Here are some of the things we tried at Lyst Summit – a game festival in Scandinavia dedicated to sex, romance and love. This year the festival was in Hamar in Norway sited in an extraordinary medieval museum park including a Cathedral preserved under glass and lots of wooden buildings.
We gave a talk at the symposium about using ideas from Ethology to examine interactive art and game play. Despite the fact that we were the ones who couldn’t get our computer to talk to their computer, the talk went well and we raised a lot of weird fight / flight / sexual / attraction / repulsion ideas. We’re not academics so having the chance to focus a bit deeper on some of the themes surrounding our work is always helpful.
It was interesting to see the other talks and hear what concerns the Lyst attendees, who in general were a bit younger and cooler and (now) more European than us. Topics included things like the impossibility of finding your soul mate, using digital apps to enhance romance, polyamory, sexual re-readings of blockbusters, and LGBT aware video games.
After the talks, there was an interactive session where about 6 groups shared their latest game creations, ranging from cock-fighting apps, VR films and boardgames. We showed a couple of interactives ‘Multiple’ and ‘Frog-virus’ with people simultaneously triggering both large scale projections. Feedback was great with people suggesting ways in which we could adapt the works so that they could breed their own creatures in apps. The general feeling we got was that developers don’t like Kinect, which we can understand in a game making context – it just gets in the way. However in the context of shared public spaces there is still no better tool for interactive art.
The next day the game jam part of the festival began.
This time the game jam teams were put together by the organisers. We were paired with Alistair a game maker from the UK, who really impressed us with his coding skills and ability to quickly learn new languages and interfaces. Perhaps because we had a lot of tech equipment with us we spent a lot of time coding stuff when perhaps a simpler approach might have been more fruitful. Not having been to a game jam before we didn’t know what to expect and had prepared a lot of code bits which we thought we might use. The key idea was to use stretchy lycra screens and Kinect sensors to create full body physical sensual games. With the kinect we could monitor position of figures in front of the screen and the warping screen itself. With two projectors we wanted to try double sided projection and see how that could be used, which of course set up double shadows to deal with.
We found getting the balance right between playing, testing and coding difficult. We are used to collaboration but maybe more with other artists, or members of the public, who are working with or against what we have set up. Starting from scratch with Alistair, we spent most of the first day re-coding stuff we had done before (or rather we got Alistair to re-code it!). In the end we had an apporximation of a Genetic Moo piece involving sperm and eggs and a loose kinect driven interaction. None of us liked it much although looking at the visuals now we can see some alien spaceship Giger type ideas.
This was pretty frustrating because through the day we had experimented with some lovely visuals and effects but these didn’t seem to end up leading to a game idea – or maybe we just forgot about them in the rush to get something done.
These included a multi-layered piece which the player pushed through revealing deeper sensual layers – but it didn’t go anywhere game-wise. A rippling effect to a still image to bring it alive – but we couldn’t work out how to use this. We also liked the lizard skin tripe texture, and the combination of front and back projections.
So not having got anywhere we decided to stay up late and try something different – however, in our case after about 4 hours coding we had just created something which was a kind of Genetic Moo version of an idea produced at last year’s Lyst. Another dead end.
So onto the second day. Alistair had also had a brainwave in the night and went off and produced a couple’s conversation game.
In the day we started again and broke everything back down to a simple symmetrical setup with two Kinects running the same program – just flipped left to right and color swapped. We played around with this for several hours, as a kind of sensual toy. So less of a game and more of a play space which we added sound to, and spawning effects. As both pieces were triggered by each other and the players’ actions, a gentle organic feedback loop was created.
We christend the piece RGBW (W for Womb), and will definitely be looking to develop it further in the future. It seems a natural contender to be part of a Microworld. If we get to work in a low ceilinged wooden room again we will use multiple Lycra screens. The visuals created were simple, beautiful and enticing – we just have to work out how to make the experience more compelling and perhaps rewarding – useful lessons to be learned from game play mechanics.
The last night was a big party with everyone playing each others games and just letting their hair down after an intense weekend of creativity. The resulting games were mostly in sketch-like states, several being thrown together on the final day. Apparently other people had difficulties in pulling it all together – so it wasn’t just us. There were dating apps, boardgames with rocks, video game promos, a weird extra-terrestrial translation service, a sophisticated electronic touch game, balancing games, and some ideas which were more provocations than finished product. Great variety.
We’d like to thank Patrick, Andrea and all the Lyst Summit team who were fun, organised and relaxed throughout. Lyst has introduced us to a new set of people whose passion for game making is matched by a determination to produce games which intimately and carefully affect their players. Despite our non-game game jam we will be thinking about how to form closer ties in the future to the indie game making community who seem so open to new interactive experiences.