Standing on top of a south London multi-storey car park in the dark, I’m in a bit of a pickle. There’s zombies coming up the ramp, a mad diabetic woman in the stairwell who may or may not be on my side and a half-heard plea from somewhere that we have to find a priest (who we later locate chained to some gates). This was 2.8 Hours Later, the interactive zombie game from Slingshot Effect that took place in the capital for the first time this weekend. We spoke to Slingshot’s Simon Johnson, to find out more.
Hundreds of people took part in the game, the first time the company had staged an event in the capital. Split into small teams, it took place across several amazingly atmospheric locations across the Borough/Southwark area with gore-splattered zombies, enigmatic characters and a few thrills and spills. It’s a massive organisational feat and huge fun – playing on your own fears and making every concealed doorway and empty alleyway a potential trap.
Simon and fellow Slingshot director Simon Evans have been running games for four and a half years from their Bristol base, taking over the streets of cities around the world. They initially embraced horror as a means of spicing up traditional orienteering-based city games – “To add some theatre and make things more interesting.”
But more than that, they felt it was also a neat way of explaining the world as it is now. “We were looking at a global recession and then Cameron got elected and we were pretty depressed – it felt like everything was going to collapse. We had all that craziness and the riots and we thought how do you model that?
“The zombie theme was perfect because everyone knows the rules with zombies. You can do quite elaborate things and people understand – zombies solved the problem.”
The actual three nights of the game is the culmination of months of careful planning – scouting out suitably eery locations, recruiting local performers and negotiating with councils and the police to get the all-important go-ahead.
“There is a a script but but we are really responsive to the real locations. We are flexible enough and work with performers who know the area to create something really interesting.”
“The power to play in the real world is amazing but safety is paramount – if anyone gets hurt doing this it just ends and we don’t want that to happen. When people are playing some of their cognitive abilities change and in that adrenalized state the way you perceive threat changes massively so we have to design the game to cope with that.”
Simon’s favourite thing about 2.8 Hors Later is the way the game brings people from all walks of life together. “That’s the great thing about the genre. You get chartered accountants playing with crane drivers, it brings together black and white, old and young in way that has really surprised us.”
Next up for the Simons is Hounded, an urban fox hunting game starting in Soho on 11/11/20111 where red-jacketed hunters will pursue “hounds” following real scent trails across the city, and 2.8 Hours Later is touring the UK.
You sense that with their ceaseless imagination and wonderful attention to detail, we’re likely to hear a lot more about Slingshot over the coming years.