In 2019, Now Play This is focusing on a theme of community. We’re looking at games that create a community around them, like Tale of Tales’ Endless Forest; at games made for a small group or even just one person, like Brenda Romero’s Black Box; at games about the experiences of a particular community, like Mountains’ Florence or Abi Palmer’s Crip Casino; and at different game-making communities and the work that comes out of them, like the different contributions to the gallery space of Zium Garden or like sok-stories, a new game-making tool from sokpop made especially for Now Play This.
AFFIX – Sabrina Shirazi
An invitation to build and play with 3D affix-able shapes
AFFIX is an invitation to build and play with 3D affix-able shapes. Join us at Somerset House to play with others and to design and create your wearable installation, with the opportunity to have your portrait photographed. AFFIX is a Family Arts Award recipient.
Sabrina Shirazi is a designer and resident of Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio. Sabrina produces visual art, textile installations and dining events inspired by colour, unconventional behaviour and play.
Beat&Nest – Terry Yu/Yu Tian
A rhythm game that mimics the life of the colony and the nest.
Home protects us, and home also needs our protection. When it comes to the protection of home, cluster creatures such as bees and ants will take their lives to protect their nests. Since the way the bees communicate is by dancing, Yu Tian decided to make a rhythm game that mimics the life of the colony and the nest. Beat&Nest simulates a swarm of creatures guarding their home. In order to simulate a large number of life moving together with high performance, he used unity's latest ECS technology to highly optimize the performance. Each small life in it is not a particle effect or shader, but an entity with its own life value, mass, speed, friction and so on.
Terry Yu/Yu Tian is a game producer, programmer, and game jammer, working on a mobile roguelite mini-sandbox game, and making indie games in private.
Black Box – Brenda Romero
A single-player, single play game
"It is a single-player, single-play game. I played it, and it's done. The end-game state and all that survives is encased in a 2'x2' black box. The box is trapped on a burdensome, heavy solid steel frame, and weighed down by a cast iron machine that only tells what happened in hand-cranked numbers. Sometimes, they repeat, and sometimes it's all I remember."
Brenda Romero is an award-winning game designer, Fulbright scholar, entrepreneur, artist, writer, and creative director who entered the game industry in 1981. She won a BAFTA Special Award in April 2017.
Cards Against Animosity – Damien Bonafont
A game to reintroduce civil political dialogue within a polarised family
"Cards against Animosity" is a political game designed for designer Bonafont's family and friends. With polarising political beliefs slowly tearing his family apart, he created this game to enable his family to slowly reintroduce civil dialogue between members of opposing factions, drastically changing the family dynamics in the process.
Damien is a researcher, strategist and designer. Engaged across multiple disciplines, his work revolves around on the making of things in order to explore and better understand human interactions. His recent work includes the creation of a political discussion card game and the co-creation of physical artifacts for a community of virtual space pirates.
Crip Casino – Abi Palmer
A series of working fruit machines that offer wellness regimes, medical diagnoses and physiotherapy tips
An eccentric exploration of the disabled experience through increasingly bizarre gameplay, "Crip Casino" explores narratives of winning and losing, ritual and luck. Working fruit machines are hacked and altered to perform versions of the surrealist game "Exquisite Corpse", producing absurdist physiotherapy instructions, medical diagnoses and wellness tips.
Featuring Palmer's latest machine "999: My Arm Is Missing", a new commission for Now Play This.
Abi Palmer is an experimental artist and writer. In 2018 she designed 'Crip Casino' - an interactive gambling arcade exploring the disabled body in institutionalised spaces. Her forthcoming book 'Sanatorium' navigates a luxury rehabilitation space in Budapest and an £80 inflatable blue Korean bathtub (Penned in the Margins, 2020).
Desert Golfing – Justin Smith
Golf in an infinitely variable, infinitely vast desert
To see a world in a bunker of sand and a heaven in a wild cactus, hold infinity in the pocket of your shorts, and eternity in Desert Golfing.
Justin Smith has been making unusual physics-based indie games for exactly 10 years. He lives in Vancouver and has never played real golf.
Drink Like a Pirate – Daniel Shapley
The game uses tankards as alternative controllers, to create a unique experience around a sea shanty where they can almost taste the sea and experience a small section of the sea life. The game was created as a live experience mediated by digital controllers, focusing the attention on the interaction between players and on the sea shanties themselves.
Daniel Shapley is a London based Game Developer, and nominee for the Emerging Talent Awards at Ludicious Zurich Game festival.
Endless Forest – Tale of Tales
A multiplayer online game and social screensaver
"The Endless Forest" is a multiplayer online game and social screensaver, a virtual place where you can play with your friends. When your computer goes to sleep you appear as a deer in this magical place. There are no goals to achieve or rules to follow. Just run through the forest and see what happens.
Tale of Tales is a videogames development studio, founded in 2003 and run by Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn out of Belgium. We want to create playful experiences that appeal to both gamers and non-gamers. We try to design expressive interfaces to access engaging poetic narratives through simple controls.
Faces of Bitsy – Mark Wonnacott & Many Bitsy Authors
A mosaic of player characters from many bitsy games
Bitsy is a simple game-making tool. It was made by Adam Le Doux and released in late 2016, and there are nearly 2,000 bitsy games in circulation. This is a mosaic of player characters from those games. Alone, a single bitsy game is short and specific. Put together they form a large and varied body.
mark wonnacott is a creative technologist and everyday gamemaker based in bristol, uk. they are a creator and user of small and simple tools for digital creativity, and an active member of the community surrounding the bitsy gamemaking tool.
Florence – Mountains
An interactive story about love and life
"Florence" is a love story, told as an interactive mobile game. Players follow Florence Yeoh, a 25 year old Australian-Chinese woman, and the ups and downs of her first relationship. Each chapter of the game uses bespoke interaction design to convey what emotions the characters are going through.
Mountains is a craft games studio based in Melbourne, Australia. It was founded by Ken Wong, the lead designer of acclaimed mobile game Monument Valley.
Flux – We Throw Switches
A light-based alt.arcade reaction game
"Flux" is a light-based alt.arcade hardware reaction game, where players compete against one another to hit their 5 buttons in the right order as quickly as they possibly can. The installation is designed to be understood entirely in seconds, without any instructions; to exist primarily in public/social spaces; and to be simple and free-form enough for players to create their own rules, competitions and modifiers (stand-on-one-leg; maintaining eye contact, 2v2, 5v5, etc). Premiering at Now Play This.
We Throw Switches are an installation / production collective, specialising in videogame curation and alternative arcades. They exist to put fantastic, raucous, beautiful games into amazing spaces that people want to be in. They’re the creators of the alt.arcade club night GamesAreForEveryone, producers of alt.ctrl.party at GDC, and have exhibited work everywhere from 13th century abbeys to the London V&A.
Frog Detective 2: The Case of the Invisible Wizard – Grace Bruxner, Thomas Bowker + Dan Golding
A confuddling case of chaos and destruction
The famed Frog Detective returns in the most thrilling mystery yet! A town’s welcoming celebration has been ripped to shreds by an unknown culprit. In this special early edition of the story, The Detective must decide who is the most suspicious suspect of all! "The Case of the Invisible Wizard" is the second game in the Frog Detective series, following "The Haunted Island", which was loved by all (most).
WORM CLUB is a studio comprised of Grace Bruxner, Thomas Bowker and Dan Golding. They made the smash hit (kinda) "The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game" and have teamed up again to bring some more mystery and silliness to the medium of games.
Giant Wobble Garden – Robin Baumgarten
A large interactive installation that invites you to explore a mesmerizing light landscape
"Giant Wobble Garden" is the newest and largest of Robin Baumgarten's ongoing series of illuminated spring experiments. It consists of 228 touch-sensitive shiny springs and LED rings. It displays playful light interactions that fluidly react to your touches and wobbles.
Robin Baumgarten is a German interaction artist and experimental game developer based in London. Coming from an Artificial Intelligence and commercial game development background, he is now building interactive installation art and experimental custom controller games.
Glyphsprache – Harry Josephine Giles and bleeptrack
A collaborative new language for poems, invented by visitors to Now Play This and A MAZE. / Berlin
A chance to create a universal, collaborative, chaotic glyph language for making poetry. Participants add their own new abstract glyphs to an ever-expanding database, write their own poems in the collective glyph language, and view other poems.
A collaboration between Harry Josephine Giles (UK) and bleeptrack (DE), co-commissioned with Berlin festival A MAZE. / Berlin. The glyph dictionary and poems will be added to and shared by visitors to both festivals.
A MAZE. / Berlin is an international festival focusing on the art and culture of games and playful media. A MAZE. / Berlin invites creatives from over 35 countries to experience inspiring talks and workshops, and to celebrate the art of video games making. The four nights of music, plus a life changing and mind blowing interactive exhibition of our medium of the 21st century, will fascinate the general public.
Harry Josephine Giles
is from Orkney, Scotland, and is a writer and performer. They have lived on four islands, each larger than the last. Their work generally happens in the crunchy places where performance and politics get muddled up.
is a computer scientist from Germany who makes generative art, games, videos, podcasts, and many other things.
House Rules – Now Play This
A collection of scribbled-on decks and custom cards
Now Play This is collecting personalised playing cards: cards where people have filled in the blanks, drawn on top of the original , transformed pictures, printed their own, or invented new rules. This display shows the cards that we've collected, giving visitors a glimpse into the lives and games of our different contributors.
This is a new work for Now Play This, and if you're reading this before 22 March, it's not too late to send your cards in for inclusion!
Now Play This is a festival of experimental gameplay at Somerset House in London, running as part of the London Games Festival.
Interactive Portraits: Trans People in Japan – Zoyander Street
Interactive vignettes representing interviews with transgender artists and activists, carried out in Tokyo and Osaka
These works combine research techniques from ethnography and history, such as open-ended interviews and participant observation, with playful design patterns such as the tamagotchi-style virtual pet and RPG dialogue systems. They are supported by the Japanese Ministry of Culture-supported Creator Ikusei project, a project grant from Arts Council England, Sheffield City of Makers (Making Ways), and the Freelands Artists Programme.
Artist, researcher, and critic Zoyander Street's practice focuses on videogames, but also involves other media art and (mis)uses of technology, including livecoding, hardware hacking, and glitch art. They like to work with toxic garbage, through recycling old computers destined for landfill, or recontextualising trauma in history and ethnography.
Lies & Cigars – Katherine Morayati
None of us could agree when, exactly, the apocalypse occurred, but we were all certain one must have
"Lies & Cigars" is a work of interactive fiction that takes place in Astoria, Queens, after a cataclysmic disaster. You piece together an oral history of the event, based on accounts by several revelers who were there that night, none of whom quite recall it right, or trust one another's accounts. The piece was written and designed in Raconteur.
A new commission for Now Play This.
Katherine Morayati is an award-winning interactive fiction author and designer of "Human Errors," "Take," "Laid Off from the Synesthesia Factory," and other pieces. Her work has appeared recently in Sub-Q Magazine, and she has a game in progress with Choice of Games. She lives in New York.
Lost & Found – Owen Gottlieb, Ian Schreiber, and RCP at MAGIC
A games series about the prosocial aspects of medieval religious legal systems, set in Fustat (Old Cairo) in the 12th Century
"Lost & Found" is a strategy card-to-mobile game series that teaches medieval religious legal systems with attention to period accuracy and cultural and historical context. The first two games in the series, "Lost & Found" and "Order in the Court", both teach elements of the Mishneh Torah, the Jewish legal code written by Moses Maimonides.
Owen Gottlieb, Ph.D. (exec producer) is Assistant Professor of Interactive Media at The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Founder and Lead Research Faculty at the Initiative in Research Culture and Policy (RCP) at the RIT MAGIC Center. Ian Schreiber (core mechanics), also Assistant Professor at RIT. The RCP team comprises faculty at seven universities and organizations and a dozens of graduate and undergraduate students at RIT.
Making Faces – Kristi Minchin
Get your team together for this interactive installation
"Making Faces" is an interactive installation by artist and maker Kristi Minchin. Participants are invited to work together to rearrange the sculpture and uncover the hidden faces within the artwork. Come and play. A new commission for Now Play This.
