It is spring.

A high-density housing estate is apparent, bordered by a railway and a river ...

spring_alpha is a speculative game project set in an industrialised council estate whose inhabitants are attempting to create their own autonomous society in contrast to that of the regime in which they live. The game serves as a "sketch pad" for testing out alternative forms of social practice at both the "narrative" level, in terms of the game story, and at a "code" level, as players are able to re-write the code that runs the simulated world. The original narrative is based on a series of drawings by Chad McCail, "Spring" and "Evolution is Not Over yet", which also shape the game's visual style. The original stories and images become a framework that is fleshed-out by people's own ideas and experiences. The basic aim of the game is to change the rules by which the society in that world runs. This is done through hacking and altering the code that simulates that world, creating new types of behaviour and social interaction. How effective this becomes depends on the players' ability to spread these new ideas into the society.

In its name, the project combines the title of one of Chad's drawings with the term 'alpha', referring in part to sci-fi dystopia's such as 'Alphaville' but also derived from software development. 'Alpha' software are early proof-of-concept versions in which ideas are first formed. 'spring_alpha' is a game in permanent alpha state, always open to revision and re-versioning. Re-writing spring_alpha is not only an option available to coders however. Much of the focus of the project lies in using game development itself as a vehicle for social enquiry and speculation; the issues involved in re-designing the game draw parallels with those involved in re-thinking social structures.

Games For Hackers and Non-hackers

Presentation given at VIPER Festival, Basel, 2004: download PDF.


spring_alpha is a project by Simon Yuill.

Original Artwork:
Chad McCail
Development Team:
Ricardo Creemers
Stefan Gartner
Eleonora Oreggia
Simon Yuill
Sound Design:
Mark Vernon
Supported by:
British Council
Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow
Hope Scott Trust
Media-Centre, Huddersfield
Netherlands Media Art Institute
New Media Scotland
Piet Zwart Institute
Scottish Arts Council
University of Abertay

© 2004-2018 Simon Yuill, Chad McCail, spring_alpha project.