In another challenge suggested by Time Out readers, Alix Fox takes on a group of games designers.
When I hear the phrase ‘paper jam’, I imagine one thing: an annoying printer malfunction. But a free event of the same name happens every Tuesday evening in Shoreditch, and thankfullydoesn’t involve your HP chewing up A4 like a stick of Wrigley’s.
The night’s about inventing new board games. It’s run by dapper chap Ed Saperia. After years in finance, he decided that ker-ching wasn’t his thing and set up creative group Original Content London. He took over an old East End shop called Top Office Machines as a base and it’s here that Paper Jammers meet, kicking things off by dissecting an existing computerised or tabletop game to serve as inspiration.
I’m invited to have a bash at iPad two-player ‘Glitch Tank’. And when I say ‘have a bash’, I mean it literally: the game involves tapping touchscreen panels to move a combat vehicle, but each time you press a button its function changes, so you have to keep up with the fluctuating controls as well as where your tank’s trundling. I resort to my old ‘Mortal Kombat’ technique of wildly mashing buttons in a random epileptic fit of desperation. My tank poops exploding eggs from its pixellated armoured arse. It spawns tank babies. Which teleport. I’d be less lost if I laid a breadcrumb trail along a shoreline inhabited by bulimic seagulls.
‘You can learn tons by examining what’s frustrating about a game,’ says Ed. ‘We once trialled a virtually unplayable “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spin-off – it was a useful lesson!’ After refuelling on pizza, the Paper Jammers sketch their own ideas on the room’s blackboard walls and ceiling (there’s a ladder for those with lofty ambitions to chalk up their thoughts). Dice begin rolling, counters and cards are spilled across tables, lists of rules are scribbled, and there are so many high spirits among the 20-or-so gathered gamers it’s like a séance in an opium den. But I’m still bewildered. My fellow gamers all seem tech-savvy and mathematically minded: I can’t keep up. ‘Don’t panic – everyone has unique skills to contribute!’ Ed says. ‘While some of our games only last the night, we invented one called “Mobsters” that’s going to be published, and everyone from computer programmers to comicbook illustrators had a hand in crafting it. Try thinking of a simple real-life scenario you’ve recently encountered as the basis for a battle game.’ London, stand by for the launch of ‘Printer Cartridge v Shotgun Cartridge’.
Top Office Machines, 133 Benthal Green Rd, Tues 19.00pm. To find out how you can get involved click here.