Review by Alyx Jones
Edited by Sam Hughes
Now Play This is a games exhibition held in the New Wing of Somerset House, as part of the London Games Festival. It’s a 3-day event running from the 1-3 April, now in its second year. Now Play This, is particularly focused on artistic and experimental games, that may not otherwise get a spot at exhibitions. Many involve installations and are not always something you would be able to play at home, so it’s a great way to showcase games that the public wouldn’t get much other chance to experience.
Throughout the day there were also “micro talks” being held where anyone could sign up to speak for 5-10 minutes on a subject of their choice, relating to game design. There were some interesting subjects tackled such as games targeting people with learning difficulties, the more interesting side of role playing without orcs and wizards, why everyone should learn animation and the arcade of awkwardness in Manchester that features any games that might make the player feel awkward and seeks to explore the social environment of the arcade.
After the micro talks, there was the option to join an architectural game called “Just Add People” that took place in the courtyard of Somerset House. Groups were given cards similar to the game “Cards Against Humanity“, we ended up with the phrase “Gluten Free Bungalow”…and had to try and build a structure that represented this. Needless to say we failed but instead ended up using the sticks to build stars with some children who had been interested in what we were doing!
There were a few games that stood out to me, some for particularly exploring audio. The first was called “Shiki-On“, that got people to draw patterns on long strips of paper, that could be fed through a machine to produce music, from their doodles. This project was developed by interaction designer, Miyu Hayashi, working with musician Par Carlsson. Another was the game “Guppy“, developed by Christiaan Moleman. Guppy features hand-painted watercolour art, where the player is a fish drifting through the water. The gameplay reminds me of a simplified version of “Flow” but prettier and with fish! The music (although difficult to hear in the exhibition) changed based on the size of the shoals of fish and if there is an enemy approaching. It is a really nice touch (by composer Kejero) to see in smaller games, as using reactive music can often be overlooked in smaller projects!
The final game I want to mention is Asphyx by Droqen, because it featured a really interesting idea of getting the player to hold their breath in real life, everytime they were underwater in the game. They were told not to cheat, and to press “Esc” if they drowned. It was a really neat experience, but it’s a shame that there was no audio at all! The only indication of audio is a tweet from 3 years ago saying it’s happening, so who knows?
Overall, Now Play This is completely worth attending if you’re into the peculiar and the creative side of games. One thing that should be said. It’s impossible to attend this event and still ask the question “Are Video Games Art?”
The Sound Architect