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Festival reminds grown-ups how to 'Come Out and Play'

Festival reminds grown-ups how to 'Come Out and Play'

Running down a busy Manhattan sidewalk, drawing funny looks from passers-by as his teammates wearing green T-shirts and feather headdresses brought up the rear in their quest for more water balloons, David Abrams felt entirely unlike himself.
"I feel about 12," the 30-year-old corporate lawyer said with a laugh as the game clock ticked down and he dashed for a chance to earn his team a few more points.
This weekend, Abrams and hundreds of other participants in the Come Out and Play street games festival gave their grown-up selves permission to engage in child's play.
From Friday through Sunday, the festival turned the city's streets into a game board of sorts, as people played mini golf on the sidewalks of the Lower East Side and launched a game similar to manhunt amid the crowds in a city park.
Some players descended into the city's subways for a game in which teams fought to "capture" the most train cars over the course of a ride. For another game, teams ran around Manhattan staging and photographing scenes from classic movies.
"New Yorkers are so insulated, and it's really awesome to have a game that brings people together who would never otherwise talk to each other," Lela Scott Macneil, one of Abrams' teammates, said as she filled water balloons in a public fountain in preparation for their game's final, drenching battle.
Besides, the 23-year-old said, the festival was a sort of therapy for her quarter-life crisis.
"We're forced to join the adult world and we're not really sure we want to," she said of her group of friends, all summoned by a mass e-mail to join in the games. "We want to remember that we have lots of life left and it's not all just 9-to-5 jobs."
Festival co-founder Nick Fortugno designs online games for a living, but he says the real-life event's community-building fills in a gap created by the digital gaming world.
"People don't want to simply have a digital experience with each other," he said. The festival draws an eclectic bunch of strangers, he said, from the event's primary audience of "hipsters and nerds," to families, academics and high-school students. All the games "reclaim public space," he said.
When the festival launched in 2006, it was largely a showcase for giant, street-scale versions of classic games like Pac-man and Checkers. But now, Fortugno said, the games have evolved into efforts that interact more fully with the urban environment and incorporate new technology.