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Day of the Figurines is funded by the European Commission's IST Programme. It is part of the 'City as Theatre' workpackage of the IPerG project, a large European consortium led by Blast Theory, SICS - Swedish Institute of Computer Science, HUMLE and ICE Laboratories (coordinating partner), the Interactive Institute, Play Studio & Zero Game Studio, the University of Tampere, Hypermedia Laboratory, Nokia Research, the University of Nottingham, Mixed Reality Lab, Fraunhofer Institute, FIT, Sony NetServices and Gotland University. The team's scientific co-ordinator is Steve Benford. The co-ordinator is Annika Waern.

IPerG investigates pervasive games, i.e., games that take place in and are interwoven with our everyday life. Ubiquitous, ambiguous and yet immersive and engaging, pervasive games inspire a new way of playing and acting within a game.

'Pervasive gaming integrates the technical approaches of computer gaming with emerging interface, wireless and positioning technologies to create game experiences that combine both virtual and physical game elements' (IPerG).

'Pervasive games are a broad class of games lacking a strict definition but generally based upon the integration of technologies with physical game experiences. For a pervasive game, the physical world has a greater impact upon game experience than in the case of conventional computer or console games (...)' (Lindley, 2005: 1)

By creating complex and hybrid interfaces, pervasive games operate at the level of mixed reality, both augmenting and contaminating the real with the virtual, life with game, form with chaos.

'pervasive games are no longer confined to the virtual domain of the computer, but integrate the physical and social aspects of the real world' (Magerkurth et al, 2005: 2)

‘Pervasive games aim to directly exploit the richness of the physical world as a resource for play by interweaving digital media with our everyday experience. Sensors capture information about a player’s current context, including their location, and this is used to deliver them a gaming experience that changes according to where they are, what they are doing, and potentially, even how they are feeling.’ (Capra et al, 2005: 89)

The pervasive game player, who can chose to enter and leave a game, is uncertain about the ontology of what they see and experience. Caught in a parallel and yet fully believable existence, they operate in dialectical tension between their lives and the game.

'Pervasive games are new game experiences that are tightly interwoven with our everyday lives through the items, devices and people that surround us and the places that we inhabit'. (IPerG)

Pervasive games are of profound significance, not only artistically and technologically, but also socially and epistemologically. In pervasive games how do we know that what we know is true? how do we know that we know? and indeed how do we negotiate what we know with what we are in?

'Traditional telecoms and media businesses face a tremendous challenge from such games.' (IPerG)

IPerG are planning the following showcases: Crossmedia, Socially Adaptable Games, Massively Multiplayer Reaching Out Enhanced Reality Live Role-Playing, City as Theatre, Transreality Gaming and Telling Stories from Pervasive Games.

Day of the Figurines intends to investigate games 'as interactive art experiences that take place on the streets of a city as well as on-line' (IPerG)

The piece explores notions of site, mixed reality, presence and social presence, augmentation, fragmentation, plot, control, ambiguity, pervasiveness, encounter, social play, text and (re-)mediation. It is slow (3 days in Barcelona, 24 at its world premiere in Berlin in the Autumn of 2006), and pervasive, 'in the form of a massively-multiplayer boardgame that is played using mobile phones via the medium of text messaging'. (IPerG).

For more information about IPerG see the project's own website at [link]

An early IPerG deliverable, D5.2 quotes C. Heeter's Being There: The Subjective Experience of Presence in saying that for an individual person being at some place their presence has three aspects:

The report concludes that 'In case of games that are played out in the real and in the virtual, the challenge is to make the players visible both in the real and in the virtual space.' (Benford and Capra, 2005: 27).

The authors coin the term PLAYER PRESENCE for the purpose of:

I now wonder

What is the role of doubleness in presence?
How does site (dis-)place presence?
What happens to presence in time?
Presence/prae-sens: does fragmentation of the self augment one's sense of presence?
What is the role of aura in relation to presence?
What is the effect of a mixed reality environment on presence?

'The next generation of games looks set to be both connected and multiplayer, with users connecting with remote servers or directly with other users, and, beyond this, they will be location-based as well, where users will actually move through the physical world in order to interact with the game' (Benford, 2005)

Day of the Figurines was first tested in April 2005 for 12 players and then in May 2005 for 25 players and 24 July to 18 August 2005. Day of the Figurines is in collaboration with Nottingham University's Mixed Reality Lab and Sony Net Services.

