Word of mouth is an interactive work that engages with the audiences ideas as well as activating the body in a gameful way. Players are invited to draw an idea of something that inspires, motivates or makes them happy. These drawings are then turned into a character in the game interface and projected on screen. Players can then guide their characters on screen through the the movement of a furry stick, becoming natural performers while they play.
Based on a co-operative pinball concept, touching on another player’s idea/character with your idea/character creates an exchange and a boost to keep exploring. The game also tries to convey the concept that one’s idea can only go so far in the world; but when we put our heads together, the sky’s the limit.
The game was originally conceived as Round Tales when I was invited to curate the the games arcade space at Melbourne’s Freeplay festival in 2013. The experience at conference arcades is often so transient I thought it would be great to have a central game where a person’s progress wouldn’t get lost but instead would add to the game. Also within a festival setting, it would encourage people to revisit the arcade to review their progress. Having worked with game developer Simon Hill on an earlier musical work played on a Melbourne tram, a mutual love for performative games and outreach to non-traditional gamers through unconventional interfaces was spawned, drawing Simon into the team. We were motivated by the idea of participants being able to create something, as opposed to just consuming the content that was already provided at the festival. Those who participate are rewarded by having their contribution leave a mark in the game and knowing that this will enrich someone else’s experience.
In order to create or support change, one just needs to be willing to share and contribute. Even a little effort individually can lead to large collective outcomes.
Word of Mouth has since been showcased at Different Games 2014 #dgwordofmouth in New York and RMIT Melbourne’s Open Day. Games writer Matt Albrecht describes briefly his experience with the game at Different Games. A scaled version of the game also is modified to become a facade activation tactic in Pressing Play, acting as a communicator of the engagements happening within the building out to the streets.
Reflecting upon the game, it seems that one of the more effective elements of the game were the many approaches afforded to players (and initially non-players). It appealed to those who were more comfortable with drawing as well as those who weren’t but were extremely attracted to driving a furry stick. There was also a difference I noticed when we shifted the drawings from pen and paper to digitally on the iPad, people were less comfortable indulging in their drawings and average time spent decreased, which says a lot for keeping analog skills in the community. Many felt it was wonderful to see what others had drawn previously some suggested that it would actually be a great dating game, where people would not be judged by their looks but the ideas they expressed through illustration. I could definitely see this as a version down the track and could be something more actively connected to people’s social media. What I did not expect though from creating this game was the number of interesting conversations I would have with strangers and how open people became when they were given an outlet to express their individuality. It was definitely a joyful experience each time to see the connection people had with the game and the excitement they expressed with the tactile controller. Thanks to all who played!