How late is this blog post? Somewhere in the region of ‘epically’, or if you like, ‘roughly a month’. I shall continue to use this as an excuse, and in fact, as the fracture clinic doctor told me it won’t really be totally all right (not his exact words) until this time next year, I shall be continuing to use it to excuse tardiness in all hand/arm related things for many more months to come.
The good news, however, is that the cast is off, and after catching up with my life, work, writing, passing my first year PhD progress panel, and getting over all the related hangovers, I return to you, Lo, with tantalising tales of my exploits at the Hide & Seek Weekender at the National Theatre!
The Hide and Seek Weekender ran from Friday the 9th to Sunday the 11th of July, and was hosted by the National, in a variety of foyer and outside spaces (I didn’t see any work in the performance spaces, though that doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t any, as there was an awful lot going on). I attended the Sunday, but you can see and download the full program here. I didn’t get much of an opportunity to take photos or videos as I was still be-casted at that point, but I used my MIND CAMERA instead. Here are some of the games, sights and sounds it captured:
The big focus of the Sunday seemed to be on the Delhi Games section, most of which I stuck with throughout the day as it wasn’t too precarious-movement-heavy. Also it was a new interesting dimension on the pervasive gaming that I’ve so far done – rather than just reclaiming physical or tech space, the Delhi Games also played across cultural boundaries. These games variously used skype, facebook, and text messages to collaborate on different playful experiences with two groups of artists and players, one in Delhi, and the other in London. Here are the ones I participated in:
Noah’s International Lark (I can’t find info on who this one was by). This was a simple but effective getting-to-know-you type game played over Skype. Two teams made up of both India and Britain-based participants had a limited amount of time to work out several ‘things in common’ shared by the team members. Each ‘thing in common’ had to include participants from both countries, and was scored (eventually) by how rare it was. The ‘rarity’ score was then multiplied by the number of people in the group who shared the ‘thing in common’. The other rule was that everyone in the group needed to be in at least one of the ‘things in common’ groupings. Sound complicated? It wasn’t. Example: We found that 5 people across both countries had met a prime minister or ex-prime minister. This was considered 4-points worth of rare (5 being most rare) so the points scored there were 20. You see? We discovered things like at least 3 people had physically stopped an aeroplane taking off, that 4 people had been arrested, that every single one of us had sent an embarrassing text to the wrong person.
Unknown. The next game I played I can’t seem to find the name of in the programme. Seems like my MIND CAMERA is a bit rubbish. Anyway, this game used webcams, facebook, and our bodies, nothing else. We were handed 5 Indian proverbs, just as a Delhi team were handed 5 English ones. We had a webcam and limited amount of time to bodily illustrate (with as many photos as we wished) each proverb (e.g. ‘what does the monkey know of the taste of ginger’) and upload it to a dedicated facebook album. We then looked through the facebook albums they’d created for us, trying to guess what they’d illustrated. Fun, interesting cultural insights.
Team Hutong (By Coney (here Mel Cook, with Hey Fan, Annette Mees and Tassos Stevens)) As per the programme notes:
“A rectangle is drawn on a map in London. The same rectangle is drawn on a map in Delhi. Teams are matched across countries, and set off together on a real-time transcontinental journey of discovery.”
This game was largely played over text, we were handed a map, some glue, some string, and a transparent umbrella, and sent off into the wider world along the path the map directed us. Along the journey we were asked to spot certain things; uniforms, dogs, babies, and text them to the team in Delhi at certain points on the map. We received a similar count, and each spotted thing translated into various things we had to collect; flowers, words, sweets. There were other tasks, at one point we had to buy some food, and text a description of it without using its name; at another point we were to recall a memory that where we were provoked, and then find something that represented the memory we received in exchange. All of the things we found were stuck or tied to our umbrella. Eventually we returned to a skype chat where we shared our umbrellas and revealed the mysteries (like, for example, the astonishing number of uniforms they had spotted, over 50!).
One of the few images I was able to grab, our umbrella about half way around the Team Hutong route.
Sangre Y Patatas By Coney (here Tassos Stevens with Peter Law) I didn’t actually participate in, as it mainly involved bumping into people on purpose (though at least my death throes would have been realistically painfully voiced). The game consisted of several Patatas (potatoes) and one monster, Sangre (blood), all of whom had their eyes closed. The rules were very simple, you stumbled around in the dark, and when you met someone, you held them and greeted them with your name. If you met a Patatas, you carried merrily on your way, but if you met the Sangre, you met a horrible death with accompanying excruciating death throes. Players who were knocked out moved to the edges and formed a whispering circle to alert players still ‘in’ of the boundaries. There were also hanging bells and scrunchy objects on the floor as aural landmarks which could alert others to your presence.
After the first trial, the players were divided into teams, and smaller versions took place with other teams forming whispering walls. ‘winning’ people were the best deaths, the last Patatas standing, and the quickest Sangre to wipe out all their Patatas. Then a grand finale happened with the cream of the screaming bloody potato crop. This game was hilarious to watch, and drew quite an audience. As I wasn’t able to actually take part, here’s a quote from @MeganFVaughan, one of the friends who I went with, on what participating was like:
“You feel pretty vulnerable to begin with, so when someone nearby falls down it’s tough not to scream yourself. Maybe I’m just highly strung. On the other side of things, when I bumped into someone and they weren’t the killer, I was so relieved that my natural reaction was to start giggling, like when you get off a rollercoaster and your body’s so glad its not dead that adrenalin sends you hysterical. It’s nice that group games like this can be reclaimed for adults. I’ve not taken part in anything even remotely like it since I was about 12, and I think all licensed venues should have designated Sangres Y Patatas areas from now on.”
And a quick video of a version of the game, played with similar ‘sound hazards’ (crisps and bells)
The Sangre Y Patatas game is also a seed for a 3-D “video game with no video” that’s currently being developed, and that I’m (possibly extremely) enthusiastic about. For more on that follow @PapaSangre on Twitter, and check out the blog/site at http://www.papasangre.com/ you can listen to a vimeo trailer (make sure you’re wearing headphones) here.
So what did it all feel like?
As an experience the Delhi games were all really uplifting, funny, and while they highlighted in essence how similar we all are, they also gave us a taste of a different culture, and how that culture shapes us, our environment, our language and our daily lives. The games were shaped by a pleasant recognition, directly in Noah’s International Lark, and slowly games like the proverb game. As we were trying to translate Hindi to English to bodies – we also found ourselves searching for the English equivalent – which we almost always found, because (as the game highlighted) the playful images we use in folklore and childhood stories often have universal lessons behind them. The Hutong (the word means a narrow Chinese street or alley – the history/relevance of them is well work a quick wiki-read) was my favourite one; we traversed our two cities, collecting the shrapnel of our environments, creating a ragtag emblem of our trans-national journeys, and then we arrived back to eagerly discuss our trophies and experiences, of which we were all oddly proud.
The simplicity of Sangre Y Patatas is a brilliant lesson in game design, the slight twisting of the language made the action alien enough from games you played as a kid to not make you feel childish, and the fact that you were placed in the dark, that you changed the sense with which you usually perceived the world with, transformed the game-space effortlessly.
Finally, as I said in a tweet shortly following the event, I have never felt so much like I belonged in the National as I did in those few short hours. Events like the Weekender, and like the Forest Fringe’s Microfest, play an incredibly important part in reclaiming sanctioned ‘art space’ as well as street space for new playful experiences. By inhabiting and re-revealing this national institution in an unusual way, it meant you were able to own the space, with others, as part of a genuine community; not just as an audience made up of single units. Hide&Seek’s Weekender was all about unity.