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New Leaf, pt 5: Now Say Bye To Now Play This

New Leaf, pt 5: Now Say Bye To Now Play This

(London! I’m writing about tromping around, seeking out games and play.)

Easily flew through the twists of the seemingly procedurally generated London Underground system, beating my previous time record.

Staggered into Now Play This in the morning of its final day. Crossing the stone courtyard I noted that the fountains were switched on today, and that there was some cosplayer guy wandering around with a bug-like paper helmet, watched by groups of breakfasters at the cafe’s tables.

I stopped in to say hello to the organizers and someone mentioned the game running in the courtyard, titled Invisible Garden. Apparently Rosa Carbo-Mascarell and Tim Phillips had prepared some sort of digital landscape which you discover through GPS-mapped audio. A lightbulb came on over my head and I ran back to the courtyard to wear the bug-like paper helmet. I enjoyed the bamboo wind chimes, and the babbling brook. I waded into the waterless lake, which was so calm and rewarding. That’s also where the cafe-goers were. I hope they got some of that calmness too. I heard the wind in the invisible trees and the invisible crows scolded me, or maybe they were scolding the wind. Though I didn’t find the cave of frogs, I did hear a low murmuring purr-ish growl. I couldn’t decide what kind of animal it was, so I asked Tim about it afterwards. “We didn’t put any animals in there,” said Tim. I wonder if it had come from somewhere else, attracted by the refreshment of the invisible river.

Played more Pico Park. That game is so good! Our little annoying friend Green from yesterday was back, but instead of stealing keys and insisting his little cat was on the top of any given stack as everyone else played collaboratively, our kid had changed. As new people joined he explained the rules, would restart levels so new players could be added right away, would direct the group as to the best strategy in a way that was a little bossy, but was also well-realized and patient. I had a moment of warmth thinking about how games can help people build skills, step into responsibilities, and grow. My biggest regret of the convention was not mentioning this change to his parents when they came to pry him away from the game. (It was actually kind of insane, he wanted to keep playing Pico Park but they insisted he come away so that he could… play different games? “There are so many other games here, you should try some others.” I’m sure they had their reasons, and it would’ve been neat to have heard them.)

Majestic Dinosaurs had a fairly flat day. I saw some cute micro-play later with a couple of people gazing into one another’s eyes. She flapped her hands as if a very shy pterodactyl, he spied her through a spyglass from less than a foot away and then they kissed. Flawless. Afterwards some of the organizers and I considered a theory about the reserve of the British and how making a fool of one’s self is not everyone’s idea of a good time. One of the organizers shared a few anecdotes about various festival goers enjoying reading the Majestic Dinosaurs rules and imagining what play would be like, and that’s certainly valuable as well. I wonder if I’ll return to and modify this small game, or if I’ll leave it as is and provide it to bolder audiences.

Later in the courtyard I saw three sibling kids flapping their arms as they ran and I thought about pterodactyls, but then the back two caught the front one and they all started punching each other on the shoulders and chests. No majesty whatsoever, Small Sampling Of British Children.

Agata and I went out to the terrace to play Anthropo-Scenic Golf by Gary Campbell and Jeannine Inglis Hall. It was made up of several lovingly crafted mini-golf holes, each themed around some way humans are damaging the environments of the world. Plastic in the oceans, a damaged oil pipeline with tiny dead plastic cows. At the end we were shown how much the oceans will rise because of our terrible golf scores.

And then suddenly it was over. I pitched in to help pull up tape and untangle cords and was good-naturedly reminded that I wasn’t getting paid for the work I was doing. In American conventions, no one gets meaningfully paid. There may be some stipends, but it’s really all volunteer. Not here. Everyone is paid for their work, are actual employees, have mandatory breaks as the law rightfully provides. It’s somewhat of a head trip, art being financially viable.

I heard about a gaming festival in Berlin at the end of the month called Amaze, and it sounded really good. But my ticket back to North America is the same day as the first day of the festival, so there’s no way I’ll be able to attend, surely. Absolutely no way at all.

I was pulled along for a goodbye meal with amazing new friends Shang Lun Lee, Alex Lee, Zo-ii, Em, and Jordan Erica Webber. There is a bittersweetness to having friends peppered all across the globe but tonight the sweet half was more prevalent. The feeling that one is connected to others, that we have shared goals and puzzle-piece-ways of understanding one another.

Late at night, after the Underground and so on, I sought out a bar which had wifi in order to “check in” to my flight and thus avoid a hefty fee. Thanks, airline. I walked down the quiet streets of a working-class-feeling London suburb, it was much quieter than by day. Suddenly, a white-tailed fox stepped out of a break in a hedge, stopped on the sidewalk about four meters ahead of me. We looked at each other a moment then both continued on our business. I had assumed that all of the foxes in London had been killed or displaced a long time ago. I’m happy that the world’s not quite the way I thought it was.

(I’ve fallen behind and am playing catch-up! The above occurred on April 9th, 2017.)