Returning Fire

03 Feb 2013

It felt like a success. But how can I be sure?

Before Citydash:Storm, Fire Hazard's latest project, I spent some time working out exactly what I wanted to do, why, and how I'd tell if I succeeded. But the crucial extra step, part of the retrospective habit I've been developing, was to go back to those scribbles afterwards, on a grey Sunday afternoon, and see if it worked.

Start with the vision: "Winter's cold and darkness can create a vicious circle of depression and inactivity. Fire Hazard's energy can break the cycle."

Or, in the language of the apocalyptic themes that seem to have taken over the street gaming scene: "Keep moving or die."

Then the mission: "We're pumping energy into what can be a paralysing time of year, and raising cash for people who can't be there".

It's actually hard to tell if that worked. There's plenty of data to support the energy of the event; what I don't know is whether it had any effect beyond the day. I know that a lot of our players weren't runners, or even habitual exercisers, and I know that many of them want to play again; what I don't know is whether this will cause them to go and do their own thing in between Fire Hazard games.

Then the constraints and success criteria, taken verbatim from the original sketches:

  • "Everyone there has a really positive + energised time". Direct hit: we had 57 players arrive out of 62 signed up, and 56 were still there at the end of the game. The photos show everyone engaged. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. There's hard data here, metrics that can be tracked for the next game.

  • "We raise a stack of cash for Mind (£1k?)". Partial hit: we raised £569.

  • "Everyone in the crew wants to do it again". Partial hit: Guards had fun. I'm not sure I want to stay up until 00:30 with a laminator again.

  • "Gwyn plays as a runner (can also MC, but must run)". Hit. And it was awesome.

  • "Don't hate the planning / prep". Lucky hit.

  • "Prep in pubs, not online or alone". Miss. The game ended up following the standard Fire Hazard pattern of a pub meeting to generate ideas, but solo work to build the final design.

It's easy to lie to yourself, to retrospectively change your goals to match your achievements. This kind of review keeps you honest; in this case, it revealed that the organisation process of the event _failed_ to change, and that I should either take more dramatic action, or decide not to. It's also useful to note that the assumption that "we can take Winter on directly" still hasn't been tested, because on a sunny (albeit very cold) day, 90% turnout proves nothing.

But in this case, by and large, the data validates the feeling. This mission was to return fire, and I think we've got their range.

Time for a broadside.