Yesterday we somehow managed to swing a work trip to see The Dark Knight Rises at the no-longer-actually-an-IMAX-but-still-as-big-as-one Giant Screen cinema in Birmingham.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. After a promising start, I just got bored of the non-stop barrage of explosions and camp wheezings of the villain. Perhaps it just wasn’t interactive enough…
Renga is a 100-player game, shown on a cinema screen and played by the entire audience using laser pointers.
As expected, when you give a room full of people a laser pointer each, they quickly turn into children.
Someone had brought along a rogue green pointer which was also slightly larger than the standard issue red ones. All the men in the room were quite envious.
We continued making pretty patterns on the huge screen as they played us commercials for – apparently – four different racing games. It looked to me very much like the same footage four times with a different caption at the end. But when you’re not particularly interested in a genre, that’s a pretty common phenomenon. All reggae music sounds the same, right?
Codemasters made a slightly different trailer, using the Apple style. A hundred games industry professionals chose to take this opportunity to trace the outlines of various facial features using their pointers.
Then the game began, which clearly made it too exciting to take any photos for a while. Let me paint a picture with words.
There’s these shapes, and they’ve got blobs on them. If enough people point at the blobs, the shapes do something. Like explode, or move.
A dismembered robot voice convinces you there’s some story to this. Squares float around collecting other squares for … building or something. Triangles are quite nasty. Big sets of concentric circles are especially nasty.
Some of the audience has to defend against the baddies by pointing together to blow them up, while others steer the square around to collect more squares.
In between rounds you can use the squares you collected to enlarge your “ship”. It ended up looking like this.
Was it fun? Yes. Did I understand it? Not a single part.
Twenty years ago, I may have still had the imagination required to play games with Degenatron style graphics. I had no idea what we were trying to achieve, but there was something pretty damn cool about playing in a team that way.
I have no idea how we split the way we did to share defending and steering duties, for instance. It just happened.
There’s no competition, no scoring and (I don’t believe) any real peril. I can’t imagine this ever ending in a “game over” scenario, just more sarcastic comments from the narrator. But even so, the desire to not lose kept the audience playing together as a team and it resulted in vocal rejoicing when the final boss was defeated.
My only criticism would be of the controllers themselves. Having to hold down the button on a laser pointer constantly for an hour? That’s quite painful. Why not build them with an on/off switch instead?
I believe Renga is “on tour”. Catch it if you can