Play Journal: w00t vol. 2 – Day Games

by Thom Kiraly

It feels like I’m still recovering from my one (!) day at w00t, but I better get this journal entry out of the way before I forget all of the wonderful play I got the chance to be a part of. My last entry focused on the children’s games I played at w00t and in this one I turn to ALL OF THE OTHER STUFF. Sorry, but this is going to be a teal deer, folks. And that’s after I’ve, yet again, split this w00t recap up into more posts. Here are the games I played during the day. The next post will go through my nighttime play experiences.

The Soil is Poisoned! – Remember this game from when you were a kid? You’re not allowed to touch the ground because it’s super toxic or lava or just plain dangerous for whatever reason (as if you need one). When we played this as kids, we did it indoors and used furniture to move around. It was great, but this time it was even better. We (and I will say that there were quite a few of us) played it outdoors and used waste from some sort of construction site to step or climb on: pieces of metal, planks (complete with rusty nails and all), pallets etc.
There are so many wonderful parts of this sort of free, but goal-oriented, play activities that I can’t nerd out all over every single one of them here, so I’ll just mention two.
First: the social aspect. The group quickly starts working together as if getting across (and building) the obstacle course is the most important thing in the world. We don’t want to stop playing for less than a very good reason, so we come up with all sorts of new rules to keep everyone in the game. This also gives the players the opportunity to opt out of the game rather than being kicked out for breaking a rule. Bonus lives were passed around in a liberal fashion and though we only carried three or four with us we must have used them eight to ten times.
Second — and I’ve already touched on this — the slow pace of the activity provides the opportunity for players to form roles and take on special tasks as well as switch roles and responsibilities during the course of the game. Some people were more interested in being scouts; others were supporters, hauling planks with them so as to pass them forward when we ran out of materials; at times, some people just kept our spirits up by being generally cheerful.

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One of my fellow adventurers, totally not letting go of his beer even though he’s climbing a steep hill.

Turtle Wushu – This is a physical game similar to Johann Sebastian Joust and Ninja. Everyone balances a small plastic turtle on the back of one of their hands while trying to knock the other people’s turtles off of their hands. Turtle Wushu creates that same peculiar movement between pacing around while looking for a good time to strike and attacking people head-on. It also provides  opportunity for my favorite part of JS Joust: the sneak attack. Oh, Joust sneak attack, I love you. Only played one game, but I hope my summer vacation (which is actually quite long) will give me the opportunity to play this sort of stuff with all kinds of people.
Pudding Lane – Weird dice distribution. 2d6 on a 1-9 board.

Scanners – As far as play goes, I guess Scanners at least made me question the role of agency in play. Participants are invited to put on an EEG brainwave scanner and watch some video in a nice little tent (here’s a good description of the scanner and some other stuff that the people at Albino Mosquito have done using it). This happens in two parts with a couple of hours separating the two. The first part measures your concentration (see the description linked above for what this actually means) and scores you based on your performance. The second video, or rather collection of videos, has you influencing the action on screen — mainly through blinking. I did try hard to concentrate and up my brain activity (or whatevs) by for instance biting my tongue and focusing on the pain, so in some sense I was getting into it. The overall sense I have, however, is that it was a bit too hard to tell what sort of input I had and whether or not this actually made any (and in that case, what sort of) difference in the videos displayed.
Final note: I guess obscuring the direct connection between user input and system output was, at least to some extent, deliberate. But then again maybe not. Or was it? AAAARHHGH.


BeatBlocks –  A part of the RoboMusic project at the Center for PlayWare, BeatBlocks lets you instantly transform into a DJ of some competence. Check out this video to get a cool demo.

I often play around on the myPhone with apps like Figure or iKaossilator to see what I come up with. I usually do not save any of the music I create because I want to make it only for me at that specific moment. BeatBlocks gave me a similar feeling of just messing around with a couple of loops to see what happens. My co-DJ asked me if I was an actual DJ, but I guess it was just me getting into it that much. My only wish (as far as the BeatBlocks go, mind you) is that I would have learned the proper technique for cutting off the infrared signal connecting the blocks quicker. See, if you just pull them straight away from each other, they still maintain a connection for just a bit too long. If you, however, just slide them apart, side to side, you can control the sound on beat. I’ll make sure to do that next time.