Week 173

At the stu­dio, cof­fee brew­ing in the french press, El Guin­cho on the stereo. Last week I felt over­whelmed, this week I just feel aller­gic. Lit­er­al­ly. I have a head full of anti­his­t­a­mines, hope they kick in soon.

One thing I decid­ed to do about the over­whelm­ing bit is block out more time in my cal­en­dar for work. Not say­ing how much, but I already had some time blocked for a while now, and I have dou­bled that. It just won’t do to have hard­ly any time to do actu­al design. I guess I’ll just need to to talk to few­er peo­ple. If you do not push back, it is easy to lose all your time to meet-ups. Peo­ple are reck­less in the ease with which they impose on other’s time. Myself includ­ed.1

We played a card game last night at the stu­dio. An insight I’ve had after review­ing the past peri­od with my interns. To become bet­ter design­ers, we need to make a lot of games, this is true.2 But it also helps to play games, many games, of any kind. So we’ll set apart an hour or so each week and we’ll play a game that some­one brings in. I kicked it off with Domin­ion, which is inter­est­ing for the way it has built upon trad­ing-card-game deck-build­ing mechan­ics, like Mag­ic the Gath­er­ing. In stead of it being some­thing that hap­pens before a game it takes place in par­al­lel to the game.

What else is of note? Ah yes. I attend­ed Design by Fire 2010 on Wednes­day. It is still the best con­fer­ence on inter­ac­tion design in the Nether­lands. And I real­ly appre­ci­ate the fact that the orga­niz­ers con­tin­ue to take risks with who they put on stage. Too often do I feel like being part or at least spec­ta­tor of some clique at events, with all speak­ers know­ing each oth­er and com­ing from more or less the same “school of thought”. Not so with Design by Fire. High­lights includ­ed David McCan­d­less, Andrei Herasim­chuk, m’colleague Ianus and of course Bill Bux­ton.

The lat­ter also remind­ed me of some use­ful frames of thought for next Tues­day, when I will need to spend around half an hour talk­ing about the future of games, from a design per­spec­tive, at an invi­ta­tion-only think-tank like ses­sion orga­nized by STT.3 The orga­niz­ers asked me to set an ambi­tion time frame, but as you may know I have a very hard time imag­in­ing any future beyond say, the next year or two. (And some­times I also have trou­ble being hope­ful about it.) But as Mr. Bux­ton points out, ideas need a ges­ta­tion peri­od of around 20 years before they are ready for prime­time, so I am plan­ning to look back some ten years, see what occu­pied the games world back then, and use that as a jump­ing off point for what­ev­er I’ll be talk­ing about. Let’s get start­ed on that now.

  1. Mule Design had an inter­est­ing post on this. Part of the prob­lem is peo­ple, but part also soft­ware, accord­ing to them. Imag­ine a cal­en­dar you sub­tract time from in stead of add to. []
  2. Tom wrote a won­der­ful post on games lit­er­a­cy. []
  3. The Nether­lands Study Cen­tre for Tech­nol­o­gy Trends. []

Week 171 & 172

I have a lot on my plate at the moment. A bit too much it seems. So it’s a good thing I got to wrap up a few things in the past two weeks…

Most notably Maguro, for which we pre­sent­ed our design to the client last wednes­day. We gave away quite a show, includ­ing music and spo­ken word per­for­mances. The whole thing was well-received.

Anoth­er deliv­ery of a kind was This hap­pened – Utrecht #7. Nev­er before did it take us so long to com­plete our speak­er line­up. It’s an expe­ri­ence I would like to pre­vent in future, but we couldn’t real­ly help it. As a result, I had very few expec­ta­tions about this par­tic­u­lar one, but it turned out great. We even man­aged to try out a few new things. A new clock, and a new “badge” (actu­al­ly a but­ton). Good stuff. Some nice reports have been writ­ten about it, too.

