Recess! 11 – Restate My Assumptions

Recess! is a correspondence series with personal ruminations on games.

Dear Alper and Niels,

My apologies, I fell off the Recess! horse there for a minute. But I’m back in the saddle. Let’s see, what were we talking about again?

Alper obsessively played Ultratron for a while, got bored, stopped and felt guilty for spending 11 hours on it.

Niels helped make Toki Tori 2, got all conflicted about his feelings for the game and went on about how elegantly its world conveys his story.

Sigh. I hope you’ll both excuse me while I don my schoolmaster’s cap and proceed to school you.

It’s telling Alper feels Moves offers more meaningful play than Ultratron. He’s stuck in what Sutton-Smith calls ‘the rhetorics of animal progress’. The idea that play is only meaningful when it contributes to ‘individual development and group culture’. Alper, you should lighten up and maybe submit to the rhetoric of frivolity. Put simply, you should allow yourself to play the fool. Because “unlike the rest of us, who are all losers in most of the conventional senses, and most surely in the mortal sense, the fool transcends triviality.”

Niels, on the other hand, should do himself a favor and read Remediation because he seems to think ‘immediacy’ is the holy grail of media. The medium should disappear, it should not get in the way of the audience’s experience of the message. Well Niels, I have news for you: immediacy is only one possible media mode and its drawbacks are considerable. Most importantly, it precludes critical engagement of an audience with a medium’s message. Hypermediacy, on the other hand, foregrounds the workings of media. It foregoes ‘immersion’ and ‘seamlesness’ in favor of bricolage and seamfulness (PDF). In doing so, it allows for active audience engagement. Don’t you wish that for your stories?

In short, let’s restate our assumptions. I’ll go first:

  1. Play can be meaningful and useless at the same time.
  2. Games can tell stories without being immersive.


Playing With Complexity — slides and notes for my NLGD Festival of Games talk

When the NLGD Foundation invited me to speak at their anual Festival of Games I asked them what they would like me to discuss. “Anything you like,” was what they said, essentially. I decided to submit an abstract dealing with data visualization. I had been paying more and more attention to this field, but was unsuccessful in relating it the other themes running through my work, most notably play. So I thought I’d force myself to tackle this issue by promising to speak about it. Often a good strategy, I’ve found. If it worked out this time I leave for you to judge.

In brief, in the presentation I argue two things: one — that the more sophisticated applications of interactive data visualization resemble games and toys in many ways, and two — that game design can contribute to the solutions to several design issues I have detected in the field of data visualization.

Below are the notes for the talk, slightly edited, and with references included. The full deck of slides, which includes credits for all the images used, is up on SlideShare.

Hello everyone, my name is Kars Alfrink. I am a Dutch interaction designer and I work freelance. At the moment I work in Copenhagen, but pretty soon I will be back here in Utrecht, my lovely hometown.

In my work I focus on three areas: mobility, social interactions, and play. Here is an example of my work: These are storyboards that explore possible applications of multitouch technology in a gated community. Using these technologies I tried to compensate for the negative effects a gated community has on the build-up of social capital. I also tried to balance ‘being-in-the-screen’ with ‘being-in-the-world’ — multitouch technologies tend to be very attention-absorbing, but in built environments this is often not desirable.1

I am not going to talk about multitouch though. Today’s topic is data visualization and what opportunities there are for game designers in that field. My talk is roughly divided in three parts. First, I will briefly describe what I think data visualization is. Next, I will look at some applications beyond the very obvious. Third and last, I will discuss some design issues involved with data visualization. For each of these issues, I will show how game design can contribute.

Right, let’s get started.

Continue reading Playing With Complexity — slides and notes for my NLGD Festival of Games talk

  1. For more background on this project please see this older blog post. More examples of my recent work can be found in my portfolio. []