Game Design From Outer Space

A great innovative gaming firm from London, Hide&Seek, is closing. Why we think this is bad news and makes us sad.

No More Hide&Seek

Yesterday, in a very sad post, Hide&Seek announced they are going to close the firm in the new year. Hide&Seek has always been of great inspiration for us, so let me share some thoughts about what happened.

Hide&Seek? Who Are They?

London-based Hide&Seek is not your typical game developer firm. They have worked a lot in a different and innovative way, looking at games in their entirety, and not fearing to mix the physical and the digital. Like in Tate Trumps, which still stands as a benchmark about how to make a game dealing with a contemporary art gallery. Their experiments were in perfect sync with the idea of a Ludic Century, and the 99 Tiny Games they placed around London during the Olympic Games were something like a salutation to a new era.

They’ve worked with some of the most amazing people I’ve encountered at game conferences and events. From President Margaret Robertson, one of the first uncovering the distortions behind the idea of gamification, to Holly Gramazio and Mark Sorrell, whose talks I’ve enjoyed so much during Playful 2012.

I was lucky enough to attend one of their Sandpit events, which looked to me like a magic cauldron where all sorts of new game-related wonders can come out. It made me optimistic about games and gaming culture. Hide&Seek were something I always wanted to be. That’s why when I talk about Urustar I always tell that we started with the idea to try to work like them.

Bad News

So, reading their post and knowing why they came to such a decision made me really sad.

When we started we tried hard to make hybrid games for clients. And we didn’t have a good response on this. Except Privacy Traders created for the <a href Foundation, we almost never managed to convince clients to do something different from the lousy advergame. So we gradually moved to digital games, while still trying to propose more diverse things every time we could.

Alex Fleetwood says that commissioned work decreased by a factor of 10 during 2013. That’s something we’ve also experienced (and plus, we’ve seen an awful lot of ad agencies making games without having the slightest idea about how games work). This can be pretty bad for a big firm employing a lot of people and working with a lot of freelancers.

Bottom line: trying to do innovative stuff in times of austerity can be a deadly mix. Sure, you can hit the jackpot, but you also can fall. But I think this fall in particular is really bad for gaming culture. Is sad because it punishes who tried hardly to advance games and to promote the very ideas underlying the ludic century.

We still fight every day with people who assumes games are just for kids when I talk about games as cultural events, in museums, used to explain complex messages and so on (please, watch this video). Seeing one of the most interesting adversary of this narrow view closing is just horrible, because it is a bad sign about where games are going. Let’s hope something new will rise from the great people behind Hide&Seek!

Good Riddance

So, best of luck to all people who work at Hide&Seek. You are amazing and I’m sure you will make great things with games. Let’s try again and again and again to make the vision of a ludic century a reality. We can still do it.