Q+A: Come Out & Play
Come Out & Play returns to DUMBO July 21st! Created 12 years ago, the festival was started as a community building project to get designers to showcase their work and players to have new experiences. For the fourth time, it will transform DUMBO into a giant playground, showcasing the best new street and live-action games from around the world. With almost 20 games, The Archway is turning into an arcade this Friday from 7-10pm, with social party games, large physical video games, and wild new street games.
We sat down with Greg Trefry, one of the founders and directors of the festival, and Indira Ardolic, a creative technologist and new media artist who will be displaying one of her games, to understand how the festival started and get a sneak peek of what is coming to us!
What is Come Out & Play?
Greg: It is a festival of outdoor games and street games that started 12 years ago. We designed the festival as a community building project to get designers to show their work and also to get players interested in having new playful experiences a place to try that out. We started it in NY at the Chelsea Eyebeam in 2006. Over the years we’ve done in a lot of different spots, from Times Square to the Lower East Side and landed in DUMBO a couple years ago.
How has the festival changed since it started?
Greg: We used to spread everything out a lot more. When we first started the festival, we had more theoretical notions of what would be interesting for players. We had games in alleyways and in parks 10 blocks away because we were looking for interesting spaces. Spreading the festival used to stress out the people coming to it because they were always afraid to miss something good. Since it came to DUMBO, it feels more like a block party because now there’s one centralized space that you can come to and feel the energy of everyone there. Also, you can see people playing the games and be like “that looks awesome, I want to try that next” or “everyone is getting in line for that, that must be really interesting”. Today we use the energy of a block party to make the event come along. That’s one of the great things about having it on The Archway, it feels like a big party down there.
Why did you choose DUMBO as one of your locations?
Greg: The Archway is such an iconic space to do it! One of the great things that we found about the neighborhood is that it is an area with lots of different communities and groups of people moving through it. On a Friday night, there are people looking for a place to go out, people that live in the area, tourists, and by doing it there we feel like we can bring all of them together. There are some places where you either get residents or tourists, while in DUMBO it’s a great mixture of those groups which definitely makes the audience fun to work with.
What is the process for choosing a game?
Greg: When looking at what we’re going to include in the festival, we are interested in ways that people are exploring different types of social or physical play. The festival is a chance to highlight games that have big groups of people playing together in person, games where people are trying out new sports, having new physical experiences or even interesting embodied art experiences. When we’re looking at the games that people submit this is our big criteria for it. If it is a video game or a board game there are plenty of other places to show it, but if it’s an unusual type of playful experience that involves a bunch of people, you’re using your body in some way or a big visual spectacle, we’re really excited about showcasing!
What's your favorite part of the festival?
Greg: One of the reasons I keep doing it year after year is a labor of love, in a way, it is our love letter to New York. The festival is something fun for everyone and we love going to it and seeing all the weird games that people make. I love playing new games and trying out new experiences. Sometimes I’ll read about the game beforehand and think “that sounds like is not going to work” and then you get there and it turns out to be an awesome game, totally fun.
How did you hear about Come Out & Play and get involved with it?
Indira: I graduated from NYU this May in computer science and there I was in the gaming community for a while because I like games and knew a lot of people from the game center at NYU. I was working for someone who knew about my work and asked whether I wanted to showcase something at the festival to represent part of the people and my major. I also knew a lot of the people who were displaying at Come Out & Play. This is my second time at the festival - and DUMBO - and I’ll be displaying Requeerium VR.
What is Requeerium VR?
Indira: It’s a psychedelic dreamscape depicting the pivotal moments in the queer experience for different people's lives. Instead of just including my story, which I think would be biased because I’m the creator, I interviewed a lot of queer people and tried to remake their experiences. Requeerium is about creating a platform for people’s queerness to be heard - for the people that I'm interviewing, their stories and important parts of their lives - and kind of injecting it into your brain. Almost like an impressionist painting, I want the landscape to make you feel emotions using things like audio and textures. It’s supposed to be disorienting so it throws you off guard and you stop expecting something normal to happen. This way you lose your biases and assumptions because everything is different from what reality should be. I put it into VR because it reaches more people and I want people to feel comfortable with who they are.
What would you like players to know about Requeerium VR?
Indira: I want people to go into it with an open mind, to participate and tell me how they feel. If they are queer, I want them to talk to me even more. I need feedback to keep growing!
What's your favorite place in DUMBO?
Greg: I have done a bunch of work with PS307 and love the school and the general vibe around there. I also love that park right by the F train, there’s something weird and beautiful about that big open space. The Archway is awesome! It feels like this sort of thing that you only get in NY, a super iconic looking space.
Indira: Do the bridges count? Because I love hanging out on them!