More deliv­er­ies, at the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val we had a good run with PLAY Pilots live game num­ber two: De Stere­oscoop by Zes­baans. We man­aged to get some nice pub­lic­i­ty, we had it set up at the clos­ing par­ty and lots of peo­ple played on it. Good stuff.

Apart from this I have been busy find­ing projects for Twee­t­akt 2011’s inter­ac­tive pro­gram, and man­ag­ing the Pam­pus group project at the HKU.1 My interns at Hub­bub are also plug­ging away at the Learn­ing Lab games, they deliv­ered their sec­ond one last week.

Good grief. No won­der I was a lit­tle sick and had to take a day off yes­ter­day. I’m hop­ing to take a it a lit­tle bit eas­i­er the com­ing peri­od. No idea how, though. Any ideas?

  1. The group is blog­ging, too, by the way. []

Week 170

Time is short (as seems most­ly the case these days) so a quick run­down of what hap­pened this week:

A promise a bit more reflec­tion on next week’s events.

Week 169

Fiona Raby once told me that the major­i­ty of her work with stu­dents at the RCA was about psy­chol­o­gy. After a week like this, I can see where she’s com­ing from. With­out going into too much detail, I had my work cut out for me with a new group of stu­dents who I will be work­ing with on a design research project at the HKU. After a first meet­ing with the team and a kick-off with the client the next day, it became clear I was deal­ing with a group with some seri­ous moti­va­tion­al issues. The trick was to fig­ure out where it all was com­ing from. To do this it was vital to try and see things as they real­ly are in stead of as they were pre­sent­ed to me by the group. After sev­er­al addi­tion­al ses­sions (mess­ing with my sched­ule but that comes with the ter­ri­to­ry) I had it fig­ured out more or less and have for­mu­lat­ed a plan to deal with it. Psy­chol­o­gy.

In between all that crazi­ness my week con­sist­ed of:

  • Work­ing with my two new interns at Hub­bub. We reflect­ed on their expe­ri­ences at the Nat­ur­al Net­work­ing Fes­ti­val and pre­sent­ed a post-mortem of the first game to Thieu after attend­ing one of the Learn­ing Lab mee­tups.
  • Sketch­ing out addi­tions to the PLAY Pilots web­site nec­es­sary to sup­port the Zes­baans instal­la­tion for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val. These will launch next week in time for the installation’s unveil­ing on Thurs­day.
  • Pre­sent­ing my pre­lim­i­nary list of inter­ac­tive works suit­able for next year’s Twee­t­akt fes­ti­val. This is my first time curat­ing an event oth­er than This hap­pened. I am keen to mash up play­ful inter­ac­tion design with the fringes of game design and it seems Twee­t­akt are up for it too. Hap­py days.
  • Anoth­er full day of work on Maguro. Best part of which was a few qui­et hours to bang out a first playable paper pro­to­type of the game. Con­ver­gence is a bitch but always reward­ing when it hap­pens.
  • Today, I hung out at BUROPONY and took care of a few odds and ends for their web­site. In return work has start­ed on a last bit of Hub­bub cor­po­rate iden­ti­ty: a design for the box to hold our busi­ness-slash-col­lectible play­ing cards.

And with that I am sign­ing off. A train is tak­ing me from Rot­ter­dam to Utrecht, per­haps I will be in time to catch the tail end of fri­day drinks at the Dutch Game Gar­den. Nev­er a dull moment there.

Week 168

So, I got back from a one-week hol­i­day on Ter­schelling last week­end (which was love­ly, by the way) and imme­di­ate­ly dove into work again. So much to do at the moment, it’s a chal­lenge not to get swamped. Any­way. And it is one of those weeks where I need to look back on my cal­en­dar just to remem­ber what has been going on…

Most notably, two interns have start­ed at Hub­bub. They are work­ing on games for the sec­ond install­ment of the Learn­ing Lab, an exper­i­men­tal edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram cre­at­ed by Riv­er Insti­tute, which will be run­ning at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ams­ter­dam the com­ing months. Their first assign­ment is to design a game that will be played by Learn­ing Lab par­tic­i­pants (who are called “pio­neers”) today and tomor­row at the Nat­ur­al Net­work­ing Fes­ti­val. It is nice to have these guys on board. This week I reg­u­lar­ly sat down with them to review their plans but aside from this they are incred­i­bly self-steer­ing. They’ll be blog­ging about their exploits on the Hub­bub blog soon.

