The 2017 edition of Game Happens packed plenty of curiosities. Among the many experiences we got to try, Save The World  was definitely one of the most interesting ones. Half video-game, half real-life scavenger hunt, this adventure led us across a small part of the city of Genova; all while fending off an alien invasion!

The journey began on the second floor of Villa Bombrini, in a corner of the international indie showcase. A cardboard sign invited us to grab a few sticks of chalk, some colored strings, paperclips, and a fluffy thing that I’m yet to fully understand. Then, Elisa and I took out our phones, visited the game’s site, and followed the instructions…

We know you’re expecting a detailed recount of our experience, but you won’t get one. Save The World is an extremely personal game that you should play to fully understand. Having it any other way would simply ruin the entire endeavor. Instead we kidnapped Julia Noomen – the mind behind this title – and had a pleasant conversation. Do not worry, no developers were harmed during this interview!

A Delicate Way To Reshape Urban Spaces

Julia’s resume describes her as a writer. Throughout her career, she worked for games, movies, theater, and festivals. When we learned about Save The World, asking its creator how the idea came to her mind seemed just natural. She was more than happy to tell us everything!

“I was particularly impressed with the concepts of guerrilla knitting and gardening, but the idea came from different sources”, she answered with a smile.

Cities aren’t only bursting centers of civilization, but also perfect canvas for artistic expression. Julia told us how she wanted to leave behind a mark of her passage; a sign screaming “something just took place here”. “I drew much from theater and from temporary art exhibitions. The idea was to create installations that only lasted a couple of hours but would be remembered for a long time”.

Save The World was built to impress. As we walked through the city – discovering places we’d never visit otherwise – nitid images burned through our retinas. Pictures climbed our optical nerves,  seared through our skulls and conquered our brains. More than 2 weeks later, these memories are still as fresh as the day they were first formed.

Save The World: Art, Gaming or Vandalism?

Obviously, a project like this one has to be environmentally friendly. Nobody would like to see their city scarred and ruined by a bunch of convention-goers. When we learned how Save the World wanted us to draw on walls and streets, among other things, we asked Julia Noomen what the public’s response had been.

“Some complained, but most actually liked the idea and embraced it to the fullest. I decided to use materials with close-to-no environmental footprint. Chalk is washed away by rain, strings and paperclips can be easily removed. Everything else is on your phone!”

Julia also told us how several events hired her to create custom versions of the scavenger hunt. Game Happens 2017 was among them! “Group activities often feel forced and unnatural. It’s not easy to herd several people together and have them follow the instructions to the letter. You can play my game both by yourself and with friends! It’s no longer something you must do, but a challenge that you freely decide to take on”.

Save The World also lets you decide to not play the game at all. “You can go down the fuck you, I’m not doing this route and still get something out of the experience. You may need to start over to reach a proper ending, but stonewalling is a viable option”. Julia Noomen described it as a clear stand against those games that automatically assume you’d be compliant. “I always hated being given the impression of free will but no choice at all. My project is an example of how things can and should be different”.

While Save The World indubitably is a great piece of artistic interactive narrative, its scope remains somewhat limited. “You need dedicated spaces to use as the stage for your plot”. When we asked Julia if she sees her project becoming a global sensation, she said she’d be amazed and somewhat honored if that were to be the case. The Dutch writer then bid us farewell, shook our hands, and promised us we wouldn’t have regretted giving her game a try!

You readers probably got it by now but, unsurprisingly, we didn’t!

Save The World

We’d like to thank Julia Noomen for her time and kindness and Game Happens for the opportunity.

All pictures in this article belong to us. If you’d like to use them, go ahead… Just as long as you cite the original source!

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