The Spy Did It

Posted July 25, 2011

On July 16, a large group of relative strangers came together and shared a unique and positive experience. The annual gathering known as Come Out and Play brought the large field on Governor’s Island to life with a diverse series of physical and mental games that spanned the entire beautiful day and challenged participants to open their minds to new, sometimes goofy, adventures.

ESI Design entered our Live Action Spy Party into the mix, a non-digital version of Chris Hecker’s experimental video game about artificial intelligence and espionage. The game features a Spy trying to accomplish three discrete tasks without being detected by an ever-watching Sniper. The rest of the players act as decoys, performing the playful actions and reactions prescribed on their instruction cards. Live Action Spy Party is a blast to play whatever the role, because there’s always something to do and see, but observers get the extra special treat of watching the performance and trying to identify the Spy themselves.

I was thrilled to see how positively the game was received. Come Out and Play was the big release of our second major version of the game. The original concept was tested at an event at Bucknell University called “LAPDAWG” where the main game principles were established. The experiment was hugely successful, so we tested the game with the staff at iD Tech Camp and got some great feedback. Our last test before the event was at Eyebeam with a small audience that identified the main area of improvement to bring it to the next level. Despite all of the testing and preparation, I was admittedly nervous that the improvements would not work as anticipated – but that concern was quickly squashed during our first run of the morning!

Live Action Spy Party was one of the opening games of the day, which was perfect, because we secured a nice shade-covered area underneath two large trees. Six play sessions occurred in two hours, our last game included well over 40 players, twice the anticipated amount! The Sniper won two of the games, the Spy won three and the last game was a draw as the Spy did not complete the objectives in the allowed time limit. More than 150 people got to try the game and many of them left laughing, smiling and asking for more.

The game will continue to evolve and include more variations as we find groups that want to play. In addition, we are always creating new physical and digital games to bring out to festivals similar to Come Out and Play, as well as further developing our old classics, like Live Action Kaboom, Balllpop!, Rhythm is a Dancer and The Lost Treasure of M.O.W.

We look forward to seeing you at our next appearance – perhaps you can catch the Spy!

Pete Vigeant

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