'The focus of this game', Matt Adams comments, 'is on social interaction and emergent behaviour. The game sets an imaginary society into being and allows the players wide agency - their responses will determine what happens in the imaginary city.' (Adams, 2005a)

It is interesting that although the game takes place through mobile phone technology, and in a sense could be played from anywhere and at any time, to actually enter the game, the player must visit a real location from which they are immediately displaced.

'To participate in Day of the Figurines, the player must first visit a physical space. Here, they find a large scale model of an imaginary town at table hight. The model is 1:100 and extends for several meters in all directions. The image is a mix of computer graphics and photographic college. (...) To play the game, the visitor selects from a display of one hundred plastic figurines. They give the figurine a name, answer a few questions about him or her and then watch as she or he is placed at a random location into the model town. As they leave the space, the player is given a small map of the town and a set of rules for the game.' (Adams 2005a)

The game contacts the player through SMS. The first message is received about an hour after entering the game. At this stage the game asks for directions. If the player chooses a direction, the figurine chosen by the player starts moving towards its destination. In this version of the game, at each hour 'a turn is executed and the invigilator moves each figure a small distance towards their destination. There are 10 turns a day for 24 days.' (Adams, 2005) During this journey, the player encounters other players and since the aim of the game is 'to help others', 'texting messages to other players may provide opportunities to do this.' (Adams, 2005)

While the player is in the game, time goes by: 'pubs open, shops close, the car park gets deserted.' (Adams, 2005). The player moves in space and time whilst also being presented with dilemmas, in the form of multiple choice questions and open questions, some formulated in real time by the game operators. Special events unfold: a fete, an eclipse, an explosion... As the game progresses, the player deteriorates: 'temples are frazed, ankles get twisted, armpits start to smell' (Adams, 2005). The death of a player results in the termination of the game.

Matt Adams sums up the design goals of the game as follows:

This test's website is at [link]

Day of the Figurines was first evaluated in 2006 in a comprehensive and fascinating document edited by Steve Benford

The evaluation underlines the social adaptability of the game (Benford, 2006: 26) and the implications of its duration over the player's experience.

‘A key feature of Day of the Figurines is that it is a slow pervasive game that unfolds over a month through the exchange of just a few text messages each day. This slowness opens up new artistic possibilities for creating interactive narrative that mixes pre­authored rules and content with improvised responses to players’ actions. From a research perspective, this structure enables us to explore the temporal issues of how a pervasive game can be mixed with the patterns of players’ ongoing daily lives, an aspect of pervasive gaming that has hitherto largely been ignored in favour of location oriented issues.’ (Benford, 2006: 1)

The document discusses the fundamental relationship between the player and their figurine, or even the character(s) that may result out of this possibility of role play, and the consequent tensions between them. Crucially, entertainment is not presented here as an alternative to everyday life, but rather as inextricably enmeshed within it. At times of global productivity, the mobile phone, which, whilst we are in transit, remains our principal means of communication, must de facto also provide our entertainment.

As in other durational pieces, life interferes with the artwork.

As in other durational pieces, the art work interferes with life.

‘Some noted that their figurine’s behaviour reflected their own actions and mood in the real world’. (Benford, 2006: 40)

‘More generally, it appears that Day of the Figurines may open up an interesting new aspect of interactive role play. There is some evidence to suggest that a pervasive game that interweaves gameplay with everyday life may lead to aspects of players’ personalities, real­world activities and situations bleeding through into the game, possibly opening up some intriguing new possibilities for role­playing in general.’ (Benford, 2006: 43)

This idea of bleeding through, producing a contamination between life and game, art and technology, fact and imagination, is at the heart of the game.

‘Our evaluation of Day of the Figurines has revealed a potentially interesting relationship between role­play and long­term pervasive games in terms of an apparent blurring of the boundaries between fictional and real roles. Specifically, it appears that the boundary between fictional roles and one’s everyday self may become more blurred due to play occurring in many different contexts, especially social ones in which others are present and may contribute ideas, and possibly also due to players being interrupted by the game and taken by surprise.’ (Benford, 2006: 89-90)

This document is available at [link]

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The Presence Project (Gabriella Giannachi) observed an IPerG session with a team from Blast Theory, Mixed Reality Lab, Fraunhofer Institute and the Interactive Institute

The meeting took place 5 to 7 June 2006 at Blast Theory's office in Brighton

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The principal aim of the meeting was to resolve specific goals for the Barcelona test (15-17 June 2006)

