The guy behind Pittsburgh’s Obscure Games series takes it to the next level with a day-long festival of new (but field-tested) outdoor team games intended to transform our relationship with the city.
At noon Saturday, organizer Adam Nelson’s City of Play
takes over a section of the North Side centering on newly rebuilt Buhl Park (in front of the Children’s Museum). Nearby areas including the Allegheny Center complex, Allegheny Commons
park and even East Ohio Street will all become fields of play.
The 15 sports and street games themselves range from nuvo sports like Circle Rules Football — think dry-land water polo, played with a yoga ball — to high-tech hybrids like Zown
(pronounced “zone”), a text-messaging-based territory capture game.
Other games include Nashville. Nelson’s own creation blends “secret signals and five-card stud” as you vie to eliminate members of the opposing squad.
“It’s all about getting out having that interaction with your friends and new people, as well as with the urban environment,” says Nelson.
The fun goes until midnight, with the conclusion of a round of The Signal, “a dark-of-night radio-chase game” involving secret transmissions.
The twentysomething Nelson is a co-founder of and designer for Ludo Mechanica
, a company that makes software applications for games that improve society. He founded Obscure Games in 2009 as a way to let adults play, though kids are welcome.
Obscure Games hosts twice-weekly rounds of pub games or field games drawn from history or other parts of the world, or else newly minted here.
One 2010 event was the Human Curling Tournment, employing wheeled office chairs. Here’s CP
Like Obscure Games itself, says Nelson, City of Play was inspired by the Come Out & Play Festival
, founded in New York City.
In 2010, Nelson launched the Steel City Games Fest, which Nelson says drew more than 100 players each of its first two years.
Some City of Play are free, but most are ticketed, at $5 per game. Tickets are limited, so Nelson suggests buying them online
in advance. The games last about an hour each.
City of Play is underwritten by locally based computer-game developer Schell Games
. Proceeds go toward defraying the cost of the Oct. 13 event and toward a project to create what Nelson calls “playful installtions around the city” fostering “urban engagement through play.”