Now Play This is a festival of experimental game design, which ran most recently at Somerset House in London from 6-8 April 2018 as part of the London Games Festival - see http://nowplaythis.net for details.
This collection includes some of the games we showed: a chance to replay your favourites if you made it along, or something to browse through if you're interested but couldn't make it to the festival in person. We've also included a few older games by artists who showed unreleased work at the festival.
In 2018 Now Play This looked in particular at place: at how games can communicate a sense of a particular place to someone far away, or make us look in new ways at places we know.
"Lost Wage Rampage", a commission from the Peabody Essex Museum as part of their current Playtime exhibition, is a gorgeous, boisterous, barging game. Two women find out they've been underpaid compared to their male colleagues, and they go on a heist to make back the difference. The big bold fun of the gameplay echoes the joy of finally claiming what should have been theirs in the first place.
"The Isle is Full of Noises" tells a story of a very particular journey. It's the game that gave rise to the concept of the "flatgame" - a game made with a particular set of constraints including hand-drawn art, a single backing track, and no interactions other than movement. The flatgame format is designed to encourage quick low-pressure game-making, personal stories, and games that capture the feeling of a particular moment.
"Overground" is another flatgame - we showed a selection of eight of them at the festival. This one tells the story of a commute from East to West London, populated with drawings of real people that the artist sketched during her journeys in 2016.
"TITONIC FISHERMAN" was a new commission for the festival - a gorgeous bright music sequencer / hanging-out-with-your-friends simulator. Press twenty different buttons to make different things happen, or set up a repeating loop and build a piece of cheerful animation/music.
Speaking of commutes, why not design a freeway system for an endless stream of self-driving cars? Nothing could possibly go wrong.
This game sets a challenge - cars in some places that want to go to different places - then leaves it up to you to design the roads that make that happen. Try roundabouts, or overpasses, or super-complicated grids, or invent your own new traffic system.
Dan Hett's "The Loss Levels" uses the familiar form of a collection of minigames to tell the story of the tragic loss of Hett's brother. The game takes isolated moments of grief that imply a larger context and asks us to enact and understand them.
"10 Mississippi" also uses a structure of brief moments and movements to communicate and imply a larger story - in this case, the day-to-day life of a young woman living in New York.
"PANORAMICAL", another game that articulates a particular experience of place to its players, is a music generator and a landscape explorer and a collection of spaces to play around in. There are a set of different strange and beautiful landscapes, and players are invited to explore not by moving through them but by adjusting the parameters that define them, finding the edges of the possibilities of what each space can become.
Heather Robertson also made a new game for the festival: "I-35", a game about commuting and traffic and thinking and vast landscapes. It's not currently online, but in the mean time, why not try out this interactive music video? It's a lovely three-minute experience on an unlikely island: explore, bounce, look, wander, run.
Earlier this year, Emilie Reed ran a "manifesto jam" - a four-day invitation to write a manifesto for what games could be. Over a hundred manifestos were created. Some were vast, some tiny, some serious, some intended as provocations. (The boundaries here weren't always clear). This manifesto, by Michael McMaster, imagines a world in which it is illegal to make videogames about videogames, and speculates about what that might mean.
We showed a selection of ten of the Manifesto Jam manifestos at the festival. For now, here's one more, a very different type of manifesto: short and extremely specific, setting out (but refusing to explain) some of the elements that its creator is interested in exploring in their game-making practice.
Alongside our examination of place, we also looked at work which examines or re-present the processes of making and playing games. We showed Pippin Barr's "v r 3", an amazing water museum that isn't available on itch.io - though it is available for free online, here. Instead of "v r 3" then, for this collection we're including Barr's "Snakisms", a set of reimaginings of the classic game Snake.
"Doodle Studio 95!" is an animation tool for Unity. It's also a lot of fun, designed to allow people to just start experimenting and doing stuff, making animations and playing around. Its creator will be running a workshop on the Sunday to introduce participants to the tool (only for holders of Unlimited tickets).