Friday April 29, 2005

PacManhattan = one year anniversary

Today = the one year anniversary of PacManhattan. Last year, while I was hustling to finish my grad school thesis project, I was taking another class at ITP called Big Games (taught by Frank Lantz). The goal of the course was take the traditional elements of game design and see what happens when these ideas move off the game board or computer screen and into the real world.

Our final project as a class was a life-size game of Pac Man played out in the city grid around Washington Square Park. We had players in the street racing around, constantly reporting their location back to a central control room. Each person in the control room was in touch with one of the players in the street, telling them where to go and what do to. Player location data was tracked using software - Pac Man was allowed to know where the ghosts were, but the ghosts were not allowed to know where Pac Man was. It worked out pretty well. That's me in the Pac Man costume during the first game. A week later the game was featured in the NYTimes Sunday Styles section.

Anyway, that was a year ago. This year Frank invited me + Kevin Slavin (from ConQwest fame) and Joost (a phD student at Columbia) to sit in on the class' final presentations. There wasn't much sitting in - groups in the class had created three games, two of which we got to play.

First up: Payphone Warriors. 15 people divided into 3 teams. Each player was given 10 quarters and a map of the surrounding NYU area, highlighting payphone locations. The goal is to generate as many points as possible by "capturing" a payphone for an extended period of time. To capture a phone, all you need to do is make a call from it (hence the quarters). For every minute you control a phone, you earn points. If someone makes a call from that phone after you do, they now control that phone and start generating points.

Me + Slavin + Joost made up one of the teams.

Frank's strategy was to split our team into a "runner" (hit as many phone booths as possible in the quickest amount of time), a "follower" (trail someone and try to take back their phones as soon as they claim them) and a "bruiser" (someone to guard the phones - if you have your hand on a phone, another team can't claim it).

I was the runner. Hit 10 phones in around 12 minutes. The game was actually pretty fun - I had the same sense of altering one's perception of a public space that I had w/ PacManhattan (as Frank said, anytime a grown man is running down the block, you're creating a spectacle... also, how often do you pay attention to the location of payphones), plus there was a sense of switching strategies on the fly (I started blocking phones and borrowing quarters from Slavin) and competitivness against the other teams. I didn't like the fact that there was no game state info given out - e.g. I didn't know how much time was left in the game, who was winning, how far behind we were, etc. (Our team ended up coming in 2nd).

Back in the classroom, trying to catch our breath.

Game #2: Chalk-A-Block. 15 people divided into teams of four. Each player is given a map of the West Village, the game space highlighed in yellow. The goal is to scour the highlighted area looking for clues that were chalked on the sidewalk. Clues consist of letters and numbers, which are used to solve a Wheel Of Fortune-like puzzle. With every clue you find, you are supposed to mark a dot on the map. When all the clues are find, you are supposed to connect the dots to get a bonus clue.

So, Slavin and I started at West 3rd and 6th and starting wandering around. We found 10 or so letters before we met up w/ Frank.

Frank had found about 10 more clues and convinced another team to join forces with us. By the time we had met up they had already decoded the clue: "In the shade behind the curtain." Looking at the map, I had no idea what we were supposed to do next...

... until we connected the dots to make a martini glass. Martini glass + "In the shade behind the curtain" = go to the wine bar called Shade on W.3rd and Sullivan.

So, we rolled in (actually sprinted over there), checked behind the curtain and found a bar-tab worth 6 drinks. Wooo!

The game was interesting, though it seemed more like an "event" than a "game". Not much of a sense of competition or strategy, but hey, free drinks!

(the end)

Fri 4/29 @ 12:08 PM | # link| Comments (0)
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