The focal points included

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At the meeting were Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr, Nick Tandavanitj and Hannah Talbot from Blast Theory, Steve Benford, Mauricio Capra, Adam Drozd, Jonathan Green, Keirn Smith, and Michael Wright from Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham University, Irma Lindt from the Fraunhofer Institute and Alan Becam from Interactive Institute

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Issues discussed included:

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A number of concerns had to do with the dramaturgy of the piece, and attempted to resolve not only the player's encounter with the game but also their engagement with it, or presence within it. Unlike in a conventional theatrical experience, the player of Day of the Figurines would not so much be inside or in front of another space (a theatre, a city) as interfered with, from within their own everyday life, by the game. Like in Samuel Beckett's Act Without Words (1956), where a whistle prompts a lone actor into movement and action, the text message sent by the game would here continuously re-locate and indeed dis-locate the player both inside and, presumably, outside the game. Differently from previous collaborations with the Mixed Reality Lab, such as Desert Rain, still in many ways dealing with some form of 'virtual' immersion, or Can You See Me Now and Uncle Roy, juxtaposing virtual and fictional with 'real' layers, Day of the Figurines follows a viral aesthetic. This is a game of contamination and inter-penetration working at a very subtle level.

Ju Row Farr: 'It is important that the game intersects with your life.'

The player's presence, or engagement with the game is kernel to this work. And just as their willingness to be interrupted by the text messages will in many ways determine their experience of, encounter with, and even level of activity within the game, the question of what here will determine the player's engagement, whether the game, or circumstance, or both, and indeed what happens to players who choose or feel they have to disengage with the game (i.e, not to be present within the game - or not let the game be present within their lives) has complex answers and ramifications.

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The game is slow (in that it takes place slowly, though days or even, eventually, weeks) and pervasive, in that it is invasive but also persistent. It does not easily give up on the player and it could play an increasingly significant part in their life. Actual time will pass between commands being given and action taking place. Movement will happen in time and through space. But real time and the game's time do not entirely coincide. There are slippages, uncomfortable or surprising dichotomies.

Steve Benford: 'What is the role of ambiguity in game design?'

I remember Tim Etchells's gift of Robert Bresson's Notes on the Cinematographer [link]

'Unbalance so as to re-balance' (Bresson, 1997: 44)

'Hide the ideas, but so that people find them. The most important will be the most hidden.' (ibid. 44)

FRAGMENTATION 'This is indispensible if one does not want to fall into REPRESENTATION. See beings and things in their separate parts. Render them independent in order to give them a new dependence.' (ibid.: 93)

'Things too much in disorder, or too much in order, become equal, one no longer distinguishes them. They produce indifference and boredom.' (ibid.: 98)

'Don't show all sides of things. A margin of indefiniteness.' (ibid.: 104)

'The actor is double. The alternate presence of him and of the other is what the public has been schooled to cherish.' (ibid.: 106)

The game is experienced and encountered through texting. This in itself is significant, in that the act of texting, of interacting with the phone, by touch, has at the same time intimate and possibly even sensual implications. Sadie Plant interestingly captures the haptics of texting:

'text messages (and voice mail) can be saved, but most are extant only for as long as it takes to write, transmit and read them. Most mobile messages are immediate and short-term - made, read, and often responded to as quickly as they travel, often with little thought or consequence. So too are the memories they make. These are not messages made to last; they belong either to the social world of sudden changes of plan, last minute and approximate arrangements, or else to the realm of haptic gestures, digital squeezes of the hand - small and intimate - sent directly between bodies. (Plant in Brouwer, Mulder and Charlton, 2003: 34)

It will be interesting to see whether the game can change this experience by adding complex layers of role play to what is otherwise a functional everyday activity.

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During the IPerG session, I realised that the game was not only discussed but also, in part, written at the time of the meeting. In this sense the game is not only played by the player but also by its authors and orchestrators, both at the time of its conception and during the game itself. This raises interesting issues regarding control through mobile phone technologies. This also raises issues about how to 'rehearse', 'write' and even evaluate these kinds of games and, again, about who is ultimately really in control of them.

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Adam Drozd: 'We're not going to know what's happening until we've run the piece'

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The destinations available in the imaginary town from Day of the Figurines, on the wall at Blast Theory's offices in Brighton

Day of the Figurines includes the following destinations:

Time is clearly crucial to the player's experience. What is the exact difference for the player, if a message is received 4, 5 or 6 minutes after a message is sent to the game? What does it feel like to be texted so often? What will it feel like to disengage? Will players miss the messages? Will they miss the end of the game?

