Introducing BARG


A gathering of folks who’d like to discuss social games and playful things with an aim to either designing their own or just getting involved in playing some interesting stuff. Story-tellers welcome.

Old Lamp Tavern, Digbeth, Birmingham. B5 6AH [map]

Thursday 29th from 7pm.


Over the last few months I’ve increasingly been approached by people wanting to discuss various ideas for games and other playful experiences. Floating around out there are some awesome nuclei for interesting projects waiting for a few extra ingredients to take them off the drawing-board and into practice. Likewise there are people wanting to work on projects, but haven’t yet got a project to work on.

Just before Christmas we realised we had reached some sort of critical mass where it made sense to get people together in the same room talking about their ideas and sharing their experiences. I reckon those of us looking to organise events need to skill up fast and then just get on out there and do it.

Then there are also some people looking for somewhere for their cognitive surplus to happen. Great! Let’s get the would-be-designers in the same room as the would-be-players so they can find out what makes a compelling experience and try out some of their ideas.


Next week’s BARG meet-up is a chance for us to find out who’s out there and what they’re interested in. Ideally this would then lead onto regular meet-ups where we can get more involved in sharing our combined knowledge and also playing some games.

Listen carefully to this next bit – I don’t want to have to say it too many times:

BARG is not about ARGs.

Here are 3 reasons why latching onto the term ARG (Alternate Reality Game) is not useful:

  1. There doesn’t seem to be a working definition of what ARG actually means. This is in reference both to Dan Hon and Alex Fleetwood’s observations at last year’s 4Talent Inspiration Session (there are podcasts at that there link – have a listen) that this is still an emerging discipline and we don’t quite know what it is yet, and also to Andrea Phillips’ post, which I’m choosing to interpret as being about the futility of trying to label these things anyway.
  2. Everything you know about ARGs is wrong. We can do better.
  3. ARGs are a small subset of the interesting stuff out there and we wouldn’t want to limit ourselves before we’ve even started, would we?

A much more useful way of identifying BARG’s territory would be to steal from the Hide & Seek approach:

Imagine a board. It’s got four corners. One corner is marked ‘Games’. The others are marked ‘Technology’, ‘Public Spaces’, and ‘Artists’. Anything that could be placed on that board…

Hide & Seek

So, that could include ARGs with their concealed narrative elements distributed across various on- and off-line platforms, but it could also be running blindfolded around a labyrinth marked out by humming people, sitting in a darkened room trying not to get eaten by werewolves, flattering a man in a paper-mâché stag mask until he lets you tie a balloon onto his antlers or cycling around the city at night with a GPS unit looking for the voices of strangers.

I don’t think it’s quite enough to just stand around and chat (although plenty of chatting will be done) so, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like later meet-ups to include elements of unconference where people give small presentations and/or discussions on a particular subject as offered on the night by those in attendance. We definitely want to be going outside and playing some stuff too.

For this first meeting though, our aim is to find out who we all are and what we’re interested in. Please be impressed at our self-restraint in not immediately building blogs, fora or wikis. Once we know what we all want out of this, then we can decide on what are the best online tools to facilitate that and think about giving BARG its own corner of the interweb. In the meantime, please feel free to use the comments on this page to help feed into how BARG could be useful to you.


We’re starting off in the Lillie Langtry function room in the back of the Old Lamp Tavern, Digbeth, Birmingham. It lacks an internet connection (this may or may not be important) but it’s fairly central, near some bus routes (45 and 47), a reasonable size, and has a video projector should we need one.

Any suggestions for alternative venues for later gatherings are welcomed. Here’s a venue wishlist that people with more experience than us have put together.


This first one’s in the evening, but later on we might try a weekend afternoon for the purposes of trying out street-based stuff in daylight. Let us know what you think.

London and Bristol both host monthly meetings of a similar sort. Do you think we could manage that too?


BARG is organised by myself and Charlie Pinder (aka @pindec). Charlie tinkers with things, sometimes at mook studios and was introduced to Nikki via @cross_triangle. She likes cheese.

BARG is an informal chance to mix with people with similar/sufficiently different senses of fun. We were kind of hoping you’d come along…


“BARG” is neither an agenda for location nor genre. It’s just the noise Charlie and myself both spontaneously made within seconds of resolving to make the meeting happen. Names and labels often fail, so we’re sticking with the noise. Here’s a picture, from the pindec pen, if that helps:


BARG: unstoppable, projectile, transmission of stuff. Also a way into events called BARGcamp, potentially on a BARGe, because it turns out we also like to play with language too.