Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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Big Games

1) The third incarnation of the annual Come Out and Play urban games festival starts today in New York City, mostly within Manhattan's Lower East Side. The Come Out & Play Festival seeks to provide a forum for new types of public games and play. We want to bring together a public eager to rediscover the world around them through play with designers interested in producing innovative new games and experiences. Oh yeah, and we want to have city-size fun. In short: benevolent malarky, thumbs very firmly up and only the faintest gnashing of teeth that I might not be there. The event runs from today until Sunday.

Three years in, there do seem to be some recurring patterns among some of the game submissions. One well-represented family is that along the lines of scavenger hunts, photo scavenger hunts, puzzle hunts and the like - you can never have too many of those, even if the fanciest and wildest clue ideas tend to be saved for exclusive events held for elite teams. Another family of games concerns the mixed reality genre, which largely involves playing with GPSes, mobile phones and video game paradigms; these are tremendously impressive, but there are huge technical barriers to content creation. Another family still involves story-based games and "urban play performances", some of which scale up well and some of which don't. Another family still are huge-scale versions of familiar small-scale games, which are possibly the easiest to get to grips with conceptually.

My favourite game based on the descriptions I've read is Metrophile, a live-action version of an area majority board game (Acquire, El Grande and so on, but simpler...) that is only played on a frickin' New York Metro train. That's ridiculously fun! Competitive Picknicking also tickles my fancy for featuring both solid card-game-like design and thematically appropriate giant fuzzy ants. Anyway, New York City folk, and people with NYC associates, please do enjoy and report back to those of use who can't make it about how good it all was.

1') I'm probably falling down on the job by not pointing out the counterpart event in London at the end of this month, taking place in and around the Southbank Centre from 27th to 29th June, the Hide and Seek festival. It starts off with a Werewolf (Mafia) evening and continues with many other games, some similar to the ones in their New York counterpart. In fact, at least a couple of the games will be played in both cities with some elements of competition between the two cities' collective outputs - for instance, the Snap Shot City photographic treasure hunt. There are plenty of games to be organised on a drop-in basis, as well, and lots of general Blank White Cardistry and the like going on when nothing else is.

You have to sign up for many of the games in advance, in both cities; several of the London games do not have all that many spaces left. I am this far from saying "Oh, bucket; even though I cannot really afford to go financially, especially as I am going on holiday in July already and have many other pressing reasons not to spend frivolously, my soul cannot really afford to miss out on this". While I am delighted that the interesting games movement is continuing apace and thus I can be more confident than ever before that there just might be a Next Year if I don't in fact go this time, I am really, really tempted not to miss out this time, especially as next year I might be on shift that weekend. Are there any enablers out there? While meeting exciting new people is a large part of the point of this, will I meet physically (as well as virtually) familiar people if I do go?

2) Greg Costikyan, illustrious in both the theory and practice of game design, as well as something of a glutton for punishment, is compiling a list (as a possible prelude to a collection of biographies) of Eminent Game Designers in, deliberately, many media on his independent-game-a-day Play This Thing blog. Needless to say, I have suggested many interesting people who just fall outside the criteria for his project but are not without merit, and might some day flesh out my claims as to why these interesting people have influenced the state of the gaming art. Who does the list continue to miss? Is there anything to support my wildly-plucked-out-of-thin-air theory that the inventors of Cosmic Encounter might have played more than a little Nomic in their time?

3) The World Series of Poker is now underway and this year it's even more of a flustercluck (presumably the cry of a perturbed hen?) than ever. The event now sprawls over, more or less, two whole months and consists of at least 55 different tournaments. The general public at large will care about, at most, one of these, the $10,000 No Limit Texas Hold 'Em Main Event; it takes something of a scholarly appreciation to care about what is arguably the other prestige event, the $50,000-buy-in mixture-of-five-games ("H.O.R.S.E.") tournament. (I note that this year there are more mixed-game tournaments than ever before, with a $10,000 octathlon mixed game event testing all-round poker skills, though the mix of times allocated to the various games has proved to be not quite right.)

I've heard from a couple of places that there is something of a sentiment that poker's current popularity may now be on the wane, with some US events finding TV ratings now starting to drop. There are credible arguments both that the Main Event may rise in size or that it may fall in size this year; while last year saw the first Main Event contraction (compared to the previous one) in recent memory, a large part of that was due to players winning places to the Main Event on the Internet and not actually taking them. This year's first No Limit Texas Hold 'Em tournament (with a much smaller buy-in!) drew considerably more than the counterpart event last year - an increase from ~3,000 runners to ~4,000 - so there still is some degree of upward momentum, and some Internet sites are claiming that they will be sending more players to the Main Event this year than last year. It's possible that this year might see the biggest of big ones - or, perhaps, like oil prices, there might be further scope for expansion still in the future. Current thinking is that this year's Main Event might have about 7,000 players and a $10,000,000 first prize; I'd take the over on that.

4) And finally, the selection process for the city to hold the 2016 (!!) Olympics is well underway, with the seven cities making bids whittled down to four ahead of an eventual decision next October. It's a tricky one to call this time around. Two of the initial bids submitted were excellent: Madrid put in an excellent bid for 2012, which ran ahead of even the eventual two front-runners for some time, and the 2016 bid is apparently even stronger. Tokyo have also put in an extremely solid proposal as well. Trouble for both of those is that the previous two events have gone to Asia (Beijing 2008) and Western Europe (London 2012), so whether the Buggins' turn theory has any merit or not, it's easy to imagine that some of the IOC delegates will find some merit therein.

Three of the other bids were seen as good, but not nearly as good as those of Tokyo or Madrid. Chicago put in an entirely sound bid, and given that the Americas will be (at decision time) only the fourth most recent continent to host the games (Atlanta 1996) then the very considerable degree of US money available might be sufficient to sway the voters. Indeed, bookmakers have them as odds-on favourites, though at longer odds on since the bid's shortcomings were revealed. There's always the possibility of anti-US sentiment lingering, though.

Doha, which as we all had to look up know is in Qatar, put together a very well-received bid that scored almost as high as Chicago's, but did not make it to the final four by virtue of wanting to hold the games in October rather than the customary height of the Northern Hemisphere Summer. There's also the small issue of it being a city of a mere one million, albeit one overtly with the funds to confidently claim all the exciting things that they would build. (Read the official report yourself; it's interesting to note the explicit degree of government support for the bid. One wonders how a bid that said "We will pledge the revenue from 25,000,000 barrels of oil to running the games" might have been received.)

The wild card is the bid from Rio de Janeiro. Technically it only barely meets the IOC's benchmark and Rio remains a city with many significant structural problems (read: extensive slums). Nevertheless, there is some degree of movement towards holding major global sporting events in areas of the world where they have not been held previously, and (neatly discounting Mexico) proper South America is territory where the big O has not yet set foot. Given that Brazil do already have multi-sport festival experience and will have further developments in place - at least, hopefully in place - for the World Cup of 2014, their bid may well be able to display considerable charms in the next year and a third. Clearly the outsider of the four, but not out of contention by any means. Olympic bidding sometimes seems to be down to politicking far more than it does to technical merit; perhaps when Rio shines, she really will show us all she can.

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