A slightly sad post. Fire Hazard Games is shutting up shop, and I wanted to make my own permanent record of my time making games with them. I’ve worked for them in fits and starts since 2015, and honestly, I’m more gutted about the fact I won’t be doing so again that I have been about some of the full-time jobs I’ve been made redundant from.
It was Douglas that got me involved, in 2015 as part of their Shadows over Shoreditch game – they needed an MC, and their standards at that time amounted to “Loud voice, doesn’t mind making a bit of a tit of himself, can learn most of a script and improv the rest”, and I just about managed that. Their standards have improved since then, and they now hire professional actors for that kind of work, but I absolutely loved what they were doing from the first moment I got involved.
It’d be very easy to call my involvement with them bittersweet, because it was while crewing Shadows in 2015 that Douglas suffered his accident. Absolutely nothing to do with Fire Hazard, just a sad coincidence, and if I’d never worked for Fire Hazard again, it would 100% have been that bittersweet thing I looked back on.
But I’ve worked on five or six of their games since, over the years. I’m never going to forget wandering around the Russia Dock Woodland at night in a giant Cthulu mask, barely able to see, but able to scare the bejesus out of the players, for Shadows over Southwark, the more ambitious sequel game they did the following year. (The costume was quite a lot scarier coming at you in a darkened wood, I assure you…)
I did my longest continuous stretch of crewing on their game called Undercover, and after starting out in the simplest role, I think I played just about every part it was possible to play over many weekend, and was stage managing or MCing it more weekends than not at one point in it’s run. It was a superb bit of game design, that managed to involve a lot of direct player-vs-player competition that nonetheless could never really get mean spirited or confrontational, and I’d always wished it would run again one day.
Plus it involved one of the crew standing in Leicester Square in a giant bird costume. What’s not to love?
My own involvement tailed off a bit over the years – having a permanent day job meant that a lot of the games they produced didn’t run at times I could work on them, so I didn’t audition to join in. And let’s be honest: by that point, they did not need my dubious abilities in any case. But I loved doing what I could, when I could.
I’m doing a few nights of stage managing for them yet, on Jekyll and Hyde, arguably their most immersive and narratively ambitious effort to date – not a lot, just enough to be involved, and cover when their more regular stage managers might not be free. I’m very pleased I am, because it’s going to be their last show, and I’m glad to be able to say I was involved in it, and I’ve made a special point of booking to attend the last night of the run as a player. (Tickets are still available for most of the nights. Book. You won’t regret it.)
I’ve met amazing friends through it, I’ve had a huge amount of fun, and it’s had a huge impact on my thinking about how to use technology in games, and in how I approach running my own live games company. I’m sad that I’m not going to have their standard to measure up to in the future. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already thinking about producing my own variations on some of their tech for my own games, if I can, but it’s the way they approached empowering their crew (come to that: paying their crew – they were the first live-games company that I encountered that did that) that has made me determined to try to live up to the example they set.
I can’t thank, Gwyn, Amy, Michelle, Tony, Ziz, Sofia, and all the many other people I worked with, or who played the games we were making, for all the fun and games over the last 4 and a bit years. It’s been brilliant, and I’ll miss it terribly.