The Mad Hatter was a festival game designed for and hosted at Solar Festival 2011 in collaboration with Wieger Jonker, Sylvan Steenhuis, Rachel Aaslund and Lieke van der Meer. Having been accepted as an open pitch to host games and do playful experiments at the festival, we decided that we wanted to host one main game as the focus point, The Mad Hatter.
Designed specifically for the festival, we chose not to try and win the attention of the audience to play a game away from all the music stages and other entertainment, but to instead create an experience that would blend in with the usual festival experience and improve it. As such, we created a game that could be played while doing any other activity at the festival venue. Besides this hybrid aspect we wanted players to easily engage with people they would not connect with normally, because for us, meeting new people and partying with them is an important aspect to a successful festival experience.
The game centres around the paper mache top hat every player receives when joining the game. This hat can be taken of while making a bow towards another player (who are easily recognized because all players wear a top hat), to attack the other player. The outcome of an attack would be determined through a simple rock-paper-scissors like system. If a player won, he would win a personalized ribbon from the other player to be worn around the hat. Due to the short but close 1 on 1 nature of these encounters, players would continue to talk after them, comparing hats and ribbons, and even directing players to other players they might be able to beat (and meet after that). This and the popularity of the custom made top hats made the game very successful, and an approximated 400 people played the game over a course of 3 days. Many players even returned to us to tell of cool encounters they’d had.