Review: This is a Door

So, I did make it to the previously described This is a Door, and it was awesome fun. Pop Up Playground came up with a really interesting and varied set of games, some easier than others to pick up quickly, but all well suited to engaging a bunch of people with each other and with the task. The set-up felt like a really well-organised version of a games day with friends: there were always two or three games going at once, but with short single-person or two-player activities set up to the side, to entertain people who had gone out in whatever game they were playing – or just didn’t like the current options – and were waiting for another big game to open up.

The games varied interestingly between levels of tactical, improvisational and physical. My favourite was Love From Grandma, a fast-paced contest of inventing original excuses not to accept Grandma’s unwanted gift (a build-your-own motorcycle kit) as it was passed around the circle (from “Oh, thank you Grandma, but I’m allergic to motobikes!” to “I’m afraid it will scare my fainting goats!”). In case there wasn’t enough simultaneous craziness going on, I also loved the ongoing game of Fingerstache, which was explained at the beginning of the two-hour play session and which everyone participated in throughout the session – at any time during the other games, any player could interrupt to challenge another to a fingerstache duel – three rounds of rock, paper, scissors for the honour of adding another pair of biro whiskers to your personal ‘stache.

Pop Up Playground made good use of the theatre space – they didn’t just use it as a big room but had lighting cues set up for a number of the big games and a versatile and patient lighting operator on hand to bathe one area in red when the queen was beheaded, or fill another area with disco lights for the battle of the school prom.

The only think I think could have been improved would have been having short descriptions of all the games for people to read. They were available on Pop Up Playground’s website and – I discovered after the session – on the wall beside the theatre toilets, but having them obviously on hand in the play space would have allowed people to use the handy pictoral markings (conversational, tactial, physical, etc) to get an easy idea of which games they might prefer. As it was, the last two games I played, Halls of Westminster and Prom Night, were very similar in style (mingle and chat with other players while trying to forward your own goals), and it’s not my favourite style of game (there’s a reason I don’t get into LARPing); had I known they would both be like that, I would have chosen differently.

But all in all, a great day out. I would happily have hung around longer than two hours! Very much looking forward to seeing what Pop Up Playground come up with next.