Steve Benford: 'The question is: what is interesting for people to know after 5 minutes, an hour, a day? In what way will this response time affect the way people play? How long shall the system wait before it gives up on them?'

The issue of how much the player should know at any given time, within such a long period of time, and which priority should be given to in terms of the player's encounter with other players, objects, missions or even dilemmas, in other words the epistemological foundation of the game, is of profound consequence. So is the player's activity. How active does one have to be to be classified as active, or present within the game. This is not only an experiment about a game, but an experiment about what happens when we encounter information through a different kind of interface from what we are accustomed to. This is a work about knowledge and site, presence and absence, locability and displacement.

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The relationship between knowledge and action is crucial. Knowledge should lead to action and action must lead to consequence in the game. Poetic language, in its capacity to stir action, should be instrumental for this purpose.

Matt Adams: 'An old gipsy walks past you and says you might find objects close to you.'

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One of the most extraordinary aspects of Day of the Figurines is the relationship between document and art, information and event, technology and performance.

At this stage it is clear that Day of the Figurines does not as yet exist. Or, at least, it does not exist in the form that the Barcelona players are encountering, as I write. Day of the Figurines is produced as a document in its performance, even as its ephemerality and distribution place it always - as a totality - out of reach of its players.

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A programme and an event, a performance and a document, a game and a scientific experiment, Day of the Figurines is written by its creators and its players, always in flux and yet also always already a document, already a memory of its own performance.

Steve Benford: 'With this game you can scan 10 days of a player's game in 2 minutes. You can have a record of the entire game'

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It is clear that not all players are the same. So, part of the game also consists of the identification and indeed even orchestration of what players actually do. Why are some players more chatty than others? Why do some players display curiosity whereas others give up? Why are some players more interesting then others? Or even what exactly would make a given player present within the game? How much would a player need to be disengaged to be able to engage again, and the again and again, in this game that could take up most of their daily life?

Ju Row Farr: 'We deal with contradiction all the time'
Day of the Figurines is the fruit of an exciting art-science collaboration. It is a game and a performance. It is a document and an artwork. It takes place in space and in time, twice. It multiplies the player's sense of presence, environmentally, as well as socially. It is a glimpse into what could become a new way of living.

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I am left wondering

Where does the game stop and life start again?
What will it feel like to have a document of one's own game?
What makes a player interesting?
How will the game intersect with a player's life?
What makes a player present?
What makes a disengaged player want to play again?
What will it feel to actually play?
What will it feel when the game will be over?

Day of the Figurines is at [link]

For Day of the Figurine's website for the Barcelona test see [link]

Some photos from Day of the Figurines have appeared on Flickr [link]


While thinking about Day of the Figurines, weeks after the workshop, I remember Marvin Minsky's analysis of the distinction between knowing and believing.

What is the difference, Minsky wonders, between the following statements:

'The red object is on the table.'
'I think the red object is on the table.'
'I believe that the red block is on the table.'

Minsky continues:

'Then if what we "believe" is so conditional, what makes us feel that our beliefs are much more definite than that? Is it because whenever we commit ourselves to speak or act, we thereby have to force ourselves into clear-cut, action-oriented states of mind in which most of our questions are suppressed. As far as everyday life is concerned, decisiveness is indispensible; otherwise we'd have to act so cautiously that nothing would get done. And here lies much of what we express with words like "guess", "believe", and "know". In the course of making practical decisions (and thereby turning off most agencies), we use such words to summarize our various varieties of certainty.' (Minsky, 1985: 302)

Day of the Figurines, like other Blast Theory works - I'm thinking primarily of Can You See Me Now and Uncle Roy All Round You - operates between uncertainty and trust. The spectator is forced to act, and not just to witness, right within the polis (and so politics) of everyday life.

Torn between

knowing | believing | thinking

this spectator is continuously stimulated into action and yet never given the certainty that what they acted for and within was empirically there. This is perhaps the reason these works feel dangerous and yet exciting, because not only do we never quite know what is fiction and what is real, what is virtual, or augmented, and what is there, but also we do not know that even the little we do know is true.

