Monday 17 August 2015

Enter the Button Power Team!

Earlier this month I was in Germany, for the JOIN Local Multiplayer Summit in Berlin, and then to speak at the Independent Games Summit at GDC Europe.

JOIN gave me a fantastic opportunity to demo my latest game. Building on how my recent work has merged game and installation, this one lies very much between game and performance.

Currently titled Go! Button Power Team! it builds on the wireless button tech I'm developing for Codex Bash, by attaching the buttons to human bodies. Not only this, but these human bodies are dressed in matching morphsuits, and become the incredible Button Rangers!

The video video below was taken by one of the visitors to the event. Take a look to see it in action!

The game involves a single player, who must press the coloured buttons in the correct order. Each button is attached to a matching-coloured Ranger, so the players must keep track of multiple people as they move around. Each time a new sequence appears (accompanied by a Sentai-style giant monster on-screen), the Rangers are given a new task to do. They might have to pretend to be aeroplanes, they might have to crawl on the floor, or even hi-five members of the audience.

Photo by Julian Dasgupta

The idea behind the game stemmed from discussions of all the different things that the Codex Bash buttons could be attached to. I liked the idea of having them attached to human beings, so they could become a controller with a mind of its own.

Photo by Julian Dasgupta

I felt like having the players cooperate or compete to push each other's buttons was retreading too familiar ground -  I wanted to explore a more challenging concept. I wanted to see what would happen if the people wearing the buttons acted as if the player trying to press them wasn't even in the room.

This developed into the idea of giving them different actions to perform. Each action would morph the play-space into something new, so the player had to constantly react to a different spacial environment.

Photo by Julian Dasgupta

The morphsuits fitted into this concept nicely. By hiding the rangers' identities I wanted to dehumanise them - weird as that may sound - to really push that idea of a controller with a mind of its own.

Running Go! Button Power Team! at JOIN also flagged up to me how important the role of the audience is, in that they both wanted to, and found ways to interact with the game. They would shout colours at the player, throw around the props, and everyone wanted to hi-five the rangers. This is certainly something I want to expand on in future versions of the game.

Photo by Julian Dasgupta

After the event we took the button-belts outside and set up the game in the courtyard of the Game Science Center. It was exciting to see the game still worked without the costumes, despite having a different atmosphere. Now the button-wearers were friends trying to make each other laugh, trying to be a nuisance to the player while sticking to the ethos of the game, and being silly was part of the social experience.

Photo by Julian Dasgupta

I'd like to give a massive thank you to Lorenzo Pilia and Sjors Houkes, the organisers of JOIN, to all the volunteers who helped make JOIN happen... and especially to the four volunteers who agreed to don ridiculous costumes in front of a crowd of 150 in Berlin!

Photo by Julian Dasgupta