Kristi Minchin is a Maker and 3D Artist with a passion for spreading positivity and happiness through immersive artworks and installation pieces. Her practice, fuelled by an interest in human interaction and play, is an exploration of colour, shape and form through sculpture.
Malapropic Karaoke – Common Works
Randomly generated sound-alike karaoke
Malapropic Karaoke is an immersive karaoke experience with a twist. Each of your favorite song lyrics are replaced with randomly generated sound alikes – creating a new, nonsensical version of the song. Each time a song is chosen it will generate new words for you to sing. The challenge is, can you rhyme in time? Premiering at Now Play This.
Common Works is a design & technology studio based in Somerset House. They create meaningful, lasting experiences through playful interactions. The studio creates work that lives at the intersection between art, design and future technologies.
Mazurka – A Ghost In Italy – Xalavier Nelson Jr.
A game developer of colour infiltrates an underground folk-dancing ring
"Mazurka - A Ghost in Italy" is a 5 minute-long autobiographical interactive poem about dancing, depression, and discrimination in the Italian night.
When he isn’t busy helping create the strange alternate internet of "Hypnospace Outlaw", Xalavier Nelson Jr. is an IGF-nominated narrative designer, game developer, writer, PC Gamer columnist, IntroComp organizer, and MCV Rising Star. He is very tired as a result, and appreciates your understanding.
My Face When – Emma Winston
A game for anyone who enjoys emojis and weirdness
In this quick-fire, single-round, multiplayer game, players race against the clock to put together the best (or maybe just funniest) emoji face from a stack of components, in response to a surreal, procedurally-generated prompt.
Emma Winston is an academic, artist, live-coding musician (as Deerful), and occasional developer of bots, tiny games, and unclassifiable internet things, ranging from blackout poetry makers to procedurally generated novels.
MythMash – Katie Wickens
A collaborative, tabletop, storytelling/world building experience
MythMash is a collaborative, fantasy based tabletop experience where players drive the storytelling. Its sandbox style encourages exploration of player-driven narrative and uniquely combined story elements. MythMash provides an inclusive, non-competitive space for worldbuilding and idea generation that encourages genuine human connection through mutual inspiration, as players dream up their mythologies together.
Katie Wickens is a recent Game Art and Design graduate, currently undergoing a Games MA. She is passionate about bringing people together and facilitating personal growth. Her practice centres around using interactive experiences to promote positive change and show others that they too have the power to create worlds.
No Change – Kypros Kyprianou
A reduced slot machine experience where your coins go on a curious sonic journey
This machine accepts 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p and £1 coins only.
No Change appears to be a very basic vending or slot machine, but what is it offering? If you feed it a coin, you’ll find out the curious journey it takes and its surprising conclusion. It might not even want your change. (This project was made possible with the support of Science Gallery London, as part of their Hooked season; programming Matt Jarvis, additional sound contributions from freesound.org.)
Kypros Kyprianou is an artist who investigates science, politics and popular cultures. Using film, installations, performance and interactivity, he frequently alters objects and scenarios to make them appear unfamiliar.
Octopad – Patrick LeMieux
An eight-player controller for the Nintendo Entertainment System that turns single-player games into multi-player parties
Instead of one controller with eight buttons, what if there were eight controllers with one button each? Instead of a single-player experience, what if Tetris was a team sport? The Octopad is an alternative interface for the Nintendo Entertainment System that transforms classic titles like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Tetris (or Yo! Noid, Gremlins 2, and Hatris) into cooperative puzzles and multiplayer parties for 4 to 8 people.
Patrick LeMieux is a media artist, game designer, and assistant professor in the Cinema and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Davis. His research and teaching engage game studies, media theory, and artmaking to explore the material practices and community histories of play, from speedrunning and esports to installation art and alternative control.
Phrasell – Behrooz 'Bez' Shahriari
Invent amusing little phrases, trying to entertain a judge
Play with words, language and laughter. The judge picks a topic, flips over 4 letters, and everyone else races to come up with a 4-word phrase, using those 4 letters as initials. Comedy, truth, ridiculous surrealism, whatever. The inventors of the best phrases (as chosen by the judge) are rewarded and the winner becomes the next judge.
