts and Humanities Festival, we’ve been interviewing different curators, designers, artists and architects about playful work for public space. This interview is with Greg Trefry, a game designer who co-founded the games festival Come Out & Play (and is director of the New York branch); also co-founded Gigantic Mechanic, which makes games with real-world physical elements; and teaches at NYU.

This is an extract from a longer interview, which will be included in full in a report at the end of our research project. The picture above is from Come Out & Play 2015, taken by Josh Lee.

US: We’ve talked before about people being able to drop in and out of games in public spaces – and not having to install anything, and the difference that makes to persuading people to actually play.

GREG: It’s a weird design problem. Most games – as opposed to playful things – are delimited by time and space. People can push the boundaries on some of those (“oh you can run around anywhere”) but a game still usually starts at a specific time and ends at a specific time, or you’re moving towards a winner and you have to be there at the end of the game to see that.  

So how do you make an experience that isn’t ruined if players can drop in and out at any time?

One Easy Step: The Research Continues

We’ve now spent two weeks putting different things in the Quad at King’s College London – from hopscotch courses to plastic telescopes to big cardboard frames – as part of our research into public play for the upcoming Arts & Humanities Festival.

Today is our last day of observations before we start sitting down and sifting through everything we’ve discovered. And there’s a lot to go through.

For example, look at the different sets of footprint trails above. We started off with one very simple trail, then got progressively more complicated – and each time the trail got more complicated, we found we had many more players. Barely anyone tried out the first version, maybe two people in five hundred – but dozens of people paced along one of the final routes.