Call for games and game designers...

PLEASE NOTE: This call has now closed! 

On 3 July 2015, Wellcome Collection in London will be open late for a ‘Friday Spectacular’ themed around play, which I’ve been commissioned to curate. We’re hoping to show games and playable work that lets people experience a wide range of different types of play, and invites them to reflect on the role of play. We’re particularly looking for things that are: 

  • quick to play – ideally not much longer than 5 minutes, and definitely not longer than 15
  • quick to grasp – people shouldn’t have to spend more than a minute understanding the rules
  • fun to watch as well as play
  • cover a lot of different types of game - digital, physical, board game, games about wandering around the museum, all sorts

The night is intended to feel fun, open, welcoming, a little like a carnival and a little like an interactive exhibition.  We’re expecting around 1500 people to show up. 

We're currently looking for work to show at the night. If you think you might like to be involved, there are a couple of possible routes. One is to send us details of a game you've made that you think might fit into the event – something short and relatively easy to get into that relates to themes around play. Another is to apply for a mini-residency, where you hang out at Wellcome Collection and create a game especially for the night.

The deadline for applying for either of these is 6pm, Wednesday 22 April (BST) - more details are below, and the application process should take less than 10 minutes.



Wellcome Collection, a public venue opened in June 2007, takes a thoughtful and experimental look at what connects medicine, life and art, rooting science in the broad context of health and wellbeing. It is the free destination for the incurably curious.

Wellcome Collection events and exhibitions aspire to be inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking.

In August 2013 Wellcome Collection embarked on a major development project to transform  into a bigger and bolder venue. They’ve now opened up more areas to the public, created stronger links to their library, opened a new gallery, a new studio, an interdisciplinary research hub and installed a dramatic new spiral staircase to connect all of the new spaces.

For further information, visit their website.



We'll be selecting 10 to 12 existing games (and other playful works) that articulate ideas around play. We’ll be choosing them with the aim that people who attend will leave the night with a sense of the role of play, different types of play, and how we can relate to ourselves, our bodies and our physical surroundings through play.

We want to include a wide range of work that connects to the theme in different ways, which might be…

  • Games that address themes relating to play e.g. psychological and/or evolutionary theories behind why we play; cultural concepts of what play and leisure is; sport; child versus adult play; animal play; the darker side of play, social aspects of play; role play; the history of play/playtime/games/toys; the relationship between play and health; creativity and play; exploration; gender and play; word play
  • Games where you can change the rules as you play
  • Games that give players a relatively pure experience of one type of play – there’s just one thing you have to understand to play, and then you try to do that thing
  • Games that use play to explore unusual themes through simple mechanics
  • Playable things that you wouldn’t necessarily consider to be games 
  • Playful objects
  • Games where there’s a role for people watching the players
  • Games that relate to the spaces they take place in
  • Activities relating to play in museums, or play for public health
  • Something else entirely

We’re NOT interested in:

  • Games about the conventions of games – eg satires of levelling up systems
  • Games whose only connection to the theme of play is that you – well – play them

What we can provide

We'll pay a small exhibition fee of £50 to show your game if it's selected, and if you're able to attend the night to help to run your game and talk about it to visitors, we'll pay an additional fee of £75.

We’ll have some computers, tables, speakers and so on, and a limited number of facilitators who can help to run games.

We’re also expecting to include a couple of games that require a small production budget for props or performers, so if you have a game that fits this description, just let us know about what the requirements would be. 

How to apply

If you're interested in submitting a game to be shown, please fill in the form here before 6pm 22 April 2015. We'll get back to you by 19 May.



We're also looking for 3-4 game designers for a mini-residency. This will mean hanging out at Wellcome Collection for half a day and exploring the spaces then using this to inspire a game that you'll make to run on the night itself. You can make any sort of game - digital, physical, performative, whatever, anything that works in the context of the late opening. We'll work with you to figure out something you want to make that fits into the space and the night's themes and atmosphere, then you'll make the game and come run it on the night.

This project is for designers to create solo projects (rather than to collaborate with the other designers), but ideally we'll find an initial half-day where we can explore the collection and the spaces together.

What we can provide

We'll pay a fee of £750. There's also a small amount of additional funding available for production costs as-needed (props, equipment hire, etc).

I'll work with all designers throughout to make sure we end up with pieces that make sense in the context of the night and don't overlap too much with each other, that we're presenting each game to its best advantage, that everything's been playtested, etc. Designers of course retain full ownership of their games, though we ask that they aren't made publicly available until after 3 July.

How to apply:

If you'd like to be involved, please fill in this Google form before 6pm 22 April, BST. 

At this stage we don't expect you to have a full idea – we're looking for people rather than proposals. The form should only take 5-10 minutes to complete: we just want to get an idea of why you're interested in making something at Wellcome Collection, and one or two games you've made before. We'll get back to you by 29 April.

21 Games

This talk was originally given at GDC Microtalks 2015.

