Now Play This has been a cornerstone of London Games Festival since its beginning in 2016 – and in 2019 it will boast an extended run and more games, thanks to a new partnership with Ukie.
Now Play This will extend from four days to nine (from Friday 6 April to Sunday 14 April at Somerset House), bringing the latest in experimental game design from around the world to Somerset House for its biggest edition ever – and also the largest event in the games festival programming.
Ukie has become a major direct funder of the to event to support experimental game commissions and to extend the potential audience. It comes as part of a new three-way partnership with Games London, already a supporter of Now Play This, and creators of the event Matheson Marcault.
Ukie’s funding will enable more commissions, more workshops and key industry talks on skills development as well as networking opportunities.
The commitment from Ukie reflects the significance of Now Play This and its role as part of the London Games Festival, which is a joint project between Film London and Ukie, supported by the Mayor of London.
Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO of Ukie (The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment) said: “Now Play This is a true celebration of the culture, curiosity and creative breadth of games. We are delighted that this contribution from the sector means more creativity and artistry from the community. We’re also pleased that the funding will help Now Play This to have more original commissioned work and more opportunities for anyone interested in our powerful form of art.”
Jonathan Reekie CBE, Director of Somerset House Trust, said: “We are extremely grateful to Ukie for their enhanced support of this year’s Now Play This at Somerset House. This has enabled us to double the length of the event to nine days, with more games, talks and workshops for visitors of all ages. With Ukie’s support, Now Play This continues to offer a vital platform for talented artists and game developers and ensure that experimental game design often engaging in unexpected subjects is thriving.”
A UNIQUE SHOWCASE
Today curators Matheson Marcault have also revealed a first look at content and themes of Now Play This as part of the venue host Somerset House spring season unveiling.
Now Play This shows how games can be used as a medium to explore unexpected subjects unflinchingly, from looking for love to living with a disability.
With works from a host of multidisciplinary artists and creators, from authors and poets to contemporary artists and gaming collectives, Now Play This allows visitors to interact with a diverse range of outdoor and indoor gaming installations, many of which premiere for the first time at the festival. Players will also have the chance to try their own hand at game-making with interactive, participatory installations, as well live zine-making.
This year’s extended festival focuses on the idea of community, exploring how the forming of dedicated communities amongst players and game-makers alike feed into the creative process behind some of the most inventive and thought-provoking games of today.
For the opening weekend, visitors with a Makers’ Weekend Pass receive both unlimited entry to the festival across the two days as well as special access to The Makers’ Corner. This space provides pass holders with the unique opportunity to delve deeper into the game-making process through a series of insightful talks, workshops and activities with many of the designers and makers taking part in the festival.
During the week, families can enjoy a series of child-friendly workshops and themed activities. An illustrated trail will lead families on an adventure around Somerset House, whilst a wide-range of table-top games, from familiar classics to emerging titles such as Nibcard’s Safe Journi, will be available to play in a dedicated board games lounge.
- Somerset House Studios’ Makerversity resident Common Works present an immersive karaoke experience. Taking over its own room in Somerset House’s New Wing, Malapropic Karaoke resembles an 80s-style karaoke booth – complete with silver fringe foil curtains and a retro television. Players can select their song of choice, however once the song begins to play, the original lyrics which visitors sing along to are replaced with words of a similar sound, delivering unconventional, unexpected and amusing results.
- Crip Casino, a three-part work by interactive artist and writer Abi Palmer, premieres with a new instalment at Now Play This. The work draws upon Palmer’s personal experience of living with a disability and time spent in NHS rehabilitation centres to create three works which unpick the narratives constructed around ideas of wellness. Visitors are invited to take part in the ritualistic playing of three four-wheel slot machines, with each button pressed or handle pulled revealing words and phrases related to the challenging aspects of living with a disability, including labelling, misguided support and physical social barriers.
- Bringing visitors together in cooperative gameplay, Patrick LeMieux’s Octopad is a 1980s games console reimagined. Consisting of eight different controllers with just one button on each, Octopad transforms the common single-player experience into one of teamwork, where all eight players must work together to successfully navigate through classic gaming titles such as Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda and Tetris.
- Dutch Indie game collective sokpop serve their community of dedicated fans by creating and releasing two new quirky games every month. Encouraging visitors to give game-making a go themselves, sokpop have created an easy-to-use digital game-making tool specifically for Now Play This. Visitors can work together in pairs or individually to digitally draw characters, objects and scenery, as well as create simple game rules and actions to produce their very own series of sok-stories.
- Voted by The Guardian as one the best video games of 2018, Florence, created by Mountains, is an award-winning interactive love story which follows the life of 25-year-old Florence Yeoh in a journey of blossoming romance and self-discovery. Presented on a tablet as a one-player experience, individuals must complete a series of micro-tasks – from shaking a polaroid picture to unpacking belongings in a new flat – to reveal the next step in the quiet yet tender love-story.
- We Throw Switches, a creative studio specialising in creating interactive games for social spaces, present one of their latest works at Now Play This. Formed of a large table with ten in-built neon light-up surfaces, players must work together in this ultimate reaction test, pressing the panels which light up as quickly as possible as they increase in speed.
- Wrong Box, a collaboration between new media artist and internet personality Molly Soda and indie game maker Aquma, invites players to explore the forgotten online worlds of the noughties, from glitter graphics and empty chat rooms to pop-up ads and virtual pets.
- Since its launch in 2006, the online game Tale of Tales’ The Endless Forest has formed a dedicated community of players and followers, who come together to feed its evolution through forums and suggestions with the developers to create a ‘living universe’. Set in a peaceful enchanted forest, each player adopts the form of a deer which can only interact and communicate with other players through sounds and body language. Presented on a mounted screen, visitors can wander the idyllic setting, as well as engage with several activities, which range from picking flowers to shapeshifting.
Two free outdoor games take place on site for 2019, open to all visitors of Somerset House.
Staged across the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, and produced especially for Now Play This, is New-York based games designer and conceptual artist Zach Gage’s ‘Labyrinth’. Gage leads visitors around the courtyard in a circular trail which leads to a central core, inspired by the systems of both winding church pathways and airport queues, which invites feelings of tranquillity juxtaposed with physical order and structure.
Interactive designer Viviane Schwarz and game designer Kevan Davis will lead visitors on an adventurous trail around Somerset House in an exciting newly commissioned work.
TICKETS AND INFORMATION
Now Play This takes place at Somerset House (New Wing/Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court/River Terrace). Single day tickets cost £8 (£6.50 concessions) available from somersethouse.org.uk while a weekend pass (three days) is £25.