Dear Hide & Seek, thank you and good luck!

by Thom Kiraly

Yesterday, I read the sad news about Hide & Seek closing down. H&S is (for another month) a London/New York-based game design studio focused on physical, social and public play. That’s a short and somewhat reductive version of what they do, but that’s what has been most important to me. Today, I want to tell you about Hide & Seek and what they’ve meant for my discovery and exploration of public and physical play. I also want to say my thanks and wish everyone on the H&S team the best of luck in all future endeavors. I hope to play more of their creations soon.

It’s hard for me to overstate the impact that H&S has had on me. Still, I feel a bit silly writing a whole blog post about it. Oh well, this is what I’m into, this is what I think about, this is what I want to tell you about.

My first encounter with H&S was at the 2010 Weekender, four days of crazy, beautiful and wonderful play at the National Theatre. In retrospect, I connect my enthusiasm to how the Weekender’s relation to what I was in London to do attend: the Marxism 2010 conference. Overall, that conference was a good experience, but the sect-like behavior of the SWPeople really bothered me and left a strange, dogmatic taste in my… brain. Everything was and is a struggle (to a point of dismissing everything that’s not grueling or life-draining as hopelessly naive), but the Weekender showed me something I already sorta knew about, but had never experienced: play as satire and play as ideological discourse. The games Super Political Street Fighter and Gentrification was especially liberating in those regards, but the simple act of playing in new ways with people who are there looking to play can be transformative in its own right. I don’t dive into the politics of street games blablabla, I just wanted to mention the backdrop against which I participated in my first Weekender.

The H&S Weekender left a lasting impression, effectively opening up new venues of play for me. Venues to be further developed, at least in terms of anchoring them in academic practice, at the ITU last year (oh, how I want to go back there). Meanwhile, I got deeper into public and physical play, pervasive gaming, and street games. Most of this interest was theoretical (because that’s how I work), but

I kept up to date with the H&S and their projects, bought and played around with the Boardgame Remix Kit, shamelessly stole a Tiny Game and a dancing game, played a browser game. Last year, I took a few days off from school to go back to London and attend the Weekender along with the one day conference on public play organized in connection to the festival.

As there always is, there have been many influences and inspirations guiding me towards my views and practices concerning play, but these are some things I’ve done where H&S have had a definite impact:
Designing a whole bunch of (too many, really) street games for the Malmö Festival last year; creating night club/game night mashups in Malmö complete with physical and social local multiplayer games; putting together the Nordic Game Conference 2013 after party; organizing Malmö Playdays, a one-day public play event at Malmö public library. The list goes on to smaller things, but let’s be clear: this play community has had a huge impact on me, and I am truly grateful that I got the chance to be a part of it (however small that part may have been).

Below are (most of) the amazing games and experiences I’ve been part of as a direct result of the Hide & Seek people (thanks to the wayback machine for providing me with the 2010 program [pdf]). Now, I realize only a couple of these are from the actual H&S team, but the simple act of putting them together in the same space does something to them and to the players’ experiences of them.

Sangre Y Patatas
Babel, Babel, Babel!
Super Political Street Fighter
Spinning Narrative
Pavement Wars
Getting to Know You: Global Seated Network

JS Joust (first try was at the 2012 Weekender)
Killer Queen and Killer Queen Arcade
Midnight Tourism
I Demand Satisfaction
Punch the Custard

Sausages (from the excellent Sandpit booklet. I still play this)
Eye Contact (a tiny game from the time before the app)
Tiny Games – A whole bunch of the stuff in the app.
British Intelligence Officers Exam
Boardgame Remix games – from the wonderful Boardgame Remix Kit.
The whole 2012 Weekender party – I still read Tim Clare’s stuff and use the Girl from Donkey Kong as my ringtone.

To close off, I’d like to repost three things shared by H&S on Twitter. These are things you can still do, even if you’re sad about the closing of H&S:

1. “Come and see our games at Kensington Palace! LAST CHANCE TO SEE H&S LIVE GAMING. And they are great”. 
2. “Hire one of our team! brilliant, multi-talented people. email for info.”
3. “Download Tiny Games! And join the tiny, exclusive band of in-the-know VIPs who have purchased the in-app content!”

Sadly, I’m unable to do 1. or 2. and I’ve already done 3. If you haven’t yet, you should really check out the Tiny Games app. It’s got Bernie de Koven’s stamp of approval, for chrissakes!

I’m actually in this video, waving my arms telling people I want one more go right as the match is over (there’s also one where my team wins, but who cares).