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A Gaming Revolution: New Yorkers Take to the Streets for Come Out & Play Festival

Friday, July 08, 2011

One Hounded gamer navigates the streets of Berlin as part of the You Are GO! Festival in June. One Hounded gamer navigates the streets of Berlin as part of the You Are GO! Festival in June. (Merlin Nadj-Torma/flickr)

It's time to store your Wii-motes and Monopoly money and super-size your gaming experience.

In what began in 2006 as a weekend of outdoor gaming revelry, the Come Out & Play Festival has since evolved into a month-long series of innovative outdoor games, all of which utilize New York's sprawling urban landscape. This summer, the festival has partnered with the River to River Festival to expand its reach across the city.

Running from June 19 to July 16, Come Out & Play is heading into its final week, but if you haven’t had a chance to partake in the fun and games, not to worry: there are still plenty left to be played.

"This year we're experimenting with the festival format," explained Come Out & Play's Executive Director Greg Trefry. "In the past, it's always been one three day event, this year the games are spread out over a month. In part this was a way to reach out to new audiences in New York."

This weekend, Come Out & Play is reprising Hounded and Shadowplay, two games featured earlier this summer in a Berlin gaming festival.

Hounded relies on a unique set of smells such as rose and stinky fish to send players on an olfactory search through a neighborhood. In what organizers describe as a blend of zombie tag, a treasure hunt and a traditional English fox hunt, players must navigate their way down scented trails and avoid being tagged by both a team of dogs and their handlers and fellow players. Up to 200 players will join in on the chase on Saturday night from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Elevated Acre.

Also on Saturday night, Shadowplay will test New Yorkers’ reflexes and visual prowess in a game much akin to Pacman, requiring players to eclipse green circles of light -- and avoid blue ones -- projected on the walls of New York buildings. For two to five minutes, teams of two will dip, dive and dash their way to victory in this outdoor arcade game. Game play will commence at John Street Church at 10 p.m. and proceed on a first come, first served basis. Before the night ends at 12 a.m., players at the top of the leaderboards will face off in a team tournament.

"So far this year, Shadowplay seems to have been a big hit, which is partially why we're running it again this Saturday," explained Trefry. "But each year we get new games which surprise us. We run monthly playtesting sessions at Eyebeam throughout the year where designers can try out their games and get feedback. Hunter-Gatherer, one of the upcoming Field Day games was a huge hit at the playtests."

The festival culminates in a field day at Governors Island on July 16, where around 12 games will run throughout the day. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., players can try their hand at games including Beat the Heat, a water war; Mont Trottoir, a cousin to parkour; and Triviaphile, dubbed a team strategy sport.

Some games, like the iPhone-required Meatspace Invasion and Suntrial -- which relies on solar-powered game pieces -- are enhanced by technology while others rely on the Island’s surroundings and players’ problem-solving abilities.

All of the games are free to play.

Check out the video below from Cowgirl Cowhunt, a Wild West-inspired round-up game that has been played as far away as Berlin (as shown below) and as close as NYC's South Street Seaport.  Look out for the game next weekend at Governors Island, where it may be featured. (Video Courtesy Catherine Herdlick/Vimeo)

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