This past weekend I participated in New York's Come Out And Play festival, a three-day celebration of street and live-action role-playing games.
Kindness killed me because in one of the featured games by I Love Bees designer Jane McGonigal, compliments such as "way to go!" meant my opponets had found me and I was captured by the opposing team.
The game, called Cruel 2b Kind, is just one example of a bigger trend towards social interaction in the outdoors. Or in the simpliest of terms, the return of play. The sites organizers state that "In the last few years, there has been an explosion of street play, from mixed-reality games that combine the virtual and real to big games that transform cities into game boards to the time-honored traditions of stickball and scavenger hunts."
Another featured game called Crossroads was developed by a company that specializes in such games called area/code. A two-player strategy street game using GPS-enabled cell phones, players use the tracking device to find and "capture" city street corners before their opponets do.
I also played the camera phone based scavenger hunt called SnagU throughout the weekend. Using your cell phone you send a text message to SnagU to join and will receive, in return, a word such as "speed" or "common" for which you must find an image. Players send the image back and it is uploaded to the site to be voted and commented on by other members.
By now you're probably wondering why this post reads like a review of the weekend and more importnatly, what all of this has to do with advertising?
Quite simply, I walked away from this weekend inspired. Wondering why more interactive and imagainative games such as these weren't being created as advertising programs for our clients? [And it is here that I must confess, I am no stranger to street games as the company I currently worked for, created one called ConQwest a few years ago].
In the case of Crossroads and SnagU the designers found new and innovative ways to use technology. In Cruel 2B Kind, the designer used a simple act of kindness, an every day action, in a completely new way.
As advertisers we talk so much about finding ways to engage consumers, but yet apply the same parameters to 'engaging ideas' as we do to TV or print. Except that we now put these ideas up on the internet or on a cell phone and ask out target to interact. How about putting you product in their hands and asking them to run around the city using it for two hours?
One of the organizers of the weekend said "The beauty of [outdoor] play is that it will never be contained, it is as big as we want to be."
Candy Land comes to life for Wrigley. The game of Life is created on the grid of the city street for Visa. What else can we dream up?
Let's not forget, our own creative ideas can be as big as we want them to be too.