Also, I had a full day of work on Maguro yes­ter­day. We spent the whole day at the client’s office (a large gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion which I can’t name at the moment). The morn­ing was tak­en up by short pre­sen­ta­tions from the side of us, the design team. We also had the chance to talk to a selec­tion of peo­ple from our tar­get audi­ence and get a tour of their work envi­ron­ment. In the after­noon we sat down to brain­storm con­cepts, and came up with some inter­est­ing ones. I enjoyed get­ting a chance to see this orga­ni­za­tion from the inside, which due to to the sen­si­tive nature of their work is a lit­tle secre­tive. We decid­ed to use part of the workshop’s pro­gram to try out some mechan­ics that we might be using in the game, with­out the audi­ence being aware of it. That lead to some inter­est­ing results.

This week is book­end­ed by meet­ings for project Ika. This project is run from the still very new Design for Play­ful Impact research group at the HKU. On mon­day I spent some time with the peo­ple lead­ing the oth­er projects to get a gen­er­al sense of the pro­gram. Today I’ll be meet­ing up with the client for the first time.

And in between I’ve been doing more work on PLAY Pilots. I dropped by Zes­baans to check out an ear­ly ver­sion of their instal­la­tion for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val, which is called The Stere­o­scope and is this kind of toy-like VJ-ing tool loaded with frag­ments from Dutch films from the past 30 years. Awe­some, awe­some, stuff. It’s already fun to play with, even though the cus­tom-built con­sole is yet to be fin­ished and the game mechan­ics haven’t been imple­ment­ed yet.

And final­ly, in oth­er news: we announced the next This hap­pened — Utrecht, and I uploaded a selec­tion of pho­tos from the Boc­ce Drift game Hub­bub ran a few weeks ago.

Week 166

This week was all about fran­ti­cal­ly get­ting things sort­ed so that I can com­plete­ly dis­con­nect for a week on start­ing fri­day (tomor­row).

  • Putting up the scaf­fold­ing for project Fugu; a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Riv­er Insti­tute on an exper­i­ment in high­er edu­ca­tion at the UvA. Hub­bub will be design­ing some ARG-ish addi­tions to its pro­gram. I am bring­ing on board two interns to work with me on this. I’ll have them intro­duce them­selves at the Hub­bub blog soon.
  • Final exams at the HKU which is best described as a roller-coast­er ride of drain­ing and exhil­a­rat­ing moments. I judged the work of 10 inter­ac­tion design and game design stu­dents, includ­ing those I coached myself. Some were very good. There is a show at the fac­ul­ty on sep­tem­ber 10 & 11 called EJECT.
  • Had some meet­ings about yet anoth­er project which I have decid­ed to code­name Ika. This is a mix of me coach­ing a group of HKU stu­dents and doing design research in the cul­tur­al her­itage domain. A hybrid edu­ca­tion­al mod­el.
  • Var­i­ous man­age­ment-type activ­i­ties for PLAY Pilots. Most­ly aimed at help­ing the Zes­baans / NFF pilot make it into the world and get­ting the Wip ‘n’ Kip addi­tions for the site up.
  • This after­noon we’ll kick off project Maguro which is about using per­va­sive games for inter­nal train­ing pur­pos­es at a gov­ern­ment agency.
  • Tomor­row at 12:15 I will get on this boat to this island and will be very hard to reach for a week. I plan to do a lot of read­ing, cycling and walk­ing and not much else. Well, sleep­ing prob­a­bly. Lots of that too.