The politics of the work, perhaps after Brecht, relies on the fact that we are at once in front of a very visible interface (information is not reaching us invisibly, quite on the contrary, we know that we are in front of a computer, or holding a mobile phone) and in fact we are encouraged to explore and experience this interface fictionally, creatively even. Technology no longer just mediates to us, it is in the environment surrounding us and, on occasion, it even is that environment. Through this augmentation of the real, powerful processes of Verfremdung are set into motion which continuously force the spectator to re-position themselves between the real and the virtual.

Like all good games and art work, Day of the Figurines, as well as previous Blast Theory works developed with Mixed Reality Lab, provokes profound questions about how we deal with knowledge we acquire, why we act on knowledge, what this 'act' means in terms of our position hic et nunc - here and now - and what social and political processes are set into motion while information is translated into knowledge.

On 10-11 August 2006 Gabriella Giannachi met with Mauricio Capra, a researcher from Mixed Reality Lab, and Steve Benford at Nottingham University's Mixed Reality Lab to receive the latest feedback about Day of the Figurines

All photos below are courtesy of Mauricio Capra.

Following a helpful and detailed conversation with Mauricio Capra, and a subsequent follow up with Steve Benford, it has become clear to me that the Barcelona production of Day of the Figurines has unfolded as a complex and hybrid overlay of performance, game and technological experiment. In fact, the piece can be described as an exploration of the zones of uncertainty produced by the inevitable dichotomies generated by these different but inter-related practices. Uncertainty here is not only corollary but aesthetically and technogically endemic to the piece. This, naturally, has the effect of dis-placing the player/spectator from the habitat of everyday life and reposition them, possibly even socially, within a wider and augmented framework.

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Mixed Reality Lab and Blast Theory at work at the Sonar festival

The piece has a distinctive but highly original aesthetic. This operates from within the technological apparatus and at a performative and even sculptural level.

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Interestingly, I now note, the title of the game, which lasts 30 days, is actually 'Day' of the Figurines. This could have the effect of drawing attention to the player's actual encounter with their figurine, but also allude to the piece's complex engagement with time. Although in Barcelona the game lasted three days, and in Berlin it will last 24 days, it is possible that the time zone of the piece, which, from a dramaturgical point of view indicates the duration of the piece, lasts one day. The 'Day' of the Figurines is the the day of the encounter with the figurines but also the 'virtual' day in which the game takes place.

The production raised interesting questions regarding the dramaturgy and orchestration of the piece.

What happens when a 24 day game is played over 3 days? i.e., what happens when time is dramaturgically compressed within a performance/game?

How much orchestration is necessary for the player to remain engaged? What should the duration of a game be in order to be experienced as pervasive?

What strategies need to be employed in order to engage the audience in a piece? Do these strategies need to be culture-specific? i.e., do different cultures play games (become present within games) in the same way?

Are the strategies adopted to entertain the audience sufficient to then maintain the players' attention at different points in time? i.e., what happens when an event that has started as a performance becomes a game? What are the aesthetic, epistemological and ontological differences between games and performances?

How much orchestration is necessary for the player to remain engaged? How much dramaturgical intervention is necessary to give the player or spectator a sense of presence?

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The gluing of the figurines.

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The figurines on the table.

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The space of the game, materially speaking, is also complex. Theatrically, the performance takes place in the actual space within which the various theatrical components of the piece are located. Within this space are a table, with the destinations, which also shows the augmentations, and a smaller table upon which the figurines are positioned.

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Blast Theory's first encounter with the audience also takes place in this space, though carefully the company do so from within the sphere of everyday life, as if to indicate that indeed we are not in front of a performance, or a theatrical event, but, rather, something of an entirely different nature and scale.

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One of the destinations of the game

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Spectators could read the game's instructions on boards displayed in three languages, English, Spanish and Catalan. They were also, as in other Blast Theory works with Mixed Reality Lab, introduced to the 'rules of the game' by the company - an action quite deliberately disappearing into the everyday, as can be seen by the image below in which Ju Row Farr can be seen talking to a member of the audience while other spectators, intrigued by the figurines, felt the need to take their own photographic record of the piece. Finally, the audience were given a folded piece of paper, again, containing some level of instruction.

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So, the game is encountered in its materiality (the table | the figurine), as text (written | projected | SMS message) and as performance (in the real space, through Blast Theory, but blending within the everyday, and on the table, a complex form of hypersurface).

The spectators are at once audience and players. They are located in both spaces - the performance and the game.

The performance space is a real space, an augmented space and a textual, literary, 'virtual' space.

