What pervasive game designers can learn from Snow

(cross-posted from sandpit.hideandseekfest.co.uk/blog

The snow generated a huge amount of comment about social changes. A return to innocence, a rare moment when talking to strangers, play, urban creativity are all allowed. A suspension of the usual rules of engagement… All themes close to Hide&Seek’s heart, so I thought I’d reflect briefly on what snow might mean in terms of games design.

1. Snow is pervasive. Well, that’s certainly true… It’s a unifying social event - more than football, Strictly Come Dancing or Brad Pitt, snow affects every single person underneath its blanket.
2. Snow is transformative. It changes everything. Speed of travel, acoustics, the way the world looks. It’s an incredibly powerful game-rule. Incidentally, when in a game has it snowed? And has the impact of snow ever been truly brought off in a game?
3. Snow is an enabler of play and creativity. Like sand, but even better. It’s affordances are numerous - you can slide on it, build things with it, throw snowballs. All complementary activities, especially building snowmen and throwing snowballs - bored of building? Start a snowball fight. Bored of fighting? Finish your snowman. Furthermore, this technology is non-digital, and free.
4. Snow reminds us of childhood, family, and fun. I was out at 7am yesterday, and the giddy sense of joy I felt recalled each REALLY BIG snowfall, all joined together in my memory, a Proustian rush of sledging, waking in the middle of the night and seeing the flakes under the sodium streetlamp, yells of ‘It’s Sticking’. Snow is the opposite of work - it’s ingrained in our minds that Snow=No School=Play.
5. Snow is a little bit extreme. It’s really really cold. It hurts your hands. You might fall on your bum. A snowball in the gob or a sledge crash can be a bit harsh. But all of these threats are relatively mild (compared to, say, a rugby tackle, or a F1 racecar crash.
6. Snow is temporary. It’s perfect when it lands, and you know, you just know, it’s all going to turn to slush and ice in no time at all. So you have to play while you can.
7. Snow only happens outdoors. Snow increases in quality, the further you are from traffic. Parks beat side streets beat main roads.
Anyone got any ideas for a pervasive game that might reflect some of the qualities of snow?

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Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on February 9, 2009 at 9:44
Snow also turns yellow with urination as do books and box-sets and games if you are not careful.
Comment by DebPolson on February 9, 2009 at 9:16
sorry... better info on the family version: http://newishmedia.com/index.php/projects/sms-treasure-hunts/
Comment by DebPolson on February 9, 2009 at 9:14
take a look at http://scootgame.com this game is originally designed for families to play together. Guided by virtual characters that SMS them quests from another world... the family groups move from museum spaces to city squares and parks... collaborating and competing with other families.

Four yummy things we eard them say:

1. "Now Everything Looks like a Game" Young girl
2. "You brought his world to my world" mother of 2 boys
3. "Im going to make my own game!"Young girl
4. "I just found myself learning!" Young boy

(However the latest version is for a University, helping new students to meet each other and orient themselves to the their new campus...)

email me with any questions... I LOVE chatting about this stuff as much as I love making these games and watching groups play.
deb@newishmedia.com

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