So, don’t expect any notes for week 167. I’ll be back to report on #168.

Week 165

So week 165. One of those old-fash­ioned frag­ment­ed weeks that reminds me of why I decid­ed a while ago that I should stop hav­ing more than two meet­ings on one day. Any­way.

Fol­low­ing the week­end of Stekker Fest crazi­ness I had a bit of an off day on Mon­day. Tues­day I sat down with Ianus and Alexan­der to make plans for the next This hap­pened — Utrecht. We’ve had a bit of trou­ble find­ing a venue, get­ting financ­ing and every­thing but it looks like we’re all set. Mon­day 4 Octo­ber at The­ater Kikker in Utrecht, NL. Save the date.

From Ams­ter­dam I trav­eled on to Rot­ter­dam and spent some time at Simon’s sketch­ing out the addi­tions to PLAY Pilots for the Wip ‘n’ Kip game data. I also dropped by BUROPONY. They might make some­thing cool for This hap­pened atten­dees…

Wednes­day I had cof­fee with Thieu and Godelieve at the West­er­gas­fab­riek in Ams­ter­dam to talk about a new project which I’ve dubbed Fugu. It deals with exper­i­men­tal (game-like) new forms of high­er edu­ca­tion. I am tak­ing on board two interns to help me out with that. That’ll be an inter­est­ing new expe­ri­ence. I also hooked up with Peter, who is now at Adap­tive Path Ams­ter­dam. Cool build­ing, they seem to be doing well. Nice.

In the after­noon on Wednes­day I was back in Utrecht to talk to Ezra, who is involved with some inter­est­ing research into cycling. He’s based in Copen­hagen. We dis­cussed ways in which we might use low-tech per­va­sive urban games to shape cycle use. Who knows, Hub­bub might ven­ture there to do some exper­i­ments in future.

I fin­ished that day off with a review of a stu­dent pre­sen­ta­tion. Final exams is next week; that’ll eat up a lot of my time.

Ah what’s more? Thurs­day, more edu­ca­tion­al work, I attend­ed a kick-off of the new aca­d­e­m­ic year at the HKU’s school of art and tech­nol­o­gy. I liked the fact that all teach­ers were there and sat down to sync their class­es and assign­ments in such a way that they all con­nect­ed to projects stu­dents would be doing. Prop­er project-based art edu­ca­tion. Good to see that hap­pen.

And today I am review­ing one more stu­dent pre­sen­ta­tion and am spend­ing some time with Alper on PLAY Pilots and relat­ed bits.

Look­ing ahead, next week will be about the afore­men­tioned final exams and also the kick-off of project Maguro. I have to say I am run­ning on fumes a bit and can’t wait for next week because on fri­day I will head to Ter­schelling for a week and unplug com­plete­ly.

Almost for­got about Boc­ce Drift this Sun­day. Come along and play.

Week 164

I am sat at the stu­dio while around me Fource­Labs are putting the final touch­es to their instal­la­tion for Stekker Fest. I’ll be there tomor­row to hand out but­tons to play­ers. It’s the first in a series of three play­ful addi­tions to three fes­ti­vals that I am over­see­ing — first called project Ebi and now com­mon­ly known as PLAY Pilots. As such I can’t wait to see the response of play­ers. On the oth­er hand, I am sure it’ll be great.

The next project in the PLAY Pilots series is by Zes­baans for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val. I had a few more meet­ings about that one as well, most­ly about get­ting some pro­duc­tion­al stuff sort­ed. It turns out get­ting big screens for a long peri­od of time is kind of expen­sive. Your learn some­thing every­day.

Last week we launched a first ver­sion of the PLAY Pilots web­site, which includes an online game. This week we’ve start­ed rolling out the first improve­ments. I have been plan­ning some changes and addi­tions to the rule­set. We’ve also start­ed work on pulling in the Wip ‘n’ Kip game data.

Apart from this, I have been doing some prepa­ra­tion for new projects; code