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the games of zam spielen

Summary: impressions of the “zam spielen” social computer game event in Vienna

Zam spielen social event

Social Computer Games that are free (as beer) to play combined with free beer and meeting friends? That's the “zam spielen” (Viennese dialect for “playing together”) art event in Vienna. I visited “zam spielen” last sunday at Vienna's Resselpark. The event took place inside some containers that house temporary art installations during the summer. Consisting of a small bar with a pay-what-you-want policy, the “zam spielen” event took place inside the container where several computer games were waiting to be played by visitors.

Chesto

According to one of the organisators, Josef Wiesner, all games selected for a “zam spielen” event are either some kind of underdog games that deserve more public attention or are not yet public alpha versions of games in the making. All presented games share the feature of being locally social games: designed to be played by several people togehter, in the same room (“couch games”). Josef himself presented his game Chesto - at the checkout were the player learns what it means to be at the checkout of a soulless supermarket chain … including nervous customers and certanity to be fired for loitering.

Chesto game, debuting at “zam spielen”. Image rights: Josef Wiesner

Edgar Rice Soireé

I spend most time watching (and playing) Edgar Rice Soireé and chatting with one of it's developers, Thomas Perl. His game is about moving people, not unlinke Twister: Up to four players have to catch two matching playstation controllers hanging from strings attachted on the ceiling. While the players hold the controllers (pressing buttons), the lights of the controllers slowly change colours. Players must act fast to find another controller of a their matching colour. A player is out of the game if he holds no controller of his own colour. While the game start slow, sound effects and tempo increase during the game.

Edgar Rice Soire game

See also Youtube Video of people playing Edgar Rice Soireé:

According to developer Thomas Perl, the game is refined with each installation and the rules are constantly improved. The code of the game itself is not well documented and not open-sourced, but the underlying libraries are open source. A set of currently 3 computers work togehter to control all the playstation controllers of the game. Setting up, building and maintaining the game (each playstation controller need batteries) is no simple task so the game is currently sadly only playable at special occasions like at the “zam spielen” event.

According to Thomas Perl players can also opt to for more action oriented rules where it is allowed to tackle and block other players - however the “zam spielen” crowd was far to peaceful for such ideas.

The game attracted new players all the time and elegant winning moves were usually met with applause from the audience.

Line wobbler

The third game i spent some focused time with, Line Wobbler is a hardware project built on top of an Arduino. It's fascinating to play and to watch being played but a bit difficult to describe: Basically it's a long single line of RGB-Led-lights. The player in this one-dimensional fighting game controls his -group of lights- by carefully moving an analog joystick to move the lights forward and backward. The game is made complicated by different -hostile- groups of light also wandering slowly along the line. The player can “fight” hostile lights by wobbling the joystick to generate a pulsating light. If the “player” light group hits the “hostile” light group while pulsating, the hostile lights disappear and the player can carefully move on to the next group of lights. If the player wobbles to early, either nothing happens (if he is lucky) or the hostile light groups happens to wander into the player light group in the cooldown phase of the wobbling. In this scenario a beautiful explosion of colored light effects happens and the game is over.

Line wobbler (the vertical led strip) being admired at “zam spielen”

The gameplay can best be seen in this video of a much shorter version of Line wobbler:

While the game is one-dimensional in it's nature, there is no limit of how to arrange the led-strip (spirals, parallel lines etc.) and i can imagine that line wobbler will become very popular as a game for chill out zones like in student dorms, hacker spaces or to be played while watching TV or doing nothing special while sitting on a couch.

other games

I sadly had not the time to check out the other games on display, but links can be found at the zam spielen homepage:

  • Chao Chao always kept a 4-person couch busy and was displayed at the wall with a beamer. It looks like sperms(?) trying to run throug a rocky maze.
  • Check in - knock out is a platformer with nice retro-style graphic. As far as i understood from watching, it's a bit like Joust
  • Fly Wrench was constantly played, seems to be a bit like Thrust
  • PacaPong is a cross-breed of PacMan and Pong. I played it once.
  • Robotron 64 was also played by me once but i lost very quickly. You control a mario-like figure and shoot at hostile sprites. movement is restricted into 4 cardinal directions.

Summary

Zam spielen is a nice opportunity to mix and mengle with the small, but fine community of game devs and game enthusiasts in Vienna. See you there next time!

other links aoubt this event:

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