Every year the Simpleweb team heads off on an away weekend to get the Studio One team together and celebrate another successful year with a bit of a break from ‘business as usual’. Previous years have seen us on an alternative treasure hunt in Amsterdam and learning new technical skills in Sitges. But this year we wanted to do something a bit different.
The mission: celebrate the team’s diverse creative skills and build inter-team relationships (and have a bit of fun too).
The challenge: a street games workshop in the centre of Berlin!
What’s a street game?
Street games are real-world games that allow users to play and interact with space around them. In their most basic forms they are games we played as kids – tag, stuck in the mud, hide and seek. Although more complex street games often use technology and require more complex planning. Simpleweb’s project manager and street game workshop leader Simon for example, was part of the team that founded 2.8hours later – a cross-city zombie chase game that was, in its heyday, a successful business in itself.
But why in Berlin? We hear you ask… Well, we all know that new places and experiences stimulates us creatively (and there’s plenty of research out there that backs this up too). We also know that sticking too near to Bristol would lead many of us to be drawn into our day-to-day life at work and home and less immersed in the experience.
The initial ideas
Before heading into Berlin, we got together to get into three teams of four and selected one card from each of three decks representing a:
- ‘technology’ (e.g. video, map, chalk)
- ‘place’ (e.g. bench, cafe, park)
- ‘theme’ (e.g. dystopia, spies, friendship)
Designed to help us shape our games quickly and with focus, the three teams soon came up with ideas and team names, ready to head to Berlin.
Start small and iterate
Arguably by heading to Berlin, where we had few connections and limited knowledge of the city layout, we were not ‘starting small’, especially when we managed to leave our CTO Tom on the train before we’d even arrived at the hotel.
But after careful negotiation with the city’s public transport system, we reunited with Tom over a celebratory beer and settled into our first night in Berlin.
Minor hiccups aside, the street game workshop began on Sunday morning at 9am sharp.
With our team names and ideas already floating about, our first step was to get our rule sets down – a bit like getting down the ‘purpose’ of a startup. If players don’t know the rules they can’t play the game!
With just 90 minutes to get the rules on paper and have a first iteration of the game sorted and ready to play, teams quickly disappeared into nearby streets and parks to get going. The teams then gathered again, played each others’ games and provided feedback on what they liked, didn’t like and would add, using Google forms.
We quickly learned which rules worked and which didn’t. Which locations worked and which didn’t. But disrupting the ways in which we usually interact with the city whilst not tripping over too many social conventions (and without accidentally breaking any laws for that matter) made the challenge complex, yet highly amusing. Suspiciously photographing random objects at the Brandenburg gate was probably a no-go. But tickling your co-workers with a feather duster in suburban parks… more or less fine.
Teams were able to re-iterate and improve their games during another 90 minute planning slot and then carry out another play test on the Sunday afternoon, before a final round of iterations and play testing on Monday. The result was three game prototypes, designed and tested in just 9.5 hours.
99 Red Balloons
Starting with the cards ‘Balloons’, ‘Bench’ and ‘Dystopia’, team 99 Red Balloons consisted of happiness officer Georgie and developers Craig, Joe and Henry.
To play 99 Red Balloons, balloons were attached to objects in the play space (pictured below on trees in the park) with two teams of four positioned at opposite ends of the space.
In round one, team one would collect balloons as fast as possible, getting them back to their base, whilst team two would try and steal them by tagging members of team one whilst they were in possession of a balloon. When this happened, the two players had to play a round of rock, paper, scissors, with the winner getting to take the balloon back to their base.
In the second round, the teams swapped places – with collectors becoming taggers and taggers becoming collectors. At the end of the game, the team with the most balloons at their base was the winner!
Crime and Funishment
Team Crime and Funishment consisted of project manager Dave C, content manager Alice and developers Dave D and Ollie. Inspired by the cards ‘park’, ‘ink’ and ‘crime and punishment’, they created a real world puzzle game with just a little bit of silliness added in for good measure.
To play, individual players (the criminals) had to find a number of letters written out on paper and hidden in the play space, that made up an enneagram. The twist was that, whilst looking for letters, they would have to contend with four guards patrolling the play space who were armed with extendable feather dusters (known as tickle sticks). If tickled, players had to go to ‘prison’ (a specific area in the play space) and suspend play for 30 seconds.
Once they’d found all the letters and solved the enneagram, players had to input it into a basic website knocked up in an impressively short amount of time by developer Ollie and styled by front-end expert Dave. If players entered the correct word into the website, it would give them a 4-digit code to unlock a physical padlock and ‘steal’ the gold (chocolate coins).
Rubix was built by operations director Becs, content strategist Gareth, CTO Tom and developer Kate. To start the game, players were put into teams of two and, using WhatsApp to prototype, were added to a group controlled by one of team Rubix.
The game began when a colour swatch was sent to each team in their respective WhatsApp groups, giving them two minutes to take as many photos of things in that colour as they could – sending them through to their WhatsApp groups as they went. With three consecutive rounds in total, players would receive a further two colour swatches with a further two minutes for each.
However, at any point during the game, teams could also be challenged with a colour curveball – giving them a bonus 20 points for finding and photographing a coloured object in just 30 seconds.
For the final round of this game, team’s were challenged to find Simpleweb’s logo – a red ring – which, as it turns out, is represented pretty well by the red plastic ring of a cola bottle top!
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