Bez loves games. After university, she turned towards physical boardgames and has been working full-time as a designer, artist, developer and self-publisher since 2014. "Yogi" - featuring silly physical constraints - was the first mass-produced game. "Phrasell" is just one of many games playable with the eclectic Wibbell++ deck.
Probationary: The Game of Life on Licence – Hwa Young Jung
Explores the ‘lived experience’ of being on probation
"Probationary" takes its players on a journey through the eyes of four playable characters as they navigate the complexities of the probation process. "Probationary" reflects real experiences of being subject to the criminal justice system and presents us with an opportunity to collectively play, understand and discuss such systems within our contemporary society.
Hwa Young Jung is a multidisciplinary socially engaged artist working in the arts, cultural and sciences, facilitating collaborative workshops and projects. She frequently uses games and play to explore social issues with a diverse group of people - ranging from men on probation, care workers, and freshwater biologists.
Propaganda – Sindi Breshani
A board game that uncovers contemporary methods of manipulation, deception and control that structure our post-truth era
Propaganda is a board game that deciphers how contemporary propaganda works. Establish loyalties and target audiences in order to obtain followers and gain power. Watch out for data protection laws, algorithms and conspiracy theories. Truth is an illusion; the control of those in power is now in your hands — silence the other perspectives and make your truth absolute.
Sindi Breshani is a recent design graduate from Goldsmiths College. Growing up in post-dictatorship Albania and the aftermath of the Kosovo War, she witnessed firsthand how propaganda frames reality and defines how we perceive each other. This game marks the start of her ongoing research on power, storytelling and gameplay.
Safe Journi – Kenechukwu Ogbuagu
A dice-rolling and card-playing game that to tells the story of the Nigerian road
"Safe Journi" chronicles the journey of a traveler on a Nigerian road. Your fellow players use the obstacles encountered in a Nigerian road to prevent you from reaching your destination. Your task is to maneuver the obstacles and get to your destination unharmed.
"Safe Journi" was published in 2016, and is part of Nibcard's ongoing project to spread the culture of boardgames in Nigeria by designing games that tell Nigerian stories.
Kenechukwu Ogbuagu KC is a tabletop game designer and Creative Director of NIBCARD Games, a company which designs, produces and promotes tabletop games. In 2013, he designed his first game for a friend – it was designed out of boredom – and it gradually turned to a movement.
Sharkburst – Princess
A game made as a gift for a friend of the designer who likes sharks.
A game made as a gift for a friend who likes sharks.
Princess has been making games since the beginning of time and will continue making games until the heat death of the universe. She likes girls, eyeballs, space, and other cute squishy things. She's never used a computer in her life and has no idea what a computer even is.
Short Trip – Alexander Perrin
Operate a hand-drawn, scenic railway and take the cloaked cat townsfolk to their destinations
It's your turn to operate the scenic railway. The local town cats would love to join you for the ride too, if that's ok.
"Short Trip" is the first instalment in a collection of interactive illustrations created for the web. It's an accessible, yet engaging experience which acts as a place of peace in a world that can ask too much.
Alex is an illustrator, programmer and designer working in Melbourne, Australia. He takes love in creating works which lean on playful tactility, mesmerising detail and the goodness of cats. Alex works day and night to develop new works which push our understanding of what games can be and do.
sok-stories – Sokpop Collective
A fun and accessible way to make games
sok-stories is a tool that lets you create simple games by drawing pictures, adding them to a rulebook, and placing them in a world. With sok-stories, the Sokpop Collective tries to introduce a new type of interactive drawings that are easy and fun to both make and play. A new commission for Now Play This.
Sokpop Collective is a group of four game designers based in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The Back Alleys of Heritage Street – Dipyaman Kar
A card game to engage local people of Chitpur, Kolkata in conversation about conservation of urban heritage
A walk to explore the concept of heritage and conservation, by Dipyaman Kar in collaboration with Pradeep Kumar Dawn and members of local clubs. Through a series of card games, Dipyaman has been working with the leaders of local para clubs to question the relevance of conservation in the context of their lives today.
