Marie Foulston is helping to plan a party. Her shopping list includes several video projectors, two furry Xbox controllers, a large wading pool and as many un-lubricated condoms as she can get her hands on.
London's The Wild Rumpus, the sixth in the raucous series of curated video game exhibitions, will take place this Saturday. The event brings people together in a nightclub atmosphere to play multiplayer video games, all of which have an emphasis on social and physical interactivity.
In the past the Rumpus has introduced people to games like Johann Sebastian Joust and Nidhogg. This year Foulston and the rest of the Rumpus team hope to make a splash with a game called Jelly Stomp, where players tie motion-sensitive Sony Move controllers to their limbs and flail about in a wading pool in a bid to be the last sea creature still floating.
The concept of an aquatic video game inside a dim nightclub filled with electronics has presented a number of hurdles for the team behind The Wild Rumpus, but Foulston says its nothing they can't handle.
"The way that we actually waterproof the controllers," Foulston said, "is to wrap them in un-lubricated condoms. It takes like 3 or 4 of them. They have to double up. The developers said that on several occasions that even doing that isn't good enough.
"We need to be able to be prepared to sacrifice X-number of Move controllers to be able to play this, and yeah — so there's been a pretty hilarious email chain between me and the team."
All kidding aside, Foulston and the Rumpus team take their work planning for the show very seriously. That's because the types of games they include in their event aren't likely to be commercially successful. Events like the Rumpus may be people's only chance to have these kinds of multiplayer experiences.
At this year's GDC Foulston took the stage to talk about the work that the Rumpus team does.
"Often the creative heart of the work that we showcase," she said, "for reasons of community and culture are a world away from the monster budgets and commercial motivations that bring us soulless, echoing caverns of traditional gaming expos — spaces brutally un-playful and disconnected from the work that they showcase. Spaces that have become as entrenched in the stereotypical assumptions of what constitutes a gamer and the weight of political baggage that comes with it." With games like Jelly Stomp and others in the exhibit, the Rumpus team hopes to shake up people's assumptions of what games — and what gamers — can be.
This is the first year that the Rumpus has had an open call for submissions and not all of the games have been finalized yet. Here's a partial list.
Gang Beasts: A multiplayer brawler filled with amorphous characters engaged in hand-to-hand combat in increasingly dangerous environments.
Realistic Kissing Simulator: An exploration of a physical act of intimacy that is part video game, part anatomical drawing and all kinds of awkward to watch.
Sync: A hit at the Rumpus event at this year's GDC, Sync is a multiplayer retro combat game where key functions of each player's ship, like movement and firing, are synchronized between every player. Players have a giddy lack of control that makes competition fun and unpredictable.
Musclecat Showdown: Players take furry game controllers in their hands and compete to get their gigantic, body-building pets into the right position through a series of increasingly difficult quick time events.
Push Me Pull You: Two pairs of players each share control of a two-headed creature in an experience that mixes soccer, Snake and some bizarre kind of trust exercise.
No Brakes Valet: A multiplayer game where apparently the last thing you need to worry about is whether or not you can drive stick.
Canabalt 100p: The endless runner has been attached to a custom controller that allows for up to 100 simultaneous players.
Edit: This article has been updated to show that there are still tickets for The Wild Rumpus available.