Pop City Media speaks to Adam Nelson of the City of Play

Pop City Media features a profile of Adam Nelson of City of Play, discussing the history of his organization and the City of Play Festival this weekend.

Adam Nelson is the brains behind the City of Play Festival, happening this Saturday, August 31st here in Pittsburgh. Pop City Media spoke to him this week, learning more about the man who is bringing gaming to adults through his City of Play organization. We’re happy to share part of the story here.

Before we get to The Best New Games in the World, meet Adam Nelson.

He’s a trim 26-year-old, an East Liberty resident, a designer and entrepreneur, and he looks remarkably like Christian Bale. Four years ago, Nelson decided to get serious about games. He had always enjoyed games, and he particularly enjoyed working as a camp counselor at Exploration Summer Program, a camp in Massachusetts, where games were part of the job. He decided, in a flash of inspiration, that adults should have a chance to play as well. Not Angry Birds. Not amateur Rugby. Just games.

Four years after he founded Obscure Games, an informal club for such oddities as Circle Rules Football and Human Curling, Nelson has become confident in his mission—to help people have fun. A Seed Grant from the Sprout Fund helped kick off Obscure Games, but what began as a friendly pastime has become a profound exercise in community building.

“The more we did fun stuff in the city, the more we saw that it was a valuable thing,” says Nelson. A year ago, Nelson renamed his organization “City of Play” and rewrote its mission statement. Obscure Games continues to be played every week, and the activities are still free and open to the public, but Nelson believes that City of Play “is on a mission to make the city a better place to live.”

Hence, for example, the City Spree, a 5K “race” that took place last May. Unlike a traditional race, the Spree had no particular course. Instead, Nelson and a handful of friends established “checkpoints” in less-visited neighborhoods, and participants were encouraged to run to them by whatever route they preferred. The point was not to finish first, or to beat a personal record, but to encourage exercise and explore unpopular streets.

“We wanted to showcase the neighborhoods as they truly are, and we wanted to use a game to get people to go to a place they wouldn’t go to normally,” Nelson explains. “And it worked great.”

For more, including information on this weekend’s City of Play Festival, check out the full article on Pop City Media. City of Play is an organization that (re)teaches adults how to play games and how to learn from them and their festival convenes this weekend.

Published August 28, 2013