If you were at this year’s GDC and noticed an occasional yelp emanating
from a group of people mashing buttons on their cell-phones, clustered
around a large video display, you may have wondered what all the hubbub
was about. For the last six years Gamelab (the indie New York studio
that we work for) has made a conference-wide game to be played during
the GDC. What those people were doing was playing Gangs of GDC – this year’s installation of the Gamelab GDC game.
What the hell is Gangs of GDC?
Gangs of GDC was the world’s first (as far as we know)
massively multiplayer mobile phone fighting game or MMMPFG. While the
genre-name may be complicated, the game itself was actually pretty
simple and straightforward. The theme was that rival gangs such as the
Match Three Boyz and the MMOFOs are vying for control of the GDC by
fighting over three neighborhoods scattered throughout the conference
center. Each neighborhood consisted of a large flat-screen display set
up in a high traffic area of the conference showing a grid of nine
Players would dial up a number displayed on the screen and be
immediately placed on one of the blocks where they would either fight
any rivals that were on the block or else flip the block over to their
gang’s control. When fights occurred players resolved them through a
simple rock-paper-scissors game where they pressed 1, 2 or 3 on their
cell-phones to perform a light jab, a strong upper-cut or a devastating
roundhouse respectively. Every five minutes each neighborhood would be
scored and the gang that controlled the most blocks in a neighborhood
would gain points for each block they controlled.
Gamelab's Bite Me, played at the 2001 GDC
Why would anyone make a MMMPFG?
At this point you may be asking yourself, why would someone make an
MMMPFG? As mentioned above, for the last six years Gamelab has produced
a large real-world game to be played at the GDC. In years past our
games have ranged from social experiments like Bite Me to massively multiplayer board games like Leviathan.
The goal of these games has always been for us to play around with
different forms of gameplay, and to try to provide our fellow
developers with a chance to interact with each other while diverting
themselves from the whirlwind of activity that is the GDC.
Last year our GDC game was Pantheon: a game where players were divided into warring pantheons of gods. While we were happy with Pantheon
and received positive feedback from players (especially about the
virgin sacrifice component) we also felt that the game was a bit too
complex and required a lot from players both in terms of organization
and in sheer number of tokens for each player to manage. To address
this we wanted make something a little bit lighter and we also wanted
to experiment with using technology to help take some of the burden of
managing the state of the game off of players.