10 October, 2009

Game Mechani(sm) of the Week #40: Wide Games

Again, not really a mechanism, but more a style of game that has some distinct differences to tabletop roleplaying.

Wide games are fairly simple and most kids instinctively play this style of game..."Hide and Seek" is an example, as is "Cops and Robbers". But wide games tend to apply a type of ruling mechanism into the game, rather than just having them degenerate into arguments. The game of "Murder" commonly played on university campuses is another form of wide game.

There are some distinct similarities between wide gaming and live roleplaying, and I understand a bit of historical precedent between the two. But I think that the field of roleplaying can probably learn a bit more from this distinct evolutionary gaming path.

If you're still not sure what I mean by wide gaming... here's an excerpt from a website.

'Wide Games' include any game requiring or making use of any large area of land. Provided you stick to a few simple rules they are very easy to set up, very popular and can take advantage of any suitable area. Areas that are particularly good are where it is easy to hide such as woodland or heath, but they can be played in large open fields, its just not so much fun!

If you are familiar with organizing this style of game then feel free to carry onto the index of ideas. But if you are not then there are a few points you need to know

All wide games need you and all players to be aware of the size and type of playing area. This is mainly from the point of view of safety particularly if you are playing in area open to the general public, as the playing areas used can be anything from a small field to several Km2 or more of woodland or forest. It helps when setting boundaries to take advantage of natural ones like paths, streams, edges of woods or fields. If necessary walk everybody around the boundary and/or spend a little time placing boundary markers that are within sight of each other (this could be anything from strips of bright cloth tied to a tree to custom made posts and lights) boundary markers are only really necessary if is difficult to determine a boundary.

Depending on the age of the players, size and openness of the playing area it may be worth while having several marshals patrolling the area to make sure boundaries and rules are being adhered to and you may even want to consider using mobile phones or short range radios.

The website can be found here.

I remember particularly fondly playing wide games in my childhood and early teens.

There would be entire suburbs marked as the boundaries and anything up to 200 players involved in a complicated game that might last a full day from 9am to sundown.

It was the attempt to capture this type of interactive environment that first lured me into live roleplaying, but I was never able to capture the thrill that wide games provided in my nostalgia.

I thought of the wide game concept yesterday at work, just out of the blue. I guess I'd been thinking in the back of my mind about the "LIVE 3:16" I've now [promised to run at Gencon Oz next year, and the LARPs I've recently participated in. It got me thinking that maybe Widegames were a dying pastime, I had only remembered them from my youth and from what I remembered about them, they involved organised groups of people running around over wide areas, planning attacks, setting up defences and generally engaging in activities that a post-911 world would deem suspicious and dangerous.

But a quick google search has shown a thriving wide game community. It seems to be focused on the boy scouts, but that's hardly surprising given the fact that you typically need 20+ players to get a good critical mass for this style of play. Somewhat more surprising (but logical now I think about it), wide games have been adopted as corporate tools for teaching teamwork and reliance on others.

If you're interested in some of the links I've found about this style of game play...

84 Wide Games

Girl Guide Wide Games

Wikipedia Article
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