Once upon a time, kids used to knock on neighbors’ doors to ask a friend to come out and play. Today, you solicit fellow players by logging onto your console, cell phone or tablet.
The founders of the 14th annual Come Out and Play Festival aim to reverse the trend with two days of free gaming in Brooklyn and on Governors Island July 18-19. Established in 2006, the festival began as an effort to bring together designers and players interested in developing new types of games that require and inspire physicality, a key component to festival organizers like Greg Trefry.
“You're up and moving and bumping into people and things; with the lights, smells and sounds of this amazing city swirling around you. It makes you feel like a star,” Trefry said.
This year’s festival begins after dark in Dumbo, in and around the lit-up Manhattan Bridge Archway Plaza arcade. Games, like “Light Fight,” see players traversing a board with flashlights to catch the opponent in the dark. “Super-Skinny Soccer” squeezes six players into a three-foot-wide alley pitch, while “EXO: Arena” turns iPhones into laser tag-like weapons to zap opponents.
Saturday, the festival moves to Governors Island. Field Day showcases new games and sports for adults on the parade grounds, including full-contact “Catan,” which transforms the cult board game into a heart pounding run, tackle and slide for victory points. “Buzkashi 2.0” reinterprets the classic Central Asian horse sport, but without the decapitated goat carcass.
In a separate area, ESI Design, a New York-based innovation and experience design consultancy, encourages intergenerational play by setting up a time-travel agency, which lets kids and families travel to games set in different time periods.
For Trefry, giving adults the chance to play is more important than for children, who play by nature. “As you get older, you just get fewer chances to be outside and learn to play new games.” The importance of festival is clear to Debra Everett-Lane, senior writer and designer at ESI.
“Many people wrongly assume that play is limited to toys and games,” says Everett-Lane. “But play is really an approach to life, a way of interacting with other people through collaboration, creativity, curiosity, wonder and, of course, fun.”
Come Out and Play is free; learn about times and locations in Brooklyn (Friday) and on Governors Island (Saturday) on www.comeoutandplay.org.