Citydash Melbourne!

CityDash_final_webPop Up Playground presents Fire Hazard Games‘ Citydash!

Citydash is a fast game of speed, stealth, and strategy, played on the streets.

Your team will dash for checkpoints, replan on the fly as your targets change, and duck for cover as our patrolling guards close in. Cryptic clues, checkpoint challenges and moving targets make it a mental challenge as much as a physical one!

Played in cities around the world and last presented in Melbourne as part of Fresh Air, Citydash is here presented with all new clues and locations.



Dates: Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 of May
Session times: 4:30pm and 7pm
Venue: Meet at the grassy amphitheater in Fed Square


Photo by JT. Production Management

3 new games at Modern Parlour Games – our Bella Union residency

We’ve taken up residency at the Bella Union in 2015!Modern-Parlour-games-logo

Each month on the third Thursday we’re bringing you the wildest, strangest and best new games in Melbourne today. This month, we present three new games, one each by David Harris, Jack Beeby and us!

Help Me by David Harris
Are you a good, kind, decent person? Do you like to help those who can’t help themselves? Do you believe that empathy and caring unites a community? Bring your initiative, communication skills and ability to work as a team to help me… Please. A participatory morality play.

RhinoPlasticine by Jack Beeby
Stepping it up a notch, those same “almost celebrities” exercise their creative skill sin this new game by Jack Beeby. As up-and-coming medical ‘professionals’ it’s their goal to finish top of the class and claim the title of Cosmetic Surgeon to the Animal Stars! Some audience participation encouraged.

We Are Having Technical Difficulties by Pop Up Playground
Watch “almost celebrities” play Pop Up Playground’s game of communication break down in the board room and play along yourself. Expect amusing misunderstandings and witty banter.

Tickets $15 at the door, or $13 (plus $2 booking fee) online here:

Doors open at 6.30PM, show starts at 7!

Fresh Air 2015!

Fresh-Air-15-Postcard-FinalMelbourne’s International Games Festival, Fresh Air, is back for 2015, hosted by Pop Up Playground and commissioned and presented by Federation Square’s Creative Program.

Headlining Fresh Air this year are Fire Hazard Games from the UK, who are running the enormously popular street game City Dash and a brand new story telling game Flashpoint Fairytale. Escape Room Melbourne, Australia’s leading escape room designers, premiering a brand new boutique work on site. And for one night only, Folly, a new city wide urban role playing game by the team who bring you Woodfordia, the woodford folk festival game.

We’ll also be showcasing new works by local designers Christy Dena, Georgia Symons, Kilkenny Games and Snapstone games, alongside some old favourites and some new games by Pop Up Playground and by our old friends at Coney, Hide and Seek and Slingshot.

We’ll be playing street games in St Pauls Court and the Amphitheatre at Federation Square from 11 am to 4pm friday to monday. The Night time program starts at 6 – and runs til 9.00.

Tickets for head line games are essential and can only be booked online.

citydashCity Dash (Firehazard Games, UK)
Fri and Sat nights, 7:30pm

An exciting and intense hour in the city.

Run for checkpoints, replan on the fly as the map changes, and duck for cover as our patrolling guards close in. Or take it more strategically, rack your brains to solve our cryptic clues, and keep your eyes open for bonus points.

However you play, you can watch the live scoreboard for updates and battle it out with nearby teams. With a huge range of strategies, approaches, and levels, you can take this as casually or competitively as you want.

Friday night:
Saturday night:

follyFolly: The Game (Woodfordia, AUS)
Sunday night 6pm

Folly is an UrbanRPG with an absurdist bent. Expect ridiculous challenges, dares, an interactive and hilarious narrative and a spectacular finale.

Developed by Tim Monley, creator of Woodfordia: The Game, a spectacular six day long game played every year by thousands of participants at the Woodford Folk Festival. For Fresh Air Festival this experience has been condensed into three hours of silliness and adventure for one hundred lucky people.



Flashpoint Fairytale (Amy Strike, UK)
Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon 3pm, extra game Sunday 8pm

Flashpoint Fairytale is a storytelling tabletop game filled with old maps, evil overlords, witches, trolls and, despite being a game played over a table, lots of running around and shouting. Players choose a character (whether inventor, doctor, wizard, hero or diplomat) and then work together to help that character escape the enemy, survive the story and find out what on earth is going on and how they can (oh yes) save the land. Created by Fire Hazard Games. Requires 4 to 5 players.



