Joue le Jeu / Play Along opened on June 20th and was fantastic! The 20th was the VIP and press opening – so it wasn’t packed, but by the end of the evening it filled up – the after party was super fun – and the selection of cheese was ridiculous.
As it is extremely difficult to really engage with works on an opening night – and I was focused primarily on Propinquity – I can’t give a review of the exhibition – but – I have added all sorts of links below and embedded hyperlinks so that you can read up on the highlights.
I really enjoyed the diversity of the show with the arcade and board games, but also the large-scale installation works and play environments. The show definitely highlighted games as art and housed pieces commissioned specifically for the exhibition. One particularly striking piece was the sculptural game Interference designed for the Entre-foyer of the Gaïté by Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi (play theorist Bernie DeKoven published a very nice piece on Interference). Not sure how well it played because there weren’t enough people paying it at the time. Also – I have to say – the Opérette by Daily tous les jours was also pretty nice. Not really a game, but a fun play environment – I got sucked into playing in the space for at least 20 minutes – which is a long time for my short attention span. The piece Electricity Comes From Other Planets was also a big hit – see here for the video.
New York’s Baby Castles presented “Meowton: A Whole Town,” which they describe as a sprawling cat-themed game town, and an environment exploring large scale custom controller design for cooperative physical game play. Although they had half a dozen games on display, I was struck by two specific projects.
Jason Boyer produced a surprisingly gripping game titled “Cat Poke,” where one’s goal is to locate nine cats and stabilize them in places where they can be poked. With very simple controls and a hacked together arcade cabinet this game immediately pulled me in. However, behind this innocent disguise hid an infuriatingly difficult poke and click adventure, which kept me glued to the screen till I was forced to leave.
The other game which struck me as ingenious was “The Cat in the Coup” by Peter Brinson and Kurosh ValaNejad. They describe it as “a documentary videogame in which you play the cat of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. During the summer of 1953, the CIA engineered a coup to bring about his downfall. As a player, you coax Mossadegh back through significant events of his life by knocking objects off of shelves, scattering his papers, jumping on his lap and scratching him.” What struck me about the game was its innovative installation. To play, one needed to enter a cat mosque by crawling on all fours. Once inside, the mode of interaction was a ball on a string which you needed to bat with your hands in order to interact with the game.
The whole space was soaked in a hacked together, kitschy, campy craft aesthetic. It was a space where the internet’s love of cats could materialize against the impossible logics of Dadaism. I think Meowton will necessarily be misunderstood by nearly everyone who encounters it. The memes of cats have been lost on so many and truly belong to the nerdy (masculine?) space of high-tech aficionados who know how to put together software, but aren’t too sure how to papier-mâché.
🙂 From Jane:
Aside from this – the highlight for me was to finally get Propinquity out there. It has been quite a journey – but it was definitely worth it. Propinquity was exhibited along side two other works – Dive by One Life Remains and Hit Me! by Kaho Abe. We each got 2 x 30 minute slots and surprisingly everything was on time and went off without a hitch. The game play for DIVE was a lot different from the physicality of both Propinquity and Hit Me! – but I suppose after our games – people needed a little bit of a break. We had no difficulty finding players for Propinquity – men/boys – women/girls – mom and sons – and kids. The costumes were designed for adults – it never occurred to me that we would have to make miniature harnesses and gloves for the kids.
The set up was simple – we had Sparky running the game offering explanations here and there – while two of us were the ‘pit crew’ prepping the next group to play. It was seamless and efficient, I was extremely happy with how it played out.
So now the question is what next… Propinquity has proven to be fun, it looks good, and is fairly easy to set up and play.
Bart and I have talked about a lot of different options – and I personally would like to use the Propinquity design as a platform – and get a bunch of people to design different games with the hardware. It’s hard to say and the future is wide open. We will have another playtest in the end of July – we want to set it up and photograph it in the BlackBox space – perhaps get people who are specialized in controlled bodily movement to play around. – like breakers – or capoeira artists …
Below are some general reviews on the show…