Obscure Games festival held in the Northside


Above: Participants played unusual games in the Northside on Saturday at the City of Play Festival. (Photo by Cara Nesi).

Whether it was dribbling a yoga ball or balancing a tiny plastic turtle on the back of their hands, those attending the City of Play festival learned different ways to join in the gamethis past Saturday, in the Northside.

A showcase of the best new games in the world, the City of Play is a festival dedicated to playing unusual games in urban communities.  

For 12 hours, the event was held in Allegheny Commons Park and Buhl Community Park, utilizing the open space as their fields.  

The festival was created by the nonprofit organization, Obscure Games and its director, Adam Nelson, who chose Northside as the location for the festival because of the two available parks.   

Fifty to 60 people came out over the course of the day to participate in a range of games, some of them physical, some mental, but all unique. It was a slightly smaller turn out than Nelson had expected, but he was still happy with the result.

“It was small and beautiful, and it laid good groundwork for next year,” he said.

The City of Play included field games like Circle Rules Football, a game invented by Greg Manley in 2006 as a senior theater project at NYU. Played on a circular field with one goal, the object of the game is to score using an exercise ball that you aren’t allowed to carry.

Members from the Circle Rules Federation, the New York City group focused on playing Circle Rules Football came out for the event, running games of Circle Rules to teach attendees how to play.

“There’s a pretty quick learning curve,” said Zaq Landsberg, member of Obscure Games, about how hard the game was to learn.

Though this was the third festival that Obscure Games held, City of Play was the first of its kind, focusing on the most interesting and unique games that Nelson chose for the event.

The event was sponsored by Schell Games, a video game company created by Jesse Schell, a former professor at Carnegie Mellon University and The Sprout Fund. Though concerned with different forms of play, Schell Games was interested in gaming aspect of Obscure Games.

The chosen activities weren’t solely about having fun. The festival was part of Obscure Games’ work to show people the power that games can have and change the way people view their cities the way they interact with each other.

“I want to show them that they can feel a part of their city and affect change,” he said.

His favorite moment at the festival was “watching people run around with numbers on their heads,” he said, referring to an element of the game Super-Secret Spies.

Obscure Games plans to bring the festival next year, expanding upon this year’s efforts and growing City of Play.

Formed in August 2009 as part of a University of Pittsburgh club, Obscure Games has grown city-wide. They invent and play new games every week at their free game sessions. You can learn more about Obscure Games at their website: www.obscuregames.org


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