Now Play This: Experimental Game Design Exhibit

London Games Festival is a two-week celebration of videogames in the form of exhibitions, talks, workshops, and conferences all across the city. First on the schedule is Now Play This, an exhibition specialising in experimental and playful game design. Read our review to find out what the exhibit was like and for a sneak- peek into unique ideas and designs that are sprouting up in the industry.

Now Play This: The Lanscape room
London Games Festival 2018 has begun and for the next two weeks, London will be the host of an incredible amount of events across the city. London is really pushing to be part of the videogame market right now and LGF is part of their plan to gain global investment and business in games. Over the course of the festival, there’s going to be conferences, game jams, talks, a character parade, exhibitions, EGX Rezzed and to kick it off is the Now Play This exhibit.

Now Play
This is an exhibition of small games, talks, and workshops that focus on experimental and playful game design. It’s a three-day festival that takes place from the 6th-8th of April and is set up in Somerset House in central London. Tickets are £8 to enter the exhibit and get hands-on with all the games with an unlimited, weekend pass being £35 for all three days plus talks and workshops. I wasn’t able to attend any of the talk sessions but I did have the opportunity of checking out the main exhibit and all the games.

This year, the exhibit focused on the theme of ‘place’ described as: ‘how games and play help us understand the world around us in new and creative ways’. This idea was explored throughout seven rooms which had around 1-4 games in each room with each area organised to reflect on a different concept of ‘place’. Rooms were titled; Listening, Cities, Exploring, Non-Fiction, Rules, FlatGames, and Landscape. In terms of layout, the exhibit was spacious and all the games were labeled with a tutorial, game description, and credits. The rooms led from one to the next in one streamlined sequence with clearly labeled arrows so it was easy to follow and all visitors received a small booklet with a map inside if you somehow got lost.

Now Play This: DOBOTONE's console
I thought that due to the label of ‘experimental games’ that there would be a certain demographic of visitors but there was plenty of fun, thoughtful and quirky games that everyone of all ages could enjoy. The most popular game at the exhibit was DOBOTONE (2016) by Videogamo, a multiplayer party game where players compete in simple mini-games. It was easy to pick up and play, colourful and the ‘Game Remixer’ allowed another player to change the rules of the game through buttons on the console.

In another part of the exhibition, the game Panromaical (2015 )by Fernando Ramallo and David Kanaga had its own little room to itself. In Panoramical the player explores an abstract landscape where they have the ability to change the shapes and colour of their surroundings. Here, instead of a traditional controller, the players use a sound mixing board and by turning each dial they can change and manipulate the landscape.

Now Play This: Panoramical's space complete with mix board
One game in particular that really caught my attention was The Loss Levels (2018) by Dan Hett which focuses on his experiences after his brother Martyn was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017. It’s a single player game where you must take part in a series of mini-games that reflect what Hett experienced after the event. It’s a deeply, thoughtful game and a perfect example of how games can be a powerful empathetic vehicle.

Not all the games in the exhibit were digital as demonstrated with Peep-Pop City (2018) by You+Pea,  a two player game where one player (the Administrator) has to give instructions to the other player (the Architect) regarding building a city. Both player’s peep through eye holes in a mirrored box and the Architect has hand holes to place plastic buildings within the box,  the ‘city’.

Now Play This: The Loss Levels arcade machine
In the FlatGames section, members of the public could draw pictures and then, in what looked like a game jam, several game designers where digitising people's pictures and incorporating them into a game that was being made during the festival. I think this really captured what the exhibit was all about, how inspirations for game design can be taken from anywhere. Games in the jam can now be played on their itch.io playlist.

There was such a variety of activities and games that everyone could enjoy and it captures so many ideas about videogames and games in general. Overall, I would highly recommend going as its great fun and interesting seeing what new ideas and designs are sprouting up in the industry. If you want to know more about Now Play This you can check out their website and if you would like to see the full list of games you can see them here.

Now Play This: Peep-Pop City mirror box
Many of the games in the exhibit can also be played on itch.io in this playlist but I've noticed that The Loss Levels isn't listed there so you can play that here. Make sure you check out what else is going on for London Games Festival on their website and twitter.


Be sure to check out the rest of our London Games Festival coverage including our impressions of this years EGX Rezzed!

London Games Festival 2018
LGF HUB 2018 and Ensemble Exhibition
Trafalgar Square Games Festival
EGX Rezzed 2018 Event Coverage
KeenGamer's Top Pick from Rezzed 2018

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