Deep inside of the old General Electric building at 224 Wallace, a group of journalists and game developers are watching as I contort my body in an effort to draw a silhouette. They scratch their heads and try to guess at my feeble attempts to draw a goat using only my body.
We’re playing a new game called GoPoserGo.
It was created by Ubisoft Toronto, a studio that’s more known for working on giant video game franchises like Splinter Cell, Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed than creating small projects like this, but there’s a good reason they’ve set a small part of their 300 plus staff to this game.
The city’s annual all-night arts festival, Nuit Blanche, is coming up and they’re hosting one of the lead exhibits.
The best way to describe GoPoserGo is to say that it is like a digital version of Pictionary and Charades.
One player stands in front of an Xbox One Kinect camera and they are given five sets of four words and are asked to pick one word from each set. The player then has to use their imagination and body to create silhouettes that best represent those words (you can see my results in the screenshot below).
One of the most interesting aspects of this part of the game is to see how different people draw the same word. For example, two different players might both decide to draw a representation of Twitter, but where one player might use their body to draw a bird, another will use their body to draw the service’s iconic fail whale.
Other players can participate by using their smartphones to navigate to GoPoserGo.com. Once they’re on the website—and they’ve entered in a name for scorekeeping purposes—they’re ready to play. Players are awarded a score based on whether they guess the word the first player is drawing correctly, and how quickly they guess. A leaderboard of the players with the highest scores is shown once the drawing player has drawn their five words; it’s then someone else’s turn to create silhouettes.
It’s a simple concept, but a lot of fun whether you find yourself as the player creating the silhouettes, or as one of the players guessing at them.
Of course, there’s a big difference between a small group of people playing the game in a quiet room and the huge amount that will do so tonight in a cacophony of bright lights and noise. However, creating a game that can scale between those two extremes is not as difficult as one would imagine. Instead, it turns out that the most difficult part of GoPoserGo’s creation was finding the right words to ask players to draw.
“We did a lot of iteration on difficulty,” says Matt Rose, the game’s producer. “The thing that turned out to be the trickiest was deciding on the specific words to use; a lot of them were either too obscure, or it was difficult for someone to imagine how to draw the word with their body.”
“We found that more generic words were a lot more fun,” adds Heather Steele, Ubisoft Toronto’s communications director. The words were also carefully chosen to accommodate the different crowds that will likely visit the exhibit throughout the night.
Steele goes on to say that the game started out as an internal prototype. Partway through the year, however, TIFF approached the studio looking for a Nuit Blanche collaborator. That’s when Rose and his team demoed an early version of GoPoserGo to the film festival. According to Rose, at that point the game was “a webcam, a white wall and people dressed in full ninja costumes.” Still, TIFF clearly saw the game’s potential, and the two groups decided to go ahead with the project.
GoPoserGo inclusion in Nuit Blanche helped inform the game’s design.
“There something about the spirit of the night and creating a game that allowed for player created art,” says Rose. “We wanted people to have a moment where they could all participate and make art.”
Latham Bromwich, one of the game’s developers, adds that Twitch Plays Pokemon, the recent cultural phenomenon where thousands of players collaboratively played Pokemon Red over streaming platform Twitch, also helped inspire the ethos of the game.
After several months of hard work, all that remains to be seen is how the general public reacts to the game. Those going to Nuit Blanche tonight can check out GoPoserGo on the intersection of King St. W and Widmer St. (i.e., the TIFF Bell Lightbox). The exhibit starts at 6:53 pm and goes until sunrise the next morning.
Igor Bonifacic is the managing editor of Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter.