Mary Rose Cook's notebook

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Now Play This

This weekend, Lauren and I went to Now Play This, an experimental games festival. It was at Somerset House. We played some really cool stuff.

Many of my favourites are hard to talk about. This seems like a good thing.

A game where you catch balls on a wire. You control the wire with a physical rope that you can stretch and relax. In this way, you can gather the balls and spring them into the air.

A game where you try to draw a replica of a work of art. You draw by pressing one of the many buttons. Each button does something different. It might shift certain colours, or move sections of the drawing. Because the labels on the buttons are cryptic, and because each action tends to act on the whole drawing, it’s hard to act intentionally. The game shows a score for the similarity between the two pictures. This is the one guide. Press a button for a moment. If the score goes up, keep pressing the button. If the score goes down, press a different one. Following this metric makes your drawing a secondary, surprising result.

A game where you cooperate. Each level has a key, a door and some obstacles to jump over. The goal is to pick up the key, unlock the door and walk through the door. There are ten players. Each player controls a little guy who can jump. The trick is that the little guys need to stand on each other’s heads to reach the key or get over obstacles. What really left an impression on me was that, when I saw it, the game was being played by ten people who were strangers to one another. Yet, wordlessly, they cooperated. They developed simple techniques like standing on each other’s heads. They developed more complex techniques like standing on each other’s heads and staggering their bodies to create stairs.