Bakers of Anarchy (Universe Creation 101, AUS)
Fri, Sat, Sun nights 6pm


You are a contestant in the finale of the 9th Annual Cake Decorating Championship. One of the hosts has been embroiled in a bitter buttercream scandal, and so you arrive to find an Anarchist is now running the competition. In this hands-on live game, you do whatever you can to impress the revolutionary philosopher with your anarchic cake decorating to ultimately win the championship, or the good fight.

A game by Christy Dena of Universe Creation 101


alienAlien Meteorites of Federation Square (That Probably Won’t Kill Us All)

Fri, Sat, Sun nights, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm

Three meteorites from outer space have crash-landed in Federation Square. How convenient! But also mysterious, and maybe even dangerous. We can’t figure out what they are, where they came from, or why they’re here. Maybe you can help us? Come and lend your expert opinion as we try to unlock the secrets of the Alien Meteorites of Federation Square (That Probably Won’t Kill Us All)!

Created by: Georgia Symons
Designed by: Daniel Moulds


escaperoom Escape Van

Hourly 11am to 3pm Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon during the day
6pm to 8pm Fri, Sat, Sun evenings
Tickets are $20 each, or $70 for a full team of four.

A new puzzle room experience from the team at Escape Room Melbourne! Melbourne in the 1950s. Government spies have caught word of a planned assassination, and you’re on the suspect list. To prove your innocence, you will need to break into a surveillance van and piece together the mystery. Expect mind-boggling gadgets, espionage, intrigue, and a healthy serve of good old-fashioned code-cracking.


1000 Cities – A Ride of Passage


Bicycle game will turn Melbourne into a wonderland

The City of Melbourne and Pop Up Playground is inviting people to take part in a new interactive game that will change the way they see the city – forever!
Using a smartphone, a blue Melbourne Bike Share bike and a helmet, the interactive game 1000 Cities turns the CBD into a mythical adventure where riders will fight monsters, collect treasure and explore the hidden parts of the city.

Councillor Rohan Leppert, Chair of Arts and Culture, said this arts participation project highlights Council’s dedication to contributing to a creative city.
“1000 Cities is an innovative project that allows participants to go on a city adventure with a twist. Cities can be hard to navigate when you first arrive and the best way to get to know your way around is to explore,” said Cr Leppert.
Once participants visit the 1000 Cities site on a smartphone, they will be prompted to take out a bike at the Federation Square blue Melbourne Bike Share station. From there, the game will take riders through a series of tasks that will unlock hidden secrets about the city. Discover tucked away coffee shops, artworks, buildings, secret laneways and obscure city gems.

Rob Reid from Pop Up Playground said 1000 Cities is based on Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
“1000 Cities is your invitation to open doors that you may have not thought were there. Participants will be the hero of their own epic adventure. We are inviting international students to take part in the game, as this is a great way to get to know the city – but the game is open to anyone that would like to play,” said Rob.

A group of Melbourne-based international students worked closely with City of Melbourne and Pop Up Playground to help develop the game.
This initiative underpins City of Melbourne’s commitment to encouraging artists to explore new ways of reaching audiences, particularly through public participation, as outlined in its recently released Arts Strategy.

When: 2 – 28 February 2015
Where: Start from the Federation Square Melbourne Bike Share pod outside the Melbourne Visitor’s Centre
Cost: Free to play. You will need to have a credit card to unlock the bike and charges may apply.
A City of Melbourne project created by Pop Up Playground


Now Life In This House

NowLifeImageForest Collective and Pop Up Playground present
Now Life in this House

A new durational role-playing game by Pop Up Playground

For Flooding in the Garden At The Convent.

Lots of debts, lots of secrets, nothing left to sell but the family home – life was terrible for the Russian aristocracy.

Pop Up Playground takes Anton Checkov’s famous play, The Cherry Orchard, and turns it into a participatory event. The characters from the play come to life around the audience and enlist their help. Will you help Lopakhin convince the family to sell their land to developers? Will you convince Trofimov not to marry Anya?

The future of The Cherry Orchard is in your hands…

Fiona MacLeod.
Soren Jensen
Madeline Anderson
Jack Beeby
Andi Snelling
Jess Gonsalvez

Hosted by Ben McKenzie

Written, directed and designed by Pop Up Playground

Flooding in the Garden
10am – 4pm December 13
Rosina Auditorium
$5 one entry at the door/$10 day

Pozible Rewards: Bespoke Street Adventure!

