A bigger than life video game experience is taking shape in Denver, turning giant LED advertising screens into an interactive and immersive street arcade spanning two city blocks. It’s the hope of Oh Heck Yeah that the experience will unplug you from your smartphone and get you to play outside in the streets – just like back in the day.
“I think it’s really interesting that play really used to be a part of the street and for whatever reason it was completely sucked out and really thinking about how we put fences around our houses and we completely blocked each other out of this public life,” said Brian Corrigan, the creative strategist behind Oh Heck Yeah.
If you find yourself on Denver’s Champa Street, between 14th and 16th every Thursday and Saturday, you’ll see the main attraction of the festival: three giant interactive video games played on massive LED screens.
The biggest screen (60 feet wide and 25 feet tall) will play host to “Big Blue’s Hood Slam,” a game featuring one of the city’s biggest stars: the iconic blue bear at the Colorado Convention Center.
These are motion games on steroids. Up to four players can interact with the games using their bodies thanks to a Microsoft Kinect device that follows every foot shuffle and wave of the arm. Game designer Justin Gitlin said he had to make sure all the games were not just fun, but quick and easy to learn.
“We wanted to create magic for everybody and not exclude anybody,” Gitlin said. “So the games obviously had to be pretty easy to just stand right in front of, and understand and jump right in.”
9-year-old Aiden Laurie and his mother Rebecca of Denver were one of the first to play “Big Blue’s Hood Slam” at the grand opening of Oh Heck Yeah.
“Yeah, it was awesome,” gushed Aiden Laurie as his mom tried to catch her breath after a game.
“I am not a video game player, I’m more of a video game appreciator, but this was a lot of fun,” Rebecca Laurie said.
The code for the games, along with all of the artwork, and sound effects (specially created by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra) are available for free under a Creative Commons agreement in hopes that Oh Heck Yeah will continually be in creation by people across the country, and the world.
Corrigan says there’s an even loftier plan for Oh Heck Yeah than just having fun and playing video games on really big screens.
“Really the more we connected we are, we start to make the city more resilient,” Corrigan said. “We connect people into possible new economic opportunity, and all of those things start to contribute to making the streets safer.”
Oh Heck Yeah runs every Thursday and Saturday in Denver through July 26, 2014.