FutureEverything 2012: Blast Theory

Posted on by Bryony Bond

Online

The aim of the FutureEverything festival is to bring creative thinkers and the general public together to share, explore and celebrate the contemporary arts of Manchester and beyond. This year’s art programme seemed to favour the ideals of innovative technologies whilst encouraging audience participation and interaction.

Photo courtesy of Jan Dixon and Emily Dixon

A highlight of the festival was Blast Theory’s contribution, I’d Hide You, a live-action game based in the streets of Manchester’s Northern Quarter. As Blast Theory’s runners, each dressed in a distinctive uniform and equipped with a video camera, ducked and dived through the streets, festival goers were encouraged to log on to their website and get involved with the game online. The charm of the game was the runner’s live video feed. By choosing a particular runner to follow, the online player was taken on their journey through the streets, listening in on their engaging commentary, interacting with passers-by and being exposed to the Northern Quarter in a new, exciting way.

Businesses such as Teacup and Mad Lab offered up their premises so I’d Hide You players could socialise with other players not just online but face to face. By playing the game in Teacup, players could experience the unusual sensation of watching the runners on the screen, then see them run past the window seconds later. Even social networking site Twitter was in on the hype, with online players posting their scores and the whereabouts of various runners. It was an online social gathering with a healthy competitive edge. Meanwhile the runners where exploring the forgotten corners of Manchester whilst avoiding their counterparts. There was a strange adrenalin-fuelled tension when a confrontation occurred between runners. It was the classic fight or flight situation, as they had to make the decision whether it was worth the risk to attack or better to run away and hide.

Photo courtesy of John Hunter

Through I’d Hide You, Blast Theory has cleverly brought the fun and addictive elements of gaming to a wider audience. By ingeniously juxtaposing a real location, real people and real time with digital technology, they have created an idea that revolutionises gaming and links perfectly with the aims of the Future Everything festival.

The key aspect of interaction also cleverly assists in destroying the barrier of pretentiousness often associated with art and offers it up to a wider community beyond the typically artistic types. This in itself is forward thinking and challenging for the future.

With this year’s interactive success could next year’s festival be renamed Future Everyone?

FutureEverything took place in Manchester from 16th to 19th May 2012.

Text by Jessica Campbell.