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Hide & Seek: Expanding the Boundaries of Play

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Hide & Seekis a London-based game design studio devoted to inventing new kinds of play. It has been engaging and inspiring the public with interactive events and projects that merge technology, culture and media with public spaces to create unique social games and playful experiences. After founding the United Kingdom’s first comprehensive festival of games in 2007, now an annual event called the Hide & Seek Weekender, the group has gone on to create everything from iPhone applications to citywide adventures.

Infusing a social element into all of their projects, whether low- or high-tech, is a priority for Hide & Seek. Events like the V&A Lates, which turns London’s Victoria and Albert Museum into a massive playground that hosts 4,500 people over 4 hours, encourage social interaction through 3-D video games, group relays and classic Victorian parlor games. The studio has also been exploring the world of technology, striving to bring typically individual-based gaming to an interactive level while simultaneously encouraging brands and cultural institutions to move into social media and gaming. Their new project, Tate Trumps, an iPhone application that transforms the Tate Modern’s permanent collection into a game, has players virtually touring the gallery, collecting works for one of three possible challenges and ultimately meeting up with fellow players to discover who has chosen the best pieces.

Alex Fleetwood, the director and founder of Hide & Seek, believes that this sort of interactive storytelling and trans-media narrative has the power to transform both our everyday and cultural lives, and that the recent and rapid advancement in culture and technology has fundamentally challenged the previously exclusive nature of the performing arts. Whereas traditional art or theater often leaves audiences feeling that they lack the knowledge to criticize or judge what they saw, games offer a universally understood medium that both encourages and celebrates participation. As Fleetwood observes, “With a game, it is the players who own and adapt the rules so that they can have the most fun. Games don’t come with an obfuscating layer of cultural expectations”. We find this idea fascinating, inspiring and liberating all at once.

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