By Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
The two remaining contestants circle each other, each doing their best to protect the precious, glowing orb at the top of their PlayStation Move controllers. Matching the pace of the Johann Sebastian Bach sonata playing in the background, one of the players lunges, knocking his opponent’s arm just enough for the orb to flash red.
A cheer erupts. With that, one more winner of the curious game known as “Johann Sebastian Joust” is crowned.
This is a scene that will play out quite a bit at the “Rec Room: Winter Games” — an indoor game series taking over Spirit Hall in Lawrenceville this Sunday and on four other Sundays this winter.
The Winter Games hope to break the monotony and boredom associated with the cold season by providing a space for people to participate in a variety of unique games, competitions and activities. It’s a chance to get out of the house, socialize and unwind.
Rec Room is the brainchild of Weather Permitting and City of Play, two organizations with experience bringing fun-filled events to the Steel City.
Stephanie Brea, co-organizer at Weather Permitting, explained that the organization’s work started in summer 2013, when it first organized an outdoor concert series. Since then, Weather Permitting has expanded to encompass everything from a celebration of “The Big Lebowski” known as Pgh Abides to the upcoming Happy Burgh-Day, a celebration of Pittsburgh’s Bicentennial.
“Essentially, we are a group of folks who have ideas and then somehow make them happen,” she said.
After a short and successful series of Weather Permitting events last winter, Brea said they decided to try something new this time around by expanding both the number and structure of games offered. The goal is to get the body moving and the brain thinking.
That’s where City of Play’s expertise comes in handy. As the organization’s executive director Adam Nelson explained, its area of expertise is in creating “recreational opportunities for adults throughout the city.” In other words, City of Play is dedicated to making and organizing games.
Many of the games lined up for Rec Room are typically seen as yard games, or at the very least activites played in an outdoor setting. With the Winter Games, however, comes the chance to still have that summer barbeque-style atmosphere in the dead of winter — all in an indoor, heated setting.
“[The games are] active, they’re fun to play, but they’re not super strenuous,” Nelson said. “They don’t require high athletic ability. They’re really accessible to anybody.”
Expect to exercise your throwing skills with games such as Bucket Pong, which is exactly what it sounds like, and Molkky, a points-based game of knocking over wooden pins. The popular hammer-and-nail intensive yard game Stump will also be making an appearance.
Those wanting to break more of a sweat can join in on GaGa or Bally. The former is an Israeli dodgeball game played only from the waist down in an octagonal arena. The latter, as Nelson put it, is a “four-square game with nine squares, kind of like four-square meets dodgeball.”
The final piece of the party puzzle is a group of activities that stray a bit more to the side of innovation than gigantic Beer Pong. “Physical-digital hybrid games,” as Nelson described them, incorporate everything from computers to projections to LEDs. The aforementioned game, “Johann Sebastian Joust,” will be one of four offered this weekend. The others will incorporate elements of cooperative play, problem solving and even a bit of drawing.
Of course, if a break is needed from the action, Winter Games has plenty more to offer. While the series is open to all ages, SweetWater Brewing Company will be in attendance to provide refreshments for the 21 plus crowd.
A band and DJ will also be on hand to keep the mood where it needs to be. This coming Sunday, the featured DJ will be Miss Mungo, while André Costello and the Cool Minors will provide the live music.
Finally, as Brea pointed out, a large part of the Games will be to spectate, hang out and socialize. After all, the whole idea behind the “Rec Room” moniker was to conjure memories of family gatherings; throughout all of its events, Weather Permitting has overwhelmingly seen a sense of community flourish.
“This idea of a family dynamic and community is something that is important to us, and is one of the reasons we keep doing what we do,” Brea explained. “Drawing inspiration from one of the most traditional, iconic emblems of a family – the rec room or family room – was a natural extension.”
The Winter Games plan to run biweekly until late March, with events scheduled on Jan. 24, Feb. 7, Feb. 21, March 6 and March 20. Tickets cost $10 a pop, which seems like a much better deal than checking out the latest blockbuster.
When it comes down to it, the Winter Games are a chance to break out of the seasonal blues and have some fun at the same time.
“More than anything, people should be open to trying new things,” Brea said. “Be willing to look ridiculous in a room of folks who are also looking ridiculous; they should be ready to have fun and meet new people.”