Although I just wrote about Artemis Space Bridge Simulator on Monday, today’s post isn’t about outer space, but physical space.  Venues!  It’s the topic on my mind lately.  We’ve been trying to find a space to run an indoor interactive puzzle hunt for a few weeks now and haven’t had a whole lot of luck.  And the more location-based events I run and the more frustrated I get with the limitations of public places, the more I long to run something totally awesome in a controlled environment.

The ideal image of a cool art/event space in my mind right now is 47/49 Tanner Street, an old, three-story Victorian tannery in London that is available as studio and event space.  (They’re running a Halloween event there called Wink Murder, and Fire Hazard will be running games and a dark maze on the first floor while the rest of the building will have performances and food.  That all sounds amazing!)  The thought of just having an entire building or floor where you have free reign to design some awesome experience sounds so attractive.  A big, open space would be like a blank canvas, while a space with multiple floors, rooms, and corridors would inspire so many cool ideas.

So how does one find a space in which to do something cool?  I’m not really sure.  I think the smaller size of my city compared to a place like London means there are fewer interesting spaces like 47/49 to begin with (and maybe even too small of an audience for a large event like that to be viable).  We’ve mostly been looking on Craigslist for empty warehouses and other industrial spaces (where we could make a mess), but it’s been pretty hit-or-miss (with mostly misses).

Sara Thacher recently tweeted about a cool online resource called Spare Place, meant for “matching people with local spaces.”  What a great idea!  I especially like that it seems to connect people like me with venue-owners who are already interested in hosting these types of projects and are open to new, creative ideas.  Unfortunately, the resource is UK-only (they’ve got all the good stuff!), but it is a part of a group called the Empty Shops Network which has a lot of more general resources for people interested in running pop-up shops and experiences.

One last thought is pop-up vs permanent.  The Empty Shops Network certainly makes a strong case for temporary spaces, and they probably have the advantage in almost every category (cost, variety, novelty, etc.) but there certainly is something romantic and appealing about the idea of having a permanent space as your own personal playground.  Eh, maybe I just need to buy a house.

3 comments on Space

  • Dan E.

    Of course it depends how much money you can spend! Those Halloween costume shops, spook houses (like the one that disappointed you), Christmas shops and so on seem to find spaces okay — presumably because they’re highly profitable and pay substantial rent. I’m guessing your budget is smaller.

    If there’s a theater community near you, you could reach out to them. Some of the indie/alt/small theater nerds I know are often struggling in similar ways. They like a slightly different configuration but often make do in funny spaces, and so they have networks, and there are community playhouses and such. Their budgets aren’t huge and they want to make a mess, too.

    I’m curious about your frustrations with public spaces. Weather, I guess, is a big one?

    Locally, games beg/borrow/filch indoor spaces, which typically end up being a company where someone works, or a municipal community center, occasionally a church, even a “hacker space”. Dr. When and WarTron used a variety of spaces, mostly acquired through scrappy networking I think. We considered indoor space for BANG 28 (I would have loved a warehouse!) but settled for a park.

    I have a long standing dream of renting a big spooky mansion for a weekend, having the players stay the weekend, and filling the place with puzzles. Some daaaaay…

    • clavicarius (author)

      Yes, budget is certainly a factor, especially since I’m imagining an event like this would only have the legs for a weekend run at best, not an entire season like a haunted house or holiday pop-up shop.

      Theater community sounds like a good lead!

      Most of my frustrations are “I want to put a thing here for players to find, but someone will probably take it.” Or “I want to put a thing here, but I’ll probably get in trouble if someone sees me,” (I’m a big rule-follower, so this one is tough for me). Or “I want to make/do this really awesome thing, but where would I even put it in the middle of the city?”

      It just seems like the more public the space, the less control you have in general, so the less involved you can make the experience. Maybe I want my players to get locked in a room, or hear audio at a specific point, or have a home base area, or have to solve some sort of mechanical/physical puzzle without having to hire someone to babysit it, etc. Though I’m sure there are a lot of creative things that are ideal for public/open spaces, I need to think more about those.

      Excuse me, but that’s MY long standing dream! We should talk =)

      • Dan E.

        It feels like our game tradition has evolved to the expectation of “staff everything always”. Which means you need a lot of staff, but you can do more.

        It didn’t used to be that way! Used to be the norm that you’d find clues padlocked to a fence or something, with a little sign telling muggles not to call the bomb squad. Geocaching lives in a similar “not exactly littering” grey area.

        I was impressed in Great America Race 2 how Josh was able to do so much with so little help… it got me thinking about how to ratchet our game style back down to not rely on so much game-day labor.

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