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DAY OF THE FIGURINES

Day Of The Figurines is set in a fictional town that is littered, dark and underpinned with steady decay. The game unfolds over a total of 24 days, each day representing an hour in the life of the town that shifts from the mundane to the cataclysmic: the local vicar opens a summer fete, Scandinavian metallists play a gig at the Locarno that goes horribly wrong while an occupying army appears on the High Street. How players respond to these events and to each other creates and sustains a community during the course of a single day in the town. From the Gasometer to Product Barn, the Canal to the Rat Research Institute, up to 1,000 players roam the streets, defining themselves through their interactions.

Day Of The Figurines continues Blast Theory's enquiry into the nature of public participation within artworks and within electronic spaces (here, through SMS). It uses emergent behaviour and social dynamics as a means of structuring a live event. It invites players to establish their own codes of behaviour and morality within a parallel world. It plays on the tension between the intimacy and anonymity of text messages, building on previous projects such as Uncle Roy All Around You, I Like Frank and the award-winning Can You See Me Now?

Playing Day Of The Figurines

The centrepiece of the game is a vast model town - installed in a public space - created using silhouettes of buildings, cut and folded from the metal table top. Each of the 1,000 players is represented by a small plastic figurine which is moved by hand every hour for the duration of the game.

To begin the game, players are invited to create their own figurine: to name it, answer questions about its past and how it is represented to other players. They then see him or her placed in the town. Thereafter participation in the game is via mobile phone. Players receive a minimum of one text a day updating them on the progress of their figurine and are invited to make increasingly challenging decisions over the fate of themselves and other players in response to deteriorating circumstances. Players can join or leave the game at any time. One of the key aspects of this new form of artwork is that it is situated within players' daily lives and can be accessed at any time.

Although players aren't required to return to the board after setting off their figurine, curiosity might lead them to revisit the space to observe the changing topography of the town. Regular visitors to the venue are able to eavesdrop on player activity via video displays. A website during the game gives information about the town and allows players to read a history of their day so far. It also gives news of events that are currently happening and hints at events that are to come.

Project Development and Distribution

As participation is central to Blast Theory's projects, great emphasis is placed on the audience and focus is on the experience. As the group's work has become more complex this process of assessing what is happening and why is of increased importance.

In June 2005, a 24 day public test was hosted at Laban and the group's studio. This involved testing interfaces, trialling varied types of content, exploring narrative, critiquing the semiotics within the work ("What metaphors are operating and in what way? Should we be aiming for clarity or ambiguity?") and tracking the routes through the work in chronological order. Ethnographers from the Mixed Reality Lab worked on the evaluation of this process which informed the project's development.

The work held its world premiere at the First Play Berlin Festival at the Hebbel am Ufer theatre, HAU2, in October 2006 following a three day play test as part of the Sonar Festival in Barcelona in June 2006. Day Of The Figurines has been shown at the National Museum of Singapore's re-launch, at The Lighthouse in Brighton and  at the Fierce Festival in Birmingham.

Research partners

Day Of The Figurines has been developed in collaboration with the Mixed Reality Lab at University of Nottingham, Sony Net Services and the Fraunhofer Institute as part of the European research project IPerG (Integrated Project on Pervasive Gaming).