Playing the Crowd at Generator Malta Festival in Poznán, Poland

Coney’s Toby Peach and William Drew travelled eastwards to Poznán, Poland in June to play with the crowd and deliver a game design workshop at Generator Malta Festival. To report their adventures, they wrote the following blog post for us…

Our adventure to the land of sausages and strong vodka started early. On arrival we were picked up and dropped off at our home for the next two days by Bartek, a silent Polish Man. Wandering along the streets in the early afternoon, we discussed the small nature of our world today: how we could be getting the first underground train to St.Pancras on the same morning as struggling to speak Polish. Except Will took a taxi. And struggling to speak Polish only consisted of asking people if they spoke English.

After a refuelling (pancakes) we met our co-ordinator, Agata, who would take us to the two possible venues for ‘Weeping Angels’ that evening. ‘Weeping Angels’ was created by Philipp Ehmann from the Street Games Conspiracy in Vienna.and we were presenting it at the festival with his kind blessings.

We were given a couple of women’s bicycles with immovable seats that were much too low for both of us and followed Agata through the streets. Cycling is a wonderful way to see a city but their cycling rules are not as clear cut as ours in London. There aren’t many cycle lines and you have to avoid trams and tram lines. After seeing both sites, we decided that the Citadella Park would be the best venue. It contained a relatively dense wood with a path cutting through it. This path featured two rather spooky statues that we agreed set up the atmosphere just right.

Game 1 Instructions

After returning to the festival site and picking up a bag full of torches and a “treasure” for Weeping Angels (a Poznán snow globe), we took our players through the dark streets to the park by foot.

There were two teams: Humans and Angels. Humans have a torch and are looking for the treasure and Angels try to get the humans out by touching them. If Humans shine the light on them though, Angels must freeze. The park was filled with screams and lights, some of fear and some of joy.  We played three rounds of the game and people loved it.

Our parting gift that night was losing the treasure for good. Will placed the snow globe in the forest, only to forget where he had placed it. We left with the thought that in the morning that a Polish child will stumble across a snow globe and either be filled with happiness or scarred for life. We hoped it wasn’t the latter.

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We returned to the venue to dance the night away: a silent disco is a good way to dance with people who don’t speak your language. It was at this point that we discovered that we were entitled to free beer.

The morning included cold meats and fruit before we went to lead a workshop on an introduction to the work of Coney and some of the principles of our work. We introduced the ten participants to lemon jousting, teabag-hiding, two truths and one lie.  We cannot confirm or deny that there was any kind of ulterior playful motive behind this workshop.

Following the success of the workshop, we headed to the main square for a spot of Polish sausage before venturing back to the festival site to play Speed Gardening Guerilla by Michael Straeubig, a German game designer, who is doing a PHD in Plymouth. The game involved us heading out into the city to plant our own urban garden, hoping teams would not find and steal our plants and improve their own garden. A good game that involved leaving something positive behind in the city.

On to our final event- CrowdPlay. Always interesting to have to deliver instructions through a translator but luckily we had a good chap (Philipp) who really got the games.  A wide range of people joined in, from families, couples, retired gentlemen to a group of 10 teenagers. We kept instructions to a minimum to ensure they weren’t lost in translation, whilst trying to ensure we didn’t leave too many holes, a tough balance. CrowdPlay splits the group into 3 teams and pits them against one another in a trilogy of connected games all played within a defined play space.

The first game asks the teams to follow their own leader without giving away who it is to the rest of the teams, a subtlety is needed through the game, but extravagant movements are encouraged. Teams then guess who they think the other teams leaders are. Teams tried different tactics but the main highlight was the Morecambe and Wise alternative leg/arm walk was a favourite.

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The second game sees a Police presence evolving. Teams get to pick 2 of their players to try to catch other members of the teams passing beans. The rest of the team have to pass beans unnoticed to one another and have one player in the circle when the game finishes. A close game here saw a difference of 4 beans between first and last.

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The third and final game saw the current leaders, the Yellow Team, take the role as the Police. The other 2 teams have to dance the same movements to a beat, but in a state where Police are allowed to arrest one person each who they suspect of dancing or, worst, of leading others in a dance.  When they have all moved together, they unlock the next beat. An exciting end to CrowdPlay saw the Police unable to stop the teams unlock the whole song with their ensemble dance moves. All players were dancing with each other at the end. They had played the role of a crowd and had successfully completed the game.

Sadly, we only had a few hours to go after we needed to catch some shut eye before the early flight home, though Toby stayed on longer than Will and was cajoled into drinking black Polish vodka.  He thinks this has earned him at least four extra chest hairs (his italics).  Mission Complete.

Games: Crowd Play, Weeping Angels (thanks to Philipp Ehmann)

Workshop: Eat my Game II: a Game Design workshop

 

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