EARLY on in the pandemic it was almost expected that artists and organisations would haul themselves on to the digital life raft, turning to Zoom and live streams for survival.
Back then audiences were forgiving of the clunkiness that came with any shoehorning, but in the time of Delta there is no longer an appetite for such consolation prizes. Tantrum Youth Arts recognise this and have responded with a refreshingly analogue new offering, a multiplayer card game.
Heist at the Museum has been developed over two terms of workshops by the Tantrum FleX Ensemble, a troupe of creative 13 to 17-year-olds. The game casts participants as museum security guards who live double lives after dark as art burglars. Using their intel players must outsmart the museum's elaborate - and often questionable - security systems, with the winner being the first to steal an artwork.
In April the group announced their intention to devise a live project to be staged at the Civic Theatre. That work was set to explore what it means to feel 'at home' in different spaces and the relationship between audiences and arts institutions. Once lockdown loomed the ensemble lived up to their malleable name.
"We pivoted to a board game for a few reasons," FleX Workshop coordinator Amy Morris says.
"It didn't involve staring at a screen and it also encourages people to come together at home. Plus, so many of the kids in the ensemble love board and card games."
Morris says that Tantrum's works have been moving further towards participatory experiences. She sees a card game as a logical extension. Players aren't just passive audience members and their interactions shape the experience.
Before lockdown, the troupe met to play several games in person. The group observed the range of gameplay experiences and identified what they liked most.
Social deduction emerged as a popular game mechanic and became a fundamental part of Heist at the Museum, with the collaborators enjoying the discussion, strategy and decision making.
Game designer Matthew Dunstan was Zoomed in for collaborations and the ensemble's extended families were summoned for thorough playtesting. With all the kinks now ironed out, comparisons have been made to Go Fish and Cluedo, as players are required to swap cards and keep track of who holds what.
For all the project's changes it has still managed to explore the accessibility of art, both within the gameplay and throughout the product's release. A PDF of the playing cards, illustrated by Ben Mitchell, will be uploaded to Tantrum's website to download.
Heist at the Museum is suitable for four to six players ages 12 and up. Tantrum Youth Arts will be taking limited pre-orders for a packaged version of the game on their website from October 15. A free print-at-home PDF of the game will be available at tantrum.org.au from October 29.