Come Out and Play Returns to San Francisco Streets

Come Out and Play is back in San Francisco with tons of new games. Founded in New York in 2006 with the philosophy that play is essential to human happiness, the festival has been coming to SF for three years and includes games of almost every genre -- fighting, strategy, playground, collecting, puzzle, and chase -- during the festival's 16-day run. This year marks the first time Come Out and Play will also inhabit an indoor space, SOMArts Gallery, where people of all ages can play quieter games in the collection -- less running from zombies and more tabletop and strategy.

Come Out and Play is a great way to re-experience your own city. It wakes up urban space in a way other events just can't. For example, Journey to the End of the Night, a well-loved zombie tag game the festival is known for (covered on KQED in 2011), lets players experience the city streets at night in a totally new way. The sidewalks we normally use for more practical purposes become the landscape of a great adventure. The racing heartbeat and shallow breath so many video games have tried to simulate become real.

As always, there is a diversity of real life games that take over city streets and parks, inspiring strangers of all ages to play together. Staccato, Propinquity, and Sixteen Tons are great examples.

Staccato is an electronically assisted evolution of Four Square, the old playground game many may remember from elementary school. In Staccato there is a ball, a square court, and a goal that lights up when the ball hits it. This two on two romp has the teams dodging back and forth, bouncing the ball, throwing, and defending the goal. It requires very physically active teamwork to win.


Propinquity takes on both the fighting and dancing game genres. With no avatars to stand in for them, players enter the ring themselves. Each contestant wears several proximity sensors and virbotacticle patches. Players need to activate the opponents' sensors without getting touched themselves. The fighting/dancing can be played cooperatively or competitively.

Sixteen Tons is an interesting mix of a board game and an unsusal form of gambling. The game is played with four players, each of whom need to get two colored game pieces to the correct spot on the board. Sounds simple enough until you see the game in person. Each game piece is a several foot high section of heavy steel pipe that requires more than one person to move. In order to move your pieces each turn, the players are required to bribe each other to help them. But, and here the social psychological twist comes in, each player starts the game with only three dollars. How each player handles his or her money and which players they bribe help make each play-through unique. Even the end game content is inspired. The game makes no mention of what should be done with the money after someone has won. Does it all go to the winner? Does it stay with the players as is? Does it get redistributed? It's all up to the players.

Come Out and Play San Francisco is a great chance to play in the public places we usually take seriously. It's genuine fun. For more information, visit