Last Saturday I attended an event in Bristol (this is the original one, in England by the way) called igfest, which stands for interesting games festival.
The proposition a bunch of grownups to play a lot of different games together;Â running, dancing, bouncing balls, dressing up, squirting water pistols, shouting and laughingâ€¦ and basically turning the city into one giant playground.
I played a game called Arcade Anarchy where you have to carry giant Tetris blocks from one end of a street to another as quickly as possible without breaking your neck, all the while avoiding your classic arcade adversaries (Donkey Kong, Mario, a Space Invader and Pacman). It was just as crazy and as much fun as it sounds.
The highlight o the event, however, was 2.8 Hours Later, described as a â€œCitywide Zombie Chase Gameâ€. This was played from 9:00pm to midnight, and players had to run for their lives to avoid getting infected (although getting infected meant you got some cool zombie makeup, so it wasnâ€™t all bad). Over 300 players participated every night and tickets were sold out in advance, which shows the appetite there is for that kind of experience.
This chimes with the trend in â€œExperience Tourismâ€, which means that most of us are no longer happy to see the sights and take some pictures, but want to walk away with a sense that we have had a unique experience. Music Festivals like Glastonbury are more popular than ever in spite of the fact that rain turns the site into a pool of mud 9 years out of 10, and holidays that offer courses on cooking, painting, horse riding, wine tasting, and even farming are on the up.
But even thought igfest is all about having a good time, many people these days are getting really serious about incorporating play into work. Lego Serious Play, for example, is a process designed to encourage creative thinking. During workshops â€“ which have been adopted by a lot of big companies such as Nokia and Orange – you are literally encouraged to construct physical metaphors of organizational problems and challenges. Research indicates that this forces our brains to function in different ways, and so we tend to come up with better and more innovative processes and solutions.
Play is becoming a bigger part of our lives, as more and more people not only buy consoles, but play games online or on their phones and tablets. Play is here to stay, and workplaces like Google recognise that if you encourage play and work to mix you get a happier and more creative workforce.
And these outdoor games festivals are far from being an eccentric English idea: Come Out & Play is an outdoor games festival which happens every year in New York, and on the West Coast there is SFZero. So now that the days are getting longer and itâ€™s not so cold outside, why not find an event near you and rediscover the sheer joy of playing?
All photos courtesy of Tom Atkinson at R3D Films
Alice Bonasio is a Brazilian/American/Italian writer specializing in Digital Cultures. She has been published in Gamestm, Edge, The Escapist and 360. She is currently finishing an MA in Creative and Media Enterprises at the University of Warwick. She lives in England and is a PR Executive for one of the UKâ€™s hottest tech start-ups, The Filter. Contact her on LinkedIN and follow her on Twitter.
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