I had fun at last month’s Play NYC Convention. I enjoyed meeting the game makers and playing their games. I went with my sister and my son. We started at the top of the Hammerstein Ballroom and wound our way down.
The first game we played was Frost Lab Studio’s Orbit Quest. It’s a single player game where you shoot your spaceship from one planet’s gravitational ring to another. As you progress, the speed at which the planets cross your path increases and obstacles like lasers and flames appear to destroy you. The play felt familiar though I can’t remember which game it reminded me of at the time. Writing this weeks later, Rovio’s Angry Birds Space comes to mind (though it wasn’t what I thought of when I first played). After I was done, I spoke casually with a member of the Frost Lab Studio team about how effective Orbit Quest would be teaching math students about angles and (with certain tweaks) science students about mass and motion.
Next we played Super Crome: Bullet Purgatory, a single-player space shooter that the creator said was like Galaga. The similarities were obvious. Your spaceship appears at the bottom of the screen but you have full motion so can move it all over. The aliens move downwards from the top of the screen, showering you with bullets so you must be nimble to survive. While Super Crome plays like Galaga, visually it’s simpler and its pixelated monochromatic alien ships are reminiscent of Space Invaders. It’s also much faster than Galaga with heavier bullet showers. It might have been because of the game’s tagline “Bullet Purgatory” but my sister and I thought that some of the aliens looked like the demons in Asian art depictions of Hell and death.
Then we played Anyball. It was the most philosophically interesting game at the convention for me because I liked the idea of figuring out the rules of the game as part of the game. Part of Anyball’s objective is figuring out the new set of rules that are enacted every time a new element is introduced into the game. You and three other players race around the screen, trying to steal a crown from the player holding it. But possessing the crown isn’t enough to score points as new elements are introduced to the game and players have to learn how they fit into the existing game play. The game had the same frenetic feel as Boneloaf’s Gang Beasts. It was the game I laughed the loudest playing, as my character dashed zanily across the screen to discover the new objective before the others.
As we made our way down to the floor, we took our shoes off to play Yuxin Gao’s 127 BPM. Running in place on a floor pad like the ones used for Dance Dance Revolution, you play as Mario or Princess. You need to help them weave their way through a crowd of Koopas to get to the subway entrance in time to catch fictional B, P, or M trains. The faster you run, the faster they move.
My legs ached from running in place by the end of the game. And I was parched. Security had taken our water bottles at the door and there were no vendors inside. The poor ventilation of the venue only added to the problem. The Hammerstein was hot and humid. We found refuge at the New York Red Bulls booth where they were giving away cans of namesake.
Of the games I played that day, Almost A Game’s Wicked Apple stood out most because there were no screens needed. Instead you needed people. It is a traditional card game where players sit face-to-face to play their hands. The object of the game is to avoid having a poison apple card in your hand. The last player with a hand wins. Gameplay is turn-based. You follow the directions provided by a deck of “instruction cards.” You are asked to do things like draw a card from the player to your right or you are exempted from a penalty, etc. I will add that I won!
We ended the convention at the Exog3n Studios booth, where we played Maui Wowie Smash Up, a chaotic third person shooter that reminded me of Nintendo’s Smash Bros. What I impressed me the most was how quickly my son learned the game, while I struggled with simple tasks like figuring out where I was and what I was supposed to do. The same thing happens when we play Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. My son is picking off the bad guys as they swarm around us, while I’m stuck trying to figure out where the shots are coming from.
There were other games that we played but aren’t mentioned here and even more that we didn’t play because the line was too long and we were just too thirsty and tired. I definitely would consider attending next summer’s Play NYC Convention. Until then I’ve been inspired to look for opportunities to interact with game makers this fall. I’ve even considered taking the Unity course offered by Playcrafting, the convention organizer.