This is game number one. To play, make up 21 games. Explain the rules to all of them in five minutes. 

Half Moon 2 , Qmilon

Half Moon 2, Qmilon

Go round a circle of maybe eight people, taking turns to come up with a moral dilemma. Each time, everyone votes on what they'd do. You want a split as close to 50:50 as you can get, and you get penalty points for missing out - like, if you suggest a dilemma that gets a 6:4 vote, you get two penalty points. Fewest penalty points when you stop playing is the winner.

In a carpark, every car is a sleeping monster. If a car sees you, you'll die. Their headlights are eyes.

Pinnacles Night Sky , Joe Parks

Two people look up at the sky at dusk in a big city. One takes the left side, the other takes the right side. First to spot a star gets a point - now divide the starless half of the sky and play again. Keep going till you've spotted five stars between you.

Hand on a Table , Ash Crow

Hand on a Table, Ash Crow

Scatter a deck of cards face-up on the table. On your turn, put one hand on an ace and leave it there. On your next, put your other hand on a two and leave it there. Next turn, move you first hand to a three. First to reach a king wins. If you touch another player on your turn, take your hand back and miss that turn, a bit like Jaime Woo's Gargoyles.

Shadows in Nonsuch Park , Cristian Bortes

Shadows in Nonsuch Park, Cristian Bortes

Spread a load of sports cones all around a small park. Move in turns, one step at a time. You're trying to collect as many cones as you can - but you can only step in shadows. If you step in light, you're out. You can make deals - get someone to stay still so you can step in their shadow, in exchange for a cone, say - but you don't have to keep your promises. Sooner or later, you probably won't.

Play Johann Sebastian Joust but with ice-cream. Only the winner eats.

Load the wikipedia "random article" page four times. These must be the titles of your next four games.

Highway 195 , public domain

Highway 195, public domain

Which brings us to Game number 9, list of highways numbered 195. See if you can remember a hundred and ninety-five distinct streets that you've walked down. You don't need their names, but you need a distinguishing feature and someone you were there with. Make a list, write it down. 

Long-Haired Chihuahua Dog , Toshihiro Gamo

Heaven Sent Brandy is the smallest dog in the world. Imagine a cute picture of a tiny dog - I dunno, a dog in a red teacup. Do an image search. If the first ten rows of results includes one, and ONLY one, version of your imagined picture, you win.

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss , photographed by Eric Pouhier

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, photographed by Eric Pouhier

Play this game with someone you like to kiss. Secretly come up with a weird kiss you'd like them to do - blow a raspberry on your forehead, poke their tongue against yours through their cheek, whatever. Pretend to be asleep until they wake you with this magical kiss - make mumbly approving and disapproving sleep sounds to guide them. It's a bit like 20 Questions.

Mt Ruapehu , lanz

Take three sentences from Lord of the Rings, and three from the worst fanfic you can find. Run them all through an English-to-Swedish translator and back a few times. See if your friends can tell which are which.

Choose a skill you used to have that you're slowly losing. For the next year, you get a point every time you use that skill - as long as you're worse at it than you were last time. If you use the skill too often and accidentally improve, you're out. 


If you're in bed with someone who's sleeping, get a point for each time you manage to make them rotate ninety degrees. You lose if they wake up.

On the bus, or in a cafe, listen to some people sitting behind you, without looking at them. Based on what they're saying and the social dynamics, figure out which one you think is prettiest. Turn around and see if you were right.

If you menstruate, then next time you get your period, go to the shower. Splatter a handful of blood on the tiles. You want some normal blood, and some of the globby bits. 

Now for stage 2 you want to wash the normal blood away, but leave the globby bits. If your shower's on a cord you can use that, otherwise you'll have to wee. Close your eyes, turn the shower on or wee till you think you've finished, and then open your eyes. You win if the globby bits, and ONLY the globby bits, remain.

These next two games are by friends. This is from Linden Vongsathorn and Chris Day. The person who spots a Christmas tree on the street latest in the year wins. Last year Linden won her game in August. 

And this is from Stephen Lavelle. Choose one room in the house. For the next hour, you may only change the direction you're facing when you're in that room.

Close your eyes. Get a page of newspaper, and cut through it four or five times. Choose one of the pieces; copy out every word on that piece that you've cut into but can still read. Piece the words together into a sentence. Which friend does it most remind you of? Text it to them.

Write a story. Get ten pieces of paper and write an ending on each one - some good, some bad. Screw them up so you don't know which is which, and throw them at a target - whichever comes closest to the middle is how the story ends.

Go to a pebble beach and pick up a stone. Hold it in your hand. Warm it up. Look at it really closely, notice every little thing about it. Make yourself care about it.

Now throw it as far along the beach as you can.

Do not try to find your stone. That would be ridiculous. It's impossible. It's just a stone; there are literally millions of them. You win if you care enough about the stone that you feel sad when you lose it for ever.