‘Make and Do’ describes itself as “New Adventures in the World of Art and Technology” with a mission to promote adult game playing in Ireland. In April ‘Make and Do’ presented an epic game of chase through the streets of Dublin as part of the Darklight Festival called ‘Journey to the End of the Night’. For the game participants signed up and assembled at CHQ the rules were simple:
- There are identifiable chasers
- You will be chased
- Try not to get caught
- Make it to 5 bases in a given order
Over 200 people participated in a grown up game of chase through Dublin City! Now Hilary O'Shaughnessy, the artistic director of ‘Make & Do’, is spearheading a new festival of play called Prototype due to take place this October in Project Arts Centre. She is currently looking for submissions of ideas, projects, performances and games for the festival. A festival of play for grown-ups? What’s not to like?!
So how did you come across this kind of thing in the first place?
I just became more interested in play and games and started visiting street game festivals around the world starting 3 or 4 years ago and just got really excited by the format of the street game festivals. I think I had heard someone talking about pervasive games, I didn't know what they were so I googled them and that was it I was gone, hooked! (Pervasive games are games that take place in the real world, where the fictional world blends with the physical world).
I was in London shortly after and there was a game festival on, I thought it was kind of interesting and a new way of interacting with people. It was close to theatre but less formal, more interactive. That festival led to the next festival, and then the next festival and I ended up going to San Francisco to a festival there called “Come Out and Play”. They did Journey Into Night, they’re the ones that started it, and I thought it was brilliant and had to come to Ireland, I knew people here would get it!
Journey to the End of Night (the giant chasing game) was a big leap for Dublin City Council to do because I had to explain to them that we were going to have hundreds of people running around the city at night and we were not sure what they were going to do or where they were going to go. They trusted me though that it would be lovely people wanting to have fun and play rather than a rampage. It’s a really good way to discover parts of the city without being shown. You discover them and find out and invigorate what’s already there.
The idea of play for grown-ups and festivals of this type is a new phenomenon in Ireland but what’s interesting is that stereotypically if you think about a game or play festival you would imagine all sorts of technologies and screens whereas this festival really seems to engage with both the environment and people of Dublin. How do people react to the idea and what kind of crowd do you get?
When people hear about a Festival of Play they immediately think “oh is it for kids”, but it’s specifically not for kids, this is grown up play. There’s a big mix of people who get involved depending on who’s running the festival in different countries but generally there’s a mix of people who like video games who want to come and see what other versions of games are out there, there are also arty people who want to see what the interactive stuff is like. We also get a lot of techy people and a lot of companies that will come and prototype new ideas for digital games, they’ll make a street version first, test it and get feedback. That’s one of the things that really attracted me because in the theatre world you make something and it’s either a hit or a failure and you never get the chance to try it again and so much brilliant work is lost out on. Whereas with this you can try out different versions. You get all these amazing designers come and play your games and tell you what they think and help you fix them, you end up getting a masterclass in game design from all these game designers! It’s brilliant.
Is there any kind of existing community of this type in Dublin at the moment?
There’s a teeny weeny community at the moment but it’s very much trying to sow the seed and bring in other people and show them that adult play exists, it’s cool and you’ll like it. You just can get absorbed in it, you can go away and play for four hours and then realise you haven’t even eaten. It’s brilliant, you’re playing in the street with complete strangers and it’s not weird! It’s lovely and fun and you don’t have to be drunk to do it.
Dan Bergin is a really good example of somebody who bridges the rules of games and theatre and is gonna hopefully take part in the festival. (Dan Bergin did a piece called FUSED in last years Dublin Fringe Festival which was a live point-and-click adventure game where the audience controls the lead actor and dictates his actions in a race against time to save the world, the piece will be revived in Project Arts Centre this December.)
Will it only be Irish work in the Prototype Festival or will you have some international work too?
There are a good few internationals coming over, I’ve got an amazing group called “Invisible Playground” coming over from Germany and they’re going to talk about their work because they’ve an amazing festival called “Play Publik” which happens in Berlin. We also have talks from people like Victoria Tillotson from Watershed in the UK who runs the playable city award which is a big open commission which makes the whole city playable at once. For their next project in September they’ve done something to all of the lampposts so when you walk past the lamppost it records your shadow and it plays them back to other people at different times so people can interact with other people's shadows. It’s a really big ambitious play project where the focus is on play. Their submissions are really strict so they say don’t get in touch if you want to put screens all over the city as it’s not what they're into, they're interested in using the environment that’s already there and making people feel playful in their city.
What would you say to anyone who might be curious in getting involved or coming along?
Come and see what it is, and maybe you can get on board.
Prototype Festival is currently open for submissions and the deadline is midnight 21st August.