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The Royal Game of Ur

The Royal Game of Ur

Remote controlled board game using real people and AV prompts

Winterwell is a camping festival in the Cotswolds and has steadily grown in size for the last 4 years. As well as the usual features that might be expected of a summer festival – music, mud, alcohol etc. – there’s also a strong tradition of thematic “subversive theatre” and gaming. The theme for 2011 was “boardgames”.

As part of a larger immersive narrative orchestrated by The Tom Sawyer Effect, we ran an experimental team-based challenge deep in the nearby woods. Our game, the mood-setter, was something of an Eighties-child homage to classic quest shows like Knightmare, Crystal Maze and The Adventure Game, with perhaps also a smidgen of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade thrown in for good measure. As we hoped, when we explained the rules to the participants they responded with a mix of glassy-eyed nostalgia and childish enthusiasm.

We used our prototype wireless video transmitter-receiver unit (a proof of concept model from an ongoing project) and integrated walkie-talkies as a bridge between the participants and their team-mates. The player wore a helmet that blocked their vision, but the mounted camera gave their friends a first-person-view of the environment.