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Now Play This

This exhibition marked a significant turning point for us. As you can see in this video, when we started we knew a few things:

  • We wanted people to hear their interconnection
  • We wanted people to make a musical world together
  • We wanted to explore creating a modular sound environment

We started off with the two bots modular system we had made for The New Intimacy, the step sequencer unit and the synth unit communicating over open CV. We got into this show based on the strength of the piece we showed previously with the aim of adding bots and expanding the game.

Bot Party from phoenix perry on Vimeo.

First, we considered making modular synth units and having users patch to each other, which we still think is a great idea, but as we prototyped, this rapidly turned into a cable nightmare. This challege took us back to the drawing board and we re-assessed the game’s core design values. What did we care about in our project the most? Getting people to understand their impact on their environment and each other through sounds. Here we developed an idea to use people directly to complete multiple circuits. We made a dirty prototype with some cheap laser cut boxes and tinfoil and playtested the hand-holding mechanic in our office with our coworkers, and it worked, brilliantly.


The rush to the show was maddening, but in the end, after many sleepless nights, we made it through. The game was a hit. We were shown between the games Everything and Beasts of Balance. It was a curatorial dream to be the link between such seminal games.

Our prototypes. Along the way, we realized our wirecuttters were actually little creatures!
As with Phoenix Perry's Bot Party, there are a bunch of hardware games at Now Play This that explore the new(ish) frontier of physical games, played with wood and metal as well as screens Kate Gray, Kotaku

After the show, we regrouped and reviewed the player feedback we got. The main points we learned follow:

  • Make the sound more whimsical. Dark tones freak little kids out.
  • Remove sounds switching after the all the bots connect up. The new sounds confused players. Consider bringing this in as a way to maybe indicate new levels in future builds.
  • The phone cables were chaos and lead to all the bots ending up in a giant knot.
  • Children destroyed our boxes, so we had to rebuild them on the spot, which was stressful. Shore up the solvent.
  • The owl bot box has issues with her LEDs shaking each other out of the case consistently. Move the eyes in this box further apart.
  • Consider having more than 3 bots

Now Play this was rewarding and gave us an opportunty to evolve. We look forward to continuing development. A special thank you goes out to Holly Gramazio for not letting us give up on our idea. We tried when we got stuck and she encouraged us to keep pushing through our design process.

Game Design by Phoenix Perry and Charlie Ann Page. Sound Engineering by Freida Abtan. Sound Design by Brian Jackson. Bot Development and AI Diplomatic Relations by Charlie Ann Page. Engineering by Phoenix Perry & Helen Steer. Jr Develeoper, Emily Roderick. Graphic Design by Mimi Sotudeh. Magic by Helen Steer.

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