When the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor wanted to plan a Minecraft computer game competition for tweens and teens, theater staff went straight to the source for help -- two 14-year-old gamers from the East End will run Sunday's faceoff, which Bay Street hopes will also draw spectators.
Eighth-graders Mason Cohen of Sag Harbor and Miller Croke of Southampton have constructed a Minecraft battle specifically for the new, two-hour event, modeled after CBS' "The Amazing Race," a reality TV show in which competitors follow instructions to complete challenges. Ten competitors have already been chosen -- they were the first 10 who signed up to participate -- and are slated to complete the virtual tasks beginning at 2 p.m. Their contest will be broadcast on the theater's big screen, usually used to show movies in the 299-seat venue.
"Being able to see yourself move around on the big screen, that's really cool," Mason says. As for spectators, he says, "you can cheer on your favorite player."
The idea for the competition grew from the professional theater's Community Connections Council, formed to explore ways Bay Street could meet unfilled community needs, says Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street executive director. "One of the things that kept coming up over and over again was programming for kids and teens, especially during long, hard winters," Mitchell says. The theater is asking for a suggested donation of $10 from players and spectators.
Mitchell says she hopes parents will attend the competition as well to learn about the wildly popular game their kids have been playing on the computer -- Minecraft has sold around 19 million copies. Minecraft looks like a continuation of Lego play; kids build 3-D screen worlds using blocks to construct buildings, amusement parks, whatever they can imagine. "I was so uninformed I thought it was called Mindcraft -- M-I-N-D . . . I didn't even have the title right," Mitchell says.
HOW IT WILL WORK
The 10 players, all at least 11 years old, will each bring a laptop. They will play as their online persona, or avatar. (Miller's avatar, for instance, is called FauxCraft and is a fox dressed in a suit.) The players will race simultaneously to complete nonviolent tasks in an online obstacle course, Mason says.
Mason, Miller and Mitchell will all be emceeing the race; Mitchell will have a microphone.
Players will have to accomplish some Minecraft-based tasks -- no spoilers here, but, Mason assures, "This is where the Minecraft skill and knowledge comes in." They'll also be faced with fun challenges such as riding over a harbor on a zip line and having to dig up a carrot from a garden, run over to a bunny and feed it the carrot. Mason and Miller have contemplated all scenarios -- for instance, they have made the bunny "invincible," which means no player can try to kill off the bunny to prevent other racers from advancing. The winner will get bragging rights.
Mason has run two virtual Minecraft competitions before for Macaroni Kids, a network of 550 hyperlocal websites for families nationwide that was founded and is run by his mother, Joyce Shulman. Shulman is on the community committee and suggested that such an event be done live at the theater.
Because this is the first time the theater is hosting the event, the staff is considering it a "beta test," Mitchell says.
Miller says he's confident kids, who are used to watching Minecraft players demonstrate their game play in YouTube videos and live feeds, will also embrace watching a competition in person in Sag Harbor.
"If you provide interesting new content, as long as it's original and funny and there's some aspect that makes people want to watch it, you can get views," Miller says. "It's almost like watching a TV show; you're excited to see who is going to win."
If the event goes well, the theater hopes to run a series of the competitions next fall and winter, Mitchell says. It's part of the theater's effort to expand the Sag Harbor Center for the Arts arm of Bay Street.
WHEN | WHERE 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Bay Street Theater, corner of Bay and Main streets, Sag Harbor
INFO $10 suggested donation per person; 631-725-9500, baystreet.org