The Grand Finally of Emergent Game
[warning: this post contains Ludens' speak]
Saturday was the big ‘closing’ event for Emergent Game (again, we all seem to have trouble thinking of it in terms of being the end) and, as usual, my head’s full of stuff that I’m going to inflict on you as part of the process of sorting through it and pulling out threads. There are lots of photos to be shared and stories to be told, but I expect this will be done in a different place and in a different voice.
Here are some initial thoughts from the point of view of organising the event:
Partly through needing some distance and partly through commitments to other projects in the interim, there was quite a long gap between the NGA festival-related part of The Game (up until 20th of June) and the Grand Finally.
Though I didn’t have a lot of time for directly organising stuff, it did give me the opportunity to think a lot about more general things like what sort of an experience I wanted it to be. The event had been presented in terms of being a combination of the City Wide Treasure Hunt mission (coming from random descriptions in the festival literature) and the Ludens’ Tea Party mission – both big scorers within The Game and ideal ways to combine cabaret and collaboration.
As it began to take shape in my head though, I increasing lost sight of this and, especially after going to Hide&Seek last weekend, was thinking more in terms of the types of behaviours I wanted to encourage.
That sounds odd. What I mean is…
…that after much thinking I decided that the aim of the day was not to discover the location of some object or to solve a puzzle; it was to give people the opportunity to do things they wouldn’t normally do, within the framework of a larger context that added layers of excitement such as trying to remain anonymous when you knew there were other Ludens criss-crossing the same space at the same time.
Looking back at it now, I’m wondering if it’s enough to regard the larger context as being the day’s event, or whether you have to include all the play that came before it? Would the Grand Finally have been possible/as successful had there not have been the 2 month’s worth of conversation and interaction that built up the characters and narratives involved?
Certainly when I was planning who should do what, a lot of the missions were based on references to things that had developed out of the game. @egorbeaver was given a lot of tea party themed activities, @cross_triangle’s day was based on glyphs and @LeonHerring got to spend some time at the beach. With other players I knew who they were in real life and so was able to build in references to things outside of Emergent Game.
The other benefit to having been through all the missions and stuff beforehand was that I’d got a sense of what, for me at least, provided the buzz: knowing that you might find yourself at a drop-off point at the same time as another Ludens; having to work with your avatar in public locations; having to either explain to Sapiens what was going on or pretend that nothing out of the ordinary was going on and it’s perfectly normal to be taking photos of this soft toy in this shop thank you very much.
By the time it got to In Deep End-Dance day I knew that I wanted In Deep End-Dance Day +1 to be based around the following:
- A Common starting point and a common end point (i.e. the pub!)
- Going to parts of the city you probably hadn’t been to before
- Interactions with Sapiens
- Remote interactions with Ludens – i.e. transfers of information and objects
- Possibility of accidental direct encounters with Ludens – i.e. crossing of paths
That and 2 things to follow up on after a barrage of phonecalls and texts to possibly friendly Sapiens were pretty much all I had to go on at the start of spending the day in town looking for ways to string it all together…
Interactions with Sapiens
In moments of optimism I had thought it might be nice to have Sapiens tweeting in tasks etc over the course of the event, however the degree of interaction from Sapiens up until this point had been, frankly, disappointing so I gave up on that idea.
In comparison, the support I had from random strangers as I wandered around town and made strange requests was phenomenal.
First stop was the Borders bookshop in the BullRing where a supervisor friend volunteered two front-of-store staff to be in on the Grand Finally. Thanks to them I was able to leave several mission packs in a couple of different locations.
Four of the Ludens and two watchers passed through this space in the first hour or so of the event – I’d like to see the cctv footage!
Likewise, assistance from the staff at the Pen Room really made a huge difference. I’d only had a glimpse of this place a few years ago and wasn’t disappointed on going back for a closer look. I strongly recommend you do the same.
In the 2nd of the two pen room rooms is was immediately apparent that this was somewhere to send not only cross_triangle, but also the stamptmeister Loki. A big thankyou to Malcolm both for his enthusiasm and his assistance in relaying contents of emails.
A meeting in a coffee shop then secured the assistance of Zebra Scraf Woman on the Fluxus boat trip …and also the name of a friend’s mum librarian …which led onto one of the players being shown some of the Central Library’s Shakespeare Collection.
