Push Me Pull You

Developed by House House, a four-person indie studio from Melbourn, Australia, PMPY is a game in where players (usually working in pairs) control two double head humanoid-worm monsters that compete against each other in a pseudo Greco-Roman wrestling court. The two monsters compete against each other by trying to keep a ball in one of the half of a Greco-Roman court using their elastic bodies. As the two monsters compete for the possession of the ball, their bodies stretch and squash in grotesque ways forming weird shapes that resemble the shape of a human intestine.

Players work in teams of two and each one is in charge of controlling one side one of the worm-like monster. For each heads of the monster, there is a a specific set of controls and bottons. Team members need to coordinate the movements of the monstter in order to be able change the size of their tubular bodies and, moving fast, trying to keep the ball in their half of the court. They share the same body on the screen so they need to learn to cooperate and communicate constantly.  The more time the ball remains in one of the areas, the more points for the team.  The game is over when the ball has remained for a certain period of continuous time (approx 20 sec) in one of the court half and a colorfull semi circle is painted on the side of the field where ball was.

There is a lot of team work that players need to do when playing PMPY. In oder to be able to move fast in the court, take the ball from their adversary, or keep it at their half of the court, players need to coordinate the movements of their part of the worm-like bodies. “There is no other way to play and win the game: you have to cooperate and team work (…) the game enforces cooperation,” said Nico Disseldorp, the House House developer who was in charge of most of the programming of the game, while he spoke to a packed auditorium during the PMPY tournament at the Fantastic Arcade last year.

Having to control a single body forces players to cooperate, and as they do it they learn more about the game strategies and most effective moves. Furthermore, by cooperating, players can establish bonds and even cultivate friendship. As a matter of fact, friendship was one of the values embedded in the game design process of PMPY. Jake Strasser, an Australian film-maker who also collaborated in the making of PMPY, for instance, explained that before making the game, he along with the other House House members spent a lot of time playing indie “sport games” such as Hokra (a famous indie multiplayer game by Ramiro Corbetta). “Playing indie sport games is what brought us together, is what grought us together as a group and as friends.(…) In PMPY we wanted to create that sort of game experience.”

The PMPY tournament that took place at the Fantastic Arcade revealed the full potential of indie multiplayer games as multimedia attraction. Showing the gameplay of PMPY on a huge cinema screen and infront of an audience turned out to be a sort of participatory spectacle. As it also happened with other tournaments informally organized by Juegos Rancheros at the space of the indie video arcade, the PMPY tournament was a mixture of competition and live show comedic commentary. That unique combination, was seasoned by an active audience that not only cheered and laughed, but also jumped into the stage, grabbed a control and played. Because the PMPY game action is intense and visually rich, the screen is always changing as in a beautiful animated film. The movement of the tubular monsters is difficult to coordinate, and the efforts that players make in order to control the ball are seen sometimes as erratic and exagerated. The amusement such gameplay and visuals create are accompanied by shouts and laughs from both the players and the people who is observing the gameplay on the screen. Add to that combination a live comentator who narrates the gameplay, and exagerates even more, the movement of the worm-like monsters, and a whole comedic attraction emerges. The live comentary of the narrator, highlights some of the most humorous moments of the game, and can provides alternative fictional stories that enriches the action on the screen. The amusement and comedic quality of PMPY, is common to several of the indie multiplayer games that Juegos Rancheros has brought to the indie video arcade for playing them in a cinema auditorium, in custome built cabinets, or in single laptops and mobile devices.

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