Melbourne Game Designers Create a Bizarre New Sport

Push Me Pull You stretches the imagination around a twisting, slithering game of snatch ball.

Whoever thought a game could be this disgusting and fun? The stomach churning combatants in the forthcoming Push Me Pull You are a peculiar if not a genius mashup of “internal organs meet American Gladiators.”

On screen, a pair of soft, squishy parasites are competing in what seems to be an intestinal version of jousting.

The object of the game is basically to hold the ball on your side of the court for longer than the other team, but the way the creatures can elongate and contract their bodies — stretching out with wormlike pliability, then getting knotted up in mildly nauseating fashion — is what makes it not only creepy, but also satisfying on a strategic level.

Tech news site Ars Technica put Push Me Pull You in its indie showcase of 30 games to watch in 2014.

“Push Me Pull You stands out as the best — and certainly weirdest — in the [couch sport] genre’s newest wave,” wrote Sam Machkovech of Ars Technica.


Beyond its obvious gross-out visual qualities, Push Me Pull You shows how video games can take the physical requirements of a familiar sport and contort them into all kinds of humanly impossible new pretzel-shapes.

“When we first showed the game to people, I was always shocked at how gross they found it,” said Jake Strasser, one of the game’s four designers from Down Under.

“We were totally blind to it.”

The team behind Push Me Pull You consists of four people: two roommates, plus two friends who visit so often that they may as well be roommates.

The self-proclaimed “cooperative sumo-soccer” met at parties in Melbourne, a city of four million people, where almost every art-interested 20-something knows one another, according to the team. It was on a lark that they set out to invent their own competitive sport videogame.

Inspired by the rules of soccer and sumo wrestling, the game began to take shape when Stuart Gillespie-Cook, the game’s third designer, drew a picture of a flexible little character that resembled a bratwurst sausage fitted with the face of an annoyed person on each end.


“We had some other ideas, like a pair of bugs with a net stretched between them, but when we saw this, we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s perfect!’” says Nico Disseldorp, the final designer on the project.

One of their favorite moves in the game is called carouseling.

“It’s when you wrap the ball up in a big loop, and one player shrinks as the other grows so you become an almost endless spinning carousel,” explained Strasser.

Like all sports, the game breeds its own contagious game jargon, with plays like “carney-ing” and “getting in a snail,” which more or less looks like it sounds. That’s the inner beauty of these weird, elastic bodies.

“The game paints its playbook visually,” says Disseldorp. “It becomes this visual language for strategy.”

For all its abstract whorls of tan and brown, Push Me Pull You is not nearly as complicated as sports like football or hockey, “which have a hundred years of context to them,” they said, one guy’s words running into the next.

They are eager to see how their strange beast will fly after they release it into the wild.

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“I’d like to know what competitive play for our game looks like in five years, even if it’s egotistical to think anyone is going to be playing it in five years,” says McMaster.

By then there could be a whole different horrible approach to stretching.

One thing’s for certain, though. It will still look ghastly.


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