New media, engineering, and game artists from NYU MAGNET (Media and Games Network) and Times Square Arts presented PlayTimesSquared, a festival of physical and social games infused with technology, to the Broadway Plazas (between 42nd and 43rd Streets and 43rd and 44th Streets) from July 14-16, 2016.

In the NYU class Designing Play For Times Square, students explored the challenges of creating games for a multilingual, multicultural audience in a crowded public space, devising simple instructions while keeping the games intriguing and compelling. Taking into account the unique aspects of Times Square as well as the issue of games for a global audience, they created eight playful, live-action games with different levels of difficulty and interactivity.

These games came to the Broadway pedestrian plazas. With objectives as simple as trying to collect high-fives or as complex as navigating the NYC subway system, employees, residents and visitors let off steam this summer by escaping into a ‘playground’.

Individual Game Descriptions:

Faces of New York: Participants drew fractions of an image that were combined into a larger mural over the course of the day. Real-life photographs were abstracted with tools such as crayons, colored pencils, and other art supplies.

High5ZONE: Players raced through separated zones in a crowded public space with the help of high-fives. In the game, a group of players are “trapped” in a grid, and can only move by high-fiving passersby. By encouraging the universal and positive interaction of high-fives, High5ZONE explored how strangers interact with each other in the context of gaming, and how that context influences our mentality towards strangers.

Museum of Missed Connections: People navigated Times Square both in space and time by following instructions through headphones. Players also interacted with other players, building a sense of mystery as everyone engaged with props and artifacts across the space.

Prom Game:  Welcome to Prom – a social elimination game with light role-play elements and a quintessentially American theme. Players mingled and chose someone to get to know using questions from different love tests. As the game progresses, more and more couples are “sent home” until the last remaining couple is crowned Prom King and Queen. Mechanically, this is a game about finding the other player who has the closest number to yours. Socially, it is about giving players the chance to have quirky one-on-one interactions with people they would never meet in their regular life. It is an exercise in both intimate conversation and absurdity.

Real Pong: In a real-life version of the old arcade game “Pong,” two teams of 3-4 players hit a large beach ball back and forth, trying to get it past the opposing team. Each team controls a single connected string of cubic boxes, with each team member holding a single box. The teams must move and attack the ball together in order to succeed.

Subway Chaos: Players hopscotched across a large subway map in a race to Times Square that mirrors the hustle and bustle of commuting in NYC. Each of the four players were assigned to a colored line. To win, they needed to pick up all the bean bags on the map of their colored line, and deal with unexpected roadblocks created by bean bags of the other players’ colors – much like NYC commuters deal with unanticipated delays, large crowds, train substitutions and more.

Symphonic Picnic: Passerbys experienced Times Square in a new way by sitting in this outdoor picnic space, created by a configuration of astroturf and blankets. A variety of interactive musical mushrooms accentuates the leisure and playfulness of a picnic while letting visitors collaboratively manipulate sounds over a backing ambient track.

TossYourBeanBack: Teammates scored points by taking turns tossing bean bags to a designated area and back; the further the area, the more points it’s worth. Some teams moved further to push themselves, others kept with the stable way to win. No matter what the strategy was, winning teams were quick.

Game Artists:

Mattie Brice
Aurora Elizabeth Brigham
Allison Cole
Zach Dorsett
Jesse Johnson
Aaron Keeth
Angela Lau
Adelle Lin
Nadia Palochkina
Katalina Park
Ping "Erenyx" Qiu
Sumanth Srinivasan
Rizky Winanda
Terry Li Yixuan

Photographs courtesy of Justin Bettman for @TSqArts.