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The 100 player video game

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David Gregory | 14:08 UK time, Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Last night in Birmingham I played a video game on a giant cinema screen along with 99 other people. What struck me as extraordinary was the games designers managed to convey fairly abstract goals, get a large crowd working together and even make it fun.

Birmingham based Wall Four is trying to create videogames for large numbers of people that can be played in cinemas. Providing cinema chains with alternative sources of revenue to films. You can read more about the young Birmingham company and see the game I played on their website.

The game we played last night is called Renga. It's a fairly abstract looking game that features some pretty familiar gaming tropes including defending a spaceship and tackling a final level boss.

But what's really interesting is the games various characters are controlled via 100 laser pointers distributed in the audience. Astonishingly people rapidly discover how pointing at particular locations on your ship or on an enemy can move or destroy them.

In the dark people seems happy to yell out discoveries and advice and quickly the audience becomes pretty effective at working out the goal and how to achieve it. Although there were some in our audience who also delighted in trying to subvert the aims of the group. Perhaps not totally surprising in an audience drawn heavily from the gaming industry. Last night was one of Birmingham's regular Launch gaming industry events.

Renga is an impressive and effective piece of game design. In a broader context it also shows the sort of stuff the Midlands gaming industry is capable of producing outside the dominant games companies and their AAA titles. Smaller start-ups working on innovative ideas. It's one reason why half the games produced in the UK are now made in the Midlands.

And back in the cinema, all 100 of us defeated the alien boss at the end.

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