Packet Garden captures information about how you use the internet and uses this stored information to grow a private world you can later explore.
Having successfully finished the last of my client work by the end of the week, it is now time to start packing. I’ll be vacationing in Asia for the next three weeks and will be back on April 7.
Those that follow me on Dopplr will already have an idea of my itinerary: Hong Kong, Java (Jakarta and Surabaya), Bali and probably Flores and Komodo. Kalimantan has sadly proven to be a bit too hard to get to on a budget.
This’ll be my third visit to Indonesia and as always I’m looking forward to it—what’s not to love about a country filled with friendly people, rich culture and awesome food?
Normal blogging service will resume when I return. See you on the other side!
Alexandra reports on This happened 3. Would love to attend one of these some day.
3 toys designed to augment children’s senses and change their relationship to the environment. Via Alexandra.
“…a family of large scale, modular play elements that children can use separately or together in any combination, creating a dynamic, exciting playscape, where they can have fun, explore and learn.” Via Alexandra.
A plant that Twitters when it needs water? Oh yes. The onslaught of blogjects continues.
‘Metagames’Richard Garfield’s presentation for the 2000 Game Developers Conferenceis in today’s links, but I think it deserves a bit more attention than that. Here are some quotes from the document that stood out for me.1
What a metagame is:
“My definition of metagame is broad. It is how a game interfaces with life.”
In other words, metagame design is contextual. It forces you to think about when, where, how and by who your game will be played.
Why metagame design has not been getting as much attention as game design itself:
“…the majority of a game’s metagame is probably unalterable by game designer or publisher.”
So, metagame design is a second order design problem. Designers can only indirectly influence how metagames play out. They facilitate it, but do not direct it.
Garfield divides metagames in four broad categories:
- What you bring to a game
- What you take away from a game
- What happens between games
- What happens during a game
Where “game” should be understood as a single play session of a game.
Garfield has interesting things to say about all these categories, and I recommend reading the article in full, but I’d like to zoom in on one bit mentioned under “from”:
“It is worth noting that many things listed have a ‘circular’ value to the player.”
Getting something from a game that you can bring with you again to a game makes you care more and more about the game itself. One clear example of how metagames are a helpful concept for making a game more self-sustaining.
“The bluff is the quintessential force of mobility.” Molly writes about German propaganda in WWII. More good stuff on her Ph.D. project site.
“In order to promote The Netherlands in Japan, The Dutch Embassy in Tokyo, The Dutch Game Garden and the NLGD Foundation are looking for Dutch game developers to create a mobile game for the Japanese market.” Might join in on this one…
Sponsored game that is actually fun to play for a change. Build a robot and fight with others in an arena. Some imaginative weapons such as a granny bag are included. Held my interest for a bit. Via Jacco.
An influential presentation by Richard Garfield (designer of Magic: The Gathering) for GDC 2000. “…metagame…is how a game interfaces with life.”
Alper posts on generative techniques in interaction design and I reply.
Merholz has been hearing the term transformative a lot lately. I chip in with “transformative play” as another use, besides “transformative experiences” and “transformative practice”.
“Many of the fascinating social and cultural changes transforming the media right now…are little more than reversions back to the ways things used to be before the 20th century.” Fahey on the anomaly that was the 20th century.
Visualization of bluetooth presence coupled to music tracks built on top of the RoomWare server.
“It’s the game life. And death.” My friend Hessel’s submission for the Gamma 256 games competition now has a proper home on the web.
According to Molly, architects hate Christopher Alexander’s guts. Along with a lot of other interaction designers I happen to think his book A Pattern Language is a wonderful resource. It has some interesting things to say about designing for emergence—or second order design—and also contains some patterns related to play. So following the example of Michal Migurski (and many other after him) I’ll blog some dog eared pages.
In the introduction Alexander encourages readers to trace their own path through the book. The idea is to pick a pattern that most closely fits the project you have in mind, and from there move through the book to other ‘smaller’ patterns. It won’t surprise frequent readers of this blog that my eye was immediately caught by the pattern ‘Adventure Playground’ (pattern number 73). Let’s look at the problem statement, on p.368:
“A castle, made of carton, rocks and old branches, by a group of children for themselves, is worth a thousand perfectly detailed, exactly finished castles, made for them in a factory.”
And on the following two pages (p.369–370), the proposed solution:
“Set up a playground for the children in each neighborhood. Not a highly finished playground, with asfalt and swings, but a place with raw materials of all kinds—nets, boxes, barrels, trees, ropes, simple tools, frames, grass, and water—where children can create and re-create playgrounds of their own.”
In the sections enclosed by these two quotes Alexander briefly explains how vital play is to the development of children. He states that neatly designed playgrounds limit children’s imagination. In the countryside, there is plenty of space for these adventure playgrounds to emerge without intervention, but in cities, they must be created.
I’m reminded of the rich range of playful activities teenagers engage in on Habbo Hotel, despite the lack of explicit support for them. At GDC 2008 Sulka Haro showed one example in particular that has stuck with me: Teens enacted a manege by having some of them dress up in brown outfits (the horses), and other standing next to them (the caretakers).
What would the online equivalent of an adventure playground look like? What are the “kinds of junk” we can provide for play (not only by children but by anyone who cares to play). In the physical world, what happens when connected junk enters the playground? Food for thought.
Adventure playground is a pattern “of that part of the language which defines a town or a community.” (p.3)
What I like the most about A Pattern Language is its almost fractal nature. Small patterns can be implemented by one individual or a group of individuals. These smaller ones flow into ever larger ones, etc. Alexander does not believe large scale patterns can be brought into existence through central planning (p.3):
“We believe that the patterns in this section [the largest scale patterns of towns] can be implemented best by piecemeal processes, where each project built or each planning decision made is sanctioned by the community according as it does or does not help to form certain large-scale patterns. We do not believe that these large patterns, which give so much structure to a town or of a neighborhood, can be created by centralized authority, or by laws, or by master plans. We believe instead that they can emerge gradually and organically, almost of their own accord, if every act of building, large or small, takes on the responsibility for gradually its small corner of the world to make these larger patterns appear there.”
So to build an adventure playground, you’ll need smaller-scale patterns, such as ‘bike paths and racks’ and ‘child caves’. Adventure playground itself is encapsulated by patterns such as ‘connected play’. It is all beautifully interconnected. On page xiii:
“In short, no pattern is an isolated entity. Each pattern can exist in the world, only to the extent that is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it. This is a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at the one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it.”
Wonderful. A solid description of second order design and another piece of the Playful IAs puzzle. The only way to know if something “does or does not help to form certain large-scale patterns” is by having a language like Alexander’s. The online equivalent of the largest scale patterns would be encompass more than just single sites, they would describe huge chunks of the internet.
In social software, in playful spaces, the large scale patterns cannot be designed directly, but you must be able to describe them accurately, and know how they connect to smaller scale patterns that you can design and build directly. Finally, you need to be aware of even larger scale patterns, that make up the online ecosystem, and play nicely with them (or if your agenda is to change them, consciously create productive friction).
A great book. I would recommend anyone with a passion for emergent design to buy it. As Adaptive Path say:
“This 1977 book is one of the best pieces of information design we’ve come across. The book’s presentation — the layout of each item of the language, the nodal navigation from item to item, the mix of text and image — is as inspiring as the topic itself.”
Interesting initiative headed by Aral Balkan: “Singularity is the first large-scale online web conference in the world.”
The Playyoo launch contest is over. Match the Blocks came in at 1st place and won the creator Samir $10,000. Nicely done. There are plenty of other nice games in the system though. I’m a fan of UFO Catcher at the moment.