Within the 'real' space, the spectator chooses a figurine, i.e., becomes an other - selects their own double.

I now recall the importance of an earlier reference:

'In case of games that are played out in the real and in the virtual, the challenge is to make the players visible both in the real and in the virtual space.' (Benford and Capra, 2005: 27).

and wonder, in the case of this kind of event where we not only have players but also 'performers', exactly who needs to be visible to whom when...

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Within the 'virtual' space of the game, the player, who, if they are still in the physical space where the 'performance' is located, may also be a spectator, has 'real' encounters with other players. This prompts the question as to how one can be 'simultaneously' a player and a spectator and how 'presence' is perceived at either level.

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At the level of plot/story, Day of the Figurines, through its pervasiveness, subverts canonic expectations of what constitutes the event or act of a piece - whose plot/story is it that unfolds? Who is a player in what and who is audience to what?

The figurines produced surprise and even a degree of mesmerism. The spectator's potential double, a toy, childhood memory, object of desire, the figurine constitutes the player's iconic presence within the game. In fact, in many ways, the figurine is always already charged with presence. In front of it, one cannot but recognise what one is capable of becoming.

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As a document, the piece exists between disciplines - it is code, text, play, performance, game and map. This complex intertextuality, interweaving fact and fiction, spectacle and everyday life, performance and game, alongside the ephemeral and yet invasive nature of SMS messaging, positions the spectator/player in a zone of uncertainty. It is precisely this un-confortable (in a Brechtian sense) ontological and indeed epistemological uncertainty that represents, aesthetically and politically, the principal dialectical tension of the piece.

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The game online.

Just like the player has their figurine, the table, which in the real appears as a beautifully shaped white (innocent | pure) site of potential transition becomes, through augmentation, a more sinister place where the encounter with the other could lead to more than just 'play'. As in previous Blast Theory collaborations with Mixed Reality Lab the 'game', can become a reminder of a theatre of war and although this only happens at the level of the signifier, in real Baudrillardian fashion, this might of course be the very level where information is most dangerous.

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Gabriella Giannachi observed a Blast Theory/Mixed Reality Lab session in Brighton on 11-13 September 2006

The workshop, which took place in Blast Theory's office, was in preparation of the Berlin opening of Day of the Figurines at HAU on 28 September 2006 [link]. At the meeting were Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr, Nick Tandavanitj, Bonnie Davies, Hannah Talbot from Blast Theory and Steve Benford, Martin Flintham, Jonathan Green, Chris Greenhalgh, Keirn Smith an Michael Wright from Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham University.

As in the case of the previous workshop, most items on the agenda had to do with the technical side of the game. The priorities were partly determined by the team’s experience of the Barcelona version of the piece.

Some of the principal items for discussion were:

Game engine
Basic message content and types
Importing content
Message specification and elements
Live website

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Steve Benford reminded the team that they should discuss the project’s documentation in terms of deliverables and determine what might be interesting about the piece for future show cases, i.e., what ought to be documented in relation to the HAU opening and what should be produced after the event.

The whole issue of documentation of Day of the Figurines, of course, is of crucial importance, not only scientifically, for IPerG and Mixed Reality Lab, or artistically, for Blast Theory, but also philosophically and even archaeologically, for this kind of work is at the cutting edge of what is possible technologically as well as performatively, theatrically, socially, intermedially and indeed metamedially. In fact, in some ways, this piece exists primarily at the level of trace. It is precisely because its 'presence', whilst producing powerful mechanisms of engagement, is dispersed that it is difficult to document it in action. I now wonder whether a different, more flexible and rhizomatic, technology is needed to record and analyse this kind of work as well as track the fascinating processes that are at the heart of its inception.

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Crucial questions for me in relation to the documentation of this piece are:

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Part of the discussion focussed on the processes necessary for the game to run. Steve Benford noted the distinction between OPERATION indicating routine things that operators will have to do at HAU to make the game work and ORCHESTRATION describing processes that have to do with monitoring, intervening and communicating between team members as well as between team members and the players. Within the context of the HAU premiere, the team also discussed the issue of who might be responsible for monitoring the game and how much intervention should be exercised on the player's experience of it.

So, for instance, OPERATORS should be in charge of entering player details, editing the details, starting and stopping the game, SMS interface, triggering pre-authored messages, backing up the game, emergency stop-starts and general observation. Interestingly, among the game statistics produced would be factors such as:

number of players
total number of messages
number of messages sent/received recently
time of last incoming/outgoing message
number of recently active players
SMS delivery stats
gateway status open/closed
game status on/off
game time

This description shows how, as well as a fascinating artwork, a game and a technology, Day of the Figurines also constitutes an ethnographic study.