“We made it to our first location, where did we need to go next? Were we being followed? We better sneak down between these two buildings. I looked over my shoulder.. It seemed the coast was clear but we had to solve the next clue. Time to pick up the pace. I looked at my watch. Damn, we’re running out of time. Is that person watching us? Wait, I know where we need to go next. We ran down an alley, scanning the signs. This seems like the place. Treasure recovered. Cocktail time.”

jadeMonkeyThat’s how Alex describes the Adventure of the Jade Monkey, a custom street adventure made for her and her partner Elliot by Pop Up Playground’s Robert Reid and Sayraphim Lothian – and with the Bespoke Street Adventure reward in our Fresh Air 2015 Pozible campaign, you could have a unique experience like this of your own!

Designing mostly for festivals and open to the public events, Pop Up Playground usually works within certain constraints of size, budget and resources-to-players ratios. But this reward lets us throw a lot of those constraints out the window to make something entirely different: a once-only, unique adventure for a small group!

DrMonkeyWe’ll get in touch with you to figure out a time and place where you want to start, and perhaps go back and forth with a few requests for information, but then it’s down the rabbit hole you go. It’s up to you who you invite, and whether you tell them what they’re in for: a unique adventure experience, just for you, in which you will have to find clues, solve puzzles and complete challenges to reach your destination. You might end up on the run from spies, chasing a monster, searching for a stolen artefact or unlocking a bizarre mystery – but whatever the case, you and up to seven of your friends will be the only ones to ever go on this particular adventure.

We’d love the chance to make something like this – and by choosing this reward you’re not just embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, you’re also supporting the growth of the Fresh Air festival. Your support will allow us to bring out international artists, pay our staff and make our games bigger and better, all while keeping the festival free to attend. You can find out more at our Pozible campaign page.

Pozible Rewards: learning games

We run a lot of live games at Pop Up Playground, but actually we love all kinds of games: board games, videogames, card games, parlour games…you name it, we play it! Within the team we have a pretty great collection of different games, because just as with other artforms it’s important to experience the work of others as well as to make your own.

CalledYouHereBut we don’t often get a lot of time to play those games – which is partly why we’ve created the Learn to Play reward! For $50 you not only get the PDF book of games and a copy of our first StickerGame, but also an invitation to a fun, relaxed three-hour session of games with the Pop Up Players. We’ll bring a bunch of games of all kinds and teach you to play them! This is a friendly event for everyone, regardless of your level of experience with board games, and we’ll be bringing games of varying lengths, complexities and themes – as well as teaching you a few of our own!

But perhaps you already play a lot of games, and you’re keen to take the next step and make your own games? Well, we’ve got you covered there too, with the $100 Games Design Workshop reward! Ben will run you through the basics of game design with a three hour workshop whose basic principles will work across most kinds of games. The workshop draws on Ben’s three years of experience designing for Pop Up Playground and independently, and will cover player experience, mechanics, playtesting and more. Plus you also get the book of games, the StickerGame, and there will be cake!

By selecting one of these rewards you’ll not only learn to play or make games, you’ll be supporting the Fresh Air festival for 2015, enabling it to grow and to support the people who make it. You can find out more at our campaign page on Pozible.

Pozible Rewards: Workplace Games Workshop

Most of the games we run at Pop Up Playground are for the public: they’re fun, they’re silly, they’re designed to reconnect you with the playful side of yourself you were told to put away when you were no longer a child. But you can also play some of our games at work!

Games can combine an exercise in imagination with the interpersonal and analytical skills you use every day in the business world: teamwork, communication, problem solving, leadership, confidence, risk management. They won’t magically level you up overnight, but the systems used in games present a new context in which to exercise those skills – plus it’s a lot of fun!

Pudding Lane

Pudding Lane

Pop Up Playground has a variety of corporate workshops – and as a special corporate support level in our Pozible campaign, we’re offering the two-hour version at a discounted rate! Our game runners will come to your workplace, warm everyone up with a few smaller games, then put your team through their paces with games tailored to promote team building and business-applicable skills, all while having a good time your staff will be talking about for weeks! And as if that’s not enough, you’ll also be named as a corporate sponsor of the Fresh Air Festival for 2015.

While our corporate workshops are available all year round, this special discount rate of $1,500 for the two-hour version is only available as part of our Pozible campaign, so if you’ve thought about doing something different for your staff, get in now! We’ll negotiate a time with you to make it happen. And if you have any questions you want to ask, just get in touch.

Pozible Rewards: Wanna Play a Game?

We love to run our games for people, but outside of festivals it can be hard to organise a time and find people to play them! Likewise, people love to play our games, but the opportunities to play them aren’t as frequent as we’d like. And that’s where the $250 “Wanna Play a Game?” reward in our Pozible campaign comes in!


Members of the public playing Gong! at Fresh Air 2014.