The other big contribution came from the security staff at the Victoria Law Courts at the top of Corporation Street. This is a favourite hidden gem where I usually take visitors to the city. Once you’re past the x-ray machine you’re immediately in another world of 19th Century architecture. Check. It. Out. (information sheet available from the desk inside)
I checked to see if they’d be open to the public on Saturdays and at first it looked like they wouldn’t and that I’d have to come up with another idea. So I asked them if they could think of any alternative locations and that drew a blank. …and then suddenly I’m proudly being shown the portcullis over [under] the main entrance [can anyone confirm this is the only one still in use in the world?] and we’ve worked out a deal that if I send a player along first thing then they’ll probably still be there and everything will be OK. Love it – and what’s more it sounds liek they were conducting their own personal treasure hunts when LeonHerring turned up with Leon’s mission:
As the Grand Finally progressed we also had encounters with various unsuspecting members of the public including (but not restricted to) most of the staff of Borders, someone with a clipboard, the man with the cigar photographed with egorbeaver at a prominent Birmingham landmark, the person ad Hudsons who took temporary custody of the receipt for the mug that had the photo of the man with the cigar photographed with egorbeaver at a prominent Birmingham landmark printed on it and the patrons of the children’s library. Job done.
Some of the players had to get to certain places by certain times before Law Courts shut or boats set sail. The timetable looked like this: (click for larger)
Needless to say most people were late turning up for the start and a few coffees later quite a few things had to be jiggled. Didn’t seem to matter too much in the end, but lesson learned to leave more allowance for this sort of thing next time around.
Love it or hate it we relied on Twitter really heavily through all stages of Emergent Game. It’s caused us headaches on more than one occasion so I made sure everyone had my phone number before the Grand Finally began. Just as well really, because somewhere between Manchester and Brum egorbeaver discovered egorbeaver was suffering from the same PIN thing that had prevented me from playing Cruel 2 B Kind the weekend before.
So, for the first hour or two I was relaying instructions to egorbeaver by text. Luckily I did then manage to log onto egorbeaver’s account from the Grand Finally HQ in Coffee Lounge and get things working again later!
One thing I hadn’t really anticipated was the extent to which 7 people tweeting would eat up the battery life on our phones. We’ve talked about the benefits of using Twitter for a decentralised method of communication, but my phone gave out about 20 minutes before the end and we came really close to losing a few of the others too.
Next time around we’d have to consider either a) doing things over a shorter time-scale, b) doing things over a much longer timescale (i.e. you can go home and recharge between missions) or c) making more use of direct messages so that players only recieve tweets for them and not so much of the general chit chat. Hmmm, not sure if I’d want that or not…. I’m curious to find out more about egorbeaver’s experience of playing for a few hours with Twitter silence to see what this is like in comparison to having an awareness of what the other players are doing.
The other thing I like about public tweets is that they are then available as an archive of what happened in the way that direct messages are not.
Documentation and commentary
Puppet Mastering the Grand Finally was an intensely hectic experience. I didn’t get a chance to pause for the whole 3 and a half hours and only got the chance to go for a wee when Loki’s brain went bork and Loki joined me for a few minutes before going to collect the mug.
I’m definitely thinking in terms of this being a two-person job next time around. There certainly wasn’t any time available for live blogging or LudensShow tweeting for the benefit of any Sapiens.
I’m really glad that Alex and Vanessa agreed to join us as Ludens Stalkers and help document the event. I’ve now got some great images of various players at different points of the game and it seems like most of them were unaware they were being followed!
Although we heard a few tales in the pub afterwards, I’m really hoping the Ludens will take the time to write up their experiences so we can start to piece together what happened and, more importantly, what it was like to be in it.
The meet up
So, the guessing game is over! Now we know who they are! (Well, some of them, anyway.)
A bunch of Ludens in a pub eating beevapoo… who could have known that would have made me feel so happy! :)
One of the things several people commented on as the Ludens started to appear was how so many of them were women. Normally I’d pay as much attention to gender labels as I do to those for Art and Science (i.e. I try not to), but it does seem this is something significant. It would be interesting to find out who all the other players are to see if this trend is carried out across the whole Ludens population.
It’s interesting to look back now with hindsight and look at the different assumptions I made about whether Ludens were male or female. In my mind’s eye egorbeaver was male until I got the furball in that box and somehow the handwriting was female too. Oh, and the singing voice!
Ditto for cross_triangle: female handwriting on the labels that accompanied the treasure. What the hell does female handwriting look like?!?! How do I have an opinion about what female handwriting looks like?!!?
It occurred to me this morning that what we had in the pub was a bunch of web-literate people talking about digital stuff …who mostly happened to be women – and it all felt very, very different to the one blogmeet I’ve been to.
Anyhow, it feels like it would be a heinous crime to reveal anyone’s identity, so I’m going to leave it there.
Lessons learned and a big thank you to all those to whom I owe thanks.
Was fun an much citements yesno?