Anarchist writer Hakim Bey once wrote, “The universe wants to play,” arguing that one must briefly escape complacency and embrace the unpredictable.
This theory was exemplified on Friday when the creative event planning organization Mindshare hosted the 2nd Annual Rubiks Human Play! Spectacular at V Lounge in Santa Monica. The evening revolved around the importance of play, featuring speakers, demonstrations, interactive exhibits, and, of course, Human Rubiks.
Although named for the Rubik’s Cube, the human version is exponentially simpler. Participants don various colored clothing, such as a red top, green shorts, an orange hat, etc. Over the course of the night, players swap articles of clothing with each other. The first person to wear just a single color wins. Mindshare first incorporated the game into last year’s April 1 event, but attendees were wary that the activity was a cover for an April Fool’s prank and were hesitant to participate.
“Now that the more suspicious attendees know that we’re not pranking them, they’re more likely to join in,” said Mindshare founder Doug Campbell during a pre-party interview. Campbell was proven correct several hours later. While 2012’s Human Rubiks stretched on for hours, this year, two highly motivated participants won within minutes of the game commencing. Apparently the only prize was their new mono-hued outfits.
Fortunately, V Lounge’s various nooks and crannies held plenty of other activities to entertain guests. While downtown soundsmith DJ Sleeper spun Kasabian, representatives from the technology innovating company Daqri encouraged patrons to experiment with their new Augmented Reality Cubes. When viewed through an iPhone or iPad screen, these AR Cubes generate 3-D images and information about period elements, dinosaurs, and human anatomy. In the adjacent alcove, a member of the creative firm Thinkwell let partiers test their 3-D painting system, Pictura. In a side room, guests sat at the Hatter’s Table, a performance art-puzzle hybrid simulation of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice and Wonderland.
“Mindshare’s role is to introduce people to the idea its okay to be a little bit crazy, to get out of your comfort zone,” said Campbell, echoing Hakim Bey’s philosophy. At this point in the party, Campbell was wearing a tutu on his head and alternately sipping a beer and playing with an oversized Jenga set.
It seems almost ironic that a night devoted to playing also had an educational component. Over the course of the evening, several lecturers discussed the importance of play in our daily lives. Rahla Kahn and Richard Rossner, founders of the organization Power of Play and members of the Groundlings improv troupe, spoke about the benefits of improv. Daqri CEO Brian Mullins explained how Augmented Reality technology evolved from science fiction to actual science. David Cobb, senior creative director of Thinkwell, showcased innovations in location-based entertainment used in theme parks, museums, and pop up installations.
The last one specifically resonated with Campbell. “As an experience designer, I’m most excited about David Cobb’s [lecture]. The sorts of projects that Thinkwell works on are truly mind blowing examples of storytelling that unfold across many different platforms.”
To Cambell, participating in new experiences, like Human Rubiks, is the best way for adults to play.
“A good way to encourage mental play is by going to interesting events and gatherings outside of your typical comfort zone,” he said. “When you take away the preconceived notion that if you’re not an expert, then you’re not good enough to be a part of something, you can just have fun in a new space.”