We’ll come to you and run one of our stand-alone games (plus a few little ones to get you warmed up) for as many as 20 players, over the course of about an hour! This would be a great addition to a birthday, wedding or other celebration, or even just a great diversion for a bunch of friends for an afternoon. Here are some of the games you can choose:

The Ride – an epic battle between two Viking villages; can you achieve sufficient glory to be taken to Valhalla?

Gong! – a street sport where you get to change the rules!

Bury Your Treasure – thievery and combat on the high seas – can you steal and hoard the most booty?

Ben’s Big Board Game – roll the dice or test your skill to move

Pudding Lane – London is burning! Can you work together to put out the fires before all is lost?

Wikisneaks – devise a secret code and transmit information without getting caught in this game about unlocking secrets!

Spy Catcher – the Agency has been infiltrated at the highest level! Only the junior spies can be trusted to interrogate the spy leaders and expose the double agents before it’s too late!

This is a special price for this kind of service just for this campaign, so if you want to add some Pop Up Playground magic to your next party or big event, get in before the campaign ends, and help spread the word so we hit our goal! All the details are can be found at

Spirits Walk, the headline game of Fresh Air 2014

Ben McKenzie, our Games Mechanic, talks about a work commissioned for Fresh Air in 2014: Serious Business’ Spirits Walk.

It’s pretty rare at Pop Up Playground that I get to play a game I’ve had almost nothing to do with, but last year that was exactly what I got to do with Spirits Walk, the headline game of the festival – and what a game it was.

Commissioned by our Artistic Director Robert Reid from UK designers Serious Business (Grant Howitt and Mary Hamilton), who luckily for our budget happened to be living in Sydney at the time, it was the centrepiece of last year’s festival, taking players not across Federation Square but into the heart of Melbourne. Here’s the video trailer, filmed by Elliott Summers during the festival:

sw1So: players are invited by the Tattered Prince, head of the court of Melbourne’s spirits and gods, to join in the Spirits Walk, a celebration of the spirit world. But you can’t just rock up to something like that unprepared, you must have a mask – and not just any mask, a mask made of spirit stuff. So the Prince has weakened the walls between our world and his for an hour, and given us instructions on how to find various little gods of Melbourne. If we can satisfy them, they will grant us tokens of the spirit world we can bind into a mask so we can join in the Spirits Walk!sw2

What that translated to was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I scurried about the city, following the map in my guide to the spirit world, looking for the gods and enacting the prescribed rituals needed to summon them. I was asked to trade a worthless piece of paper for “something of value” with strangers, to give up a secret of my own to a snappily dressed spirit under a bridge, to dance intimately with a partner under the gaze of the public to music no-one else could hear, to fight invisible monsters to protect ordinary people just trying to cross a bridge, and more.

sw3All of these activities were transgressive and touched on things we’re told not to do: wave (cardboard) swords around in public (don’t worry, it was slow and safe), ask people you’ve never met to give you something, ignore the approving or disapproving looks of strangers as you dance in front of them… Each on its own was magical, but to dash about the city seeking out as many of them as possible in a limited time made it exactly the sort of transformative experience you see in stories of urban fantasy and (to borrow Grant’s own term) junk magic.

When I say transformative, I don’t just mean of the player, but of the city. One of the great experiences of games like this is that you don’t look at the space in which you play them the same way. Degraves Street isn’t just a collection of cafés for me anymore – it’s where I danced to please the Skipping Girl, a spirit who just wanted me to be free and embrace the music; Hosier Lane isn’t just “that one with the amazing graffiti”, it’s where I gave up my favourite hat to a spirit without knowing when or how exactly I would get it back. These are magical stories and experiences that are layered on my city, crafted with great care and style by Grant and Mary and executed by the amazing cast in their incredible masks.

Spirits Walk is another example of a game that just isn’t possible without the infrastructure of a festival. Robert Reid and the Fresh Air team took Grant and Mary’s design and hired actors, commissioned masks and costumes and props, scouted locations and scheduled rehearsals. I often joke about one of our early works, The Curse, that it requires more actors than players, but some of the greatest experiences need this kind of scaffolding. The players still make the stories themselves, but they are guided by creatures of our making, played by actors and mediated through craft. There’s nothing quite like it, and it’s for pieces like this that we make Fresh Air.

All the more amazing, then, that we did it on the shoestring budget of last year – and that it was free to experience! I really hope Grant and Mary mount it again, because every city deserves a little junk magic.

To keep making things like this, especially in collaboration with international designers, we need to increase the Fresh Air budget – and that’s where our Pozible campaign comes in. Please check it out and pledge if you can – there are some amazing rewards on offer! But it’s just as vital to our success for you to help spread the word.


Spirits Walk photos by Sarah Walker