ORCHESTRATORS, on the other hand, should be responsible for, among other things:

manually forcing a player's action
forcing a player's movement (without going through the hub)
sending a message to a player
selecting players via a series of parameters in order to make them do some of the above
changing a player's health
controlling a dummy player

At the level of ORCHESTRATION, the following factors were identified as playing a major role for a given player's experience of the game:

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It is clear from the above that any given player will be the responsibility of two distinct teams and that whereas the OPERATORS, on this occasion, would primarily introduce the players to the game and monitor the game's overall flow, the ORCHESTRATORS would be responsible for the player's actual experience of the game. Although a player would have a distinct memory of the game's OPERATORS, they would probably have never encountered its ORCHESTRATORS. This intervention into live performance and directorial steering of players towards a rewarding game experience is a common feature of all Mixed Reality Lab/Blast Theory collaborations which has been discussed in a number of interesting publications, especially Benford (2005a), Benford and Capra (2005), Benford, Crabtree, Reeves, Flintham, Drozd, Sheridan, Dix (2006) and Reeves, Benford, O'Malley, Fraser (2005) whose full details are available at References.

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On Friday 15 September 2006, Blast Theory and Mixed Reality Lab will run a one person TEST of the game. The preparation for this test produced some interesting conversations about what the test ought to be actually testing. Unlike a theatrical rehearsal, this kind of test has to predict not one but a number of ways in which a given player might play. Interestingly, although Day of the Figurines is in many ways still embedded in theatrical and performative vocabularies and processes, it is also and primarily operating as a game. This produced some level of speculation about what a player might or might not do, and how much information might be needed to produce or avoid certain occurrences.

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The test is to check, among other things,

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For any one player, Day of the Figurines initially constitutes a theatrical spectacle grounded in an actual performance space, i.e. where the table is located (at Sonar, or at HAU, etc). This is the space of the encounter between the performer/operators and the spectators, in which the figurine is chosen, role play starts and the 'Day' of the Figurines effectively begins. What happens in this space will to some extent animate the rest of the game.

The relationship that the players (who at this point are still merely spectating) will form with their figurines and the way they will relate their virtual movements within the game to the actual surface of the table, which, of course, in itself, visually constitutes a powerful performance space, depends on the mechanisms introduced at this stage.

The game itself, however, will then slowly but pervasively penetrate the players' lives, who will be able to negotiate their 'presence' between the circumstances they are in, their memory of the world of the table, its buildings and iconic figurines, and the virtual 24-day long 'Day' in which players become their own double.

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The Locarno. Photo courtesy of Blast Theory

This memory of the performance event will then become only a trace for the new pervasive world of Day of the Figurines, a world that will inhabit players' everyday lives and populate it with flickering but powerful glimpses of uncanny difference - soldiers, musicians, gypsies, lovers, graffitis and, yes, the mythical Locarno, about which I have heard so much that I can't wait to visit...

On 27 September 2006 I will travel to Berlin and on 28 September I will, at last, start to play the game. If you are interested in my record of it follow the link beneath.

Gabriella Giannachi plays Day of the Figurines

21 March 2007

Gabriella Giannachi was invited to a Blast Theory meeting which aimed at evaluating the game before the UK opening next week to assess whether any action points needed to be taken in the interim.

The main items of discussion were:


Blast Theory have received an honorary mention at Prix Ars Electronica for Day of the Figurines (2006-) [link]

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The Presence Project documentation of Day of the Figurines is now concluded.

The Presence project is very much indebted to Matt Adams, Ju Row Farr, Nick Tandavanitj, Blast Theory, Steve Benford and Mixed Reality Lab for allowing access to published and unpublished materials, photographic and visual records, and new scientific processes and data.

I (Gabriella Giannachi) am also indebted to members of Mixed Reality Lab who, on each occasion recorded above, patiently but enthusiastically explained subject-specific aspects of this project to me; to Blast Theory for making me feel welcome and allowing me to observe the complex and fascinating aesthetic processes described above; and to Steve Benford for making time and for generously sharing aspects of his inspirational work with me. For further individual credits see Acknowledgements.

All pictures, unless otherwise stated, are by Gabriella Giannachi
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