Of all the things Games to Gather has done none are as exciting for me as The Big Feel.

What is the Big Feel?

The Big Feel is our (first!) annual festival for the exploration of evocative play. Let me unpack that a bit.

By evocative play I mean games that carry emotional impact for the players, spur awareness on a given subject, and/or cultivate empathy regarding a given experience. Games that do this are dubbed engagist (in contrast to escapist) and play focuses on the enrichment, rather than the entertainment, of the players. This is not to say that engagist games aren’t also entertaining, or that you are “doing it wrong” if you are entertained, but that entertainment itself just isn’t really the point. Some engagist games are bitter, others are challenging, and others still are heart warming and jovial. In order for play to be evocative engagist games look into real social issues and human experiences instead of away from them. Evocative play engages with those issues instead of escaping from them.

By exploration I mean that we are not only playing games, but we are also talking about our experiences playing these games, and discussing how these games do what they do. We will be examining their inner workings in an effort to inspire a new generation of engagist games and develop more effective practices for pursuing evocative play.

What’s the big deal?

To the best of our knowledg, nobody has ever put on an festival for evocative play before. However, there are a growing number of people interested in these kinds of game and their play. Unfortunately, much of the mainstream gaming industry still discredits engagist games and evocative play, perpetuating attitudes that such games are “taboo” or “in poor taste.”

The Big Feel is here to stand firmly against that dialog, and prove to everyone that this kind of play has real value.

One of the most critical features of evocative play is that it has the power to make a positive impact in the lives of the players, and by extension, their community. As we like to say, imagining a better world is the first step to making a better world, and at the Big Feel we aim to do exactly that.

How’s it gonna work?

The Big Feel is spread out over several days to provide ample time for reflection and discussion about the play experiences we have that weekend. The event will be divided up into slots of two to four hours for scheduling games and discussions. Participants will sign up the day of for different activities in each of the different slots.

Additionally, all participants will have an “Opt In” and an “Opt Out” to be used ahead of time. This will allow participants to get in their must-play game of choice and, if they choose, to avoid a particular game for whatever reasons. This is one of many measures for ensuring the safety and comfort of all participants when playing intense games with people they may not know very well.

We are also going to have other measures in place in order to establish and maintain safety and comfort. However, part of the purpose of this event is to get the community together and consider what “social technology” we need in order to delve into evocative play appropriately. Let’s face it: those tools don’t exist yet because nobody has done anything like this before.

We hope that our conduct agreement goes a long way towards creating a suitable play environment.

What else do I need to know?

We will have meals on site for the whole event. We are keeping the cost of food way down so that people of any financial stature will be able to comfortably partake in the food available. It won’t be fancy, but it will be cheap, on site, and with all of your new friends! We will have vegan and gluten free options available as well.

We are still in the process of determining which games will be played during the event. Expect more information to roll in a few weeks before the event.

Portland Abbey Arts has their own code of conduct for using their space. This basically boils down to “don’t make a ruckus outside” and “clean up after yourself,” but we will have their updated rules visible and accessible the day of.

I’ve never played a game like that before.

If that’s the case, then the Big Feel is for you! We really want to expose more people to this kind of game and play. But if you are looking to maybe try something out before you dive into the whole festival, you should check out Games for the Human Heart.



Portland Abbey Arts

7600 N Hereford Ave, Portland, OR 97203

(503) 412-8899


Thursday 1/8

5:30pm Group Dinner
7:00pm Game Slot

Friday 1/9

5:30pm Group Dinner
7:00pm Game Slot

Saturday 1/10

9:00am Group Breakfast
10:00am Discussions/Small Games
12:00pm Group Lunch
1:00pm Game Slot
5:00pm Discussions
6:00pm Group Dinner
7:00pm Game Slot

Sunday 1/11

10:00am Group Breakfast Location TBD


All Weekend, All Meals: $25
All Weekend, Games Only: $18
Thursday Game Only: $5
Thursday Game and Meal: $8
Friday Game Only: $5
Friday Game and Meal: $8
Saturday Games Only: $12
Saturday Games and Meals: $15

The Sunday Breakfast is NOT included in your admission. Attendance is free, but you will pay for your own bill.

Tickets are available here. You can pay at the door or in advance, but it is very helpful if you pay in advance. If entry cost would be a burden for you, all you have to do is write us at and tell us about it. We can go from there. Along those lines, you are more than welcome to help pay somebody else’s way by chipping in a little extra.

Who do I talk to?

If you have questions about anything, please feel free to send me an email at This event is one of my projects, and I really want to see everybody have a good and influential time!


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