Dipyaman Kar is a practicing artist and has been trained as a sculptor. He has studied Visual art, at the faculty of fine arts Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata and Cardiff School of Art and Design, Cardiff, UK. He was one of the recipients of the Charles Wallace scholarship in the year of 2009-10. He was awarded with the National Scholarship by the ministry of culture & human resource, Govt of India in 2012. He has participated in an Artist residency Program at Arrau, Switzerland, supported by the khoj Kolkata Artist’s initiative and Arbeitsgruppe Gasteatelier Krone, Aarau, and has taken part in Khoj International artists Workshops in 2006, various exhibitions in India and Switzerland. His interest as an artist is, to explore extended possibilities of sculpture. This in turn primarily, leads him to investigate ‘space,’ as an essential element in sculpture. His study looks into the idea of space as a framework constituting of the unquantifiable elements. Hence, his artistic endeavor tries to negotiate with issues and areas like, discarded spaces, space of transit, built spaces, space in writing, and history of cartography and so on. Dipyaman lives and works in Kolkata.
Thomas Bowker’s Draw – Thomas Bowker
A shared 3D virtual drawing space for Thomas Bowker’s friends
"Thomas Bowker’s Draw" is a shared 3D virtual drawing space, created for Thomas Bowker’s friends. In this space visitors can draw on any surface and any changes they make are synchronised with the server.
Drawings were erased, created, and erased again. Like the graffiti of bathroom stalls in a schoolyard, secrets, rumours and confessions were written crudely around these small spaces.
Thomas Bowker is a game developer and designer based in Melbourne, Australia interested in tiny puzzles, playful interactions, and connection.
Transit Meditation – Zach Gage
A meditation labyrinth for waiting in line
Transit Meditation is a body meditation — a walking labyrinth with one winding path to the center that you both enter and leave by. Constructed out of security barriers, its form and function stand in a stock contrast, reminding us that serenity is driven not by the place we find ourselves, but in how we appreciate it. A new commission for Now Play This.
Zach Gage is a game designer, programmer, educator, and conceptual artist from New York City. His work often explores the powerful intersection of systems and social dynamics, through both re-contextualizing existing systems and structures in digital and physical spaces, as well as framing entirely new systems through original games.
Untitled Trail – Kevan Davis, Viviane Schwarz
Explore and play in Somerset House
A playable trail leading groups around Somerset House.
A new commission for Now Play This.
is a game designer whose previous work includes "Wikipedia: The Text Adventure" and "Urban Dead". Viviane Schwarz
is an interactive designer whose previous work includes "Restless Spirit Projector" and illustrated books including "How To Find Gold" and "There Are Cats In This Book".
Wrong Box – Molly Soda, Aquma
A reimagined version of what it felt like to surf the web as a teenager and what it feels like to attempt to access those spaces now
How has the experience of going online changed in the past 10-15 years? What gets preserved and what gets forgotten?
Molly Soda is an artist working across a variety of digital platforms. She is based in Brooklyn but you can always find her on the Internet.
Aquma is an independent game designer and digital artist based in Los Angeles. By day, he teaches kids how to make games. Past game credits include "Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator" and "Flotilla 2".
Zine Library – Emilie Reed
A space to read, and contribute to a collaborative Now Play This zine
The Now Play This zine library brings together a curated selection of zines from across the UK and around the world about community, technology, and videogames. During the festival you will be able to browse the library, and take part in a collaborative Now Play This zine by contributing your reflections on the exhibition in writing, drawing or collage.
Emilie Reed is a writer and curator in Glasgow, Scotland. She is interested in zines, critical writing, and small games serving as artistic production in and around videogames. She has previously curated a Zine Library at a Games Are For Everyone event in Edinburgh, and exhibitions with Babycastles and The Blank Arcade.
Zium Garden – The Zium Society
A virtual gallery, bringing together the works of more than fifty artists
The Zium Garden is a sculpture park within your computer. Take a programme, wander out amongst the flowers, and enjoy the artworks. This virtual exhibition brings together a wide range of artists working in and around the independent game scene.
The Zium Garden was curated by Michael Berto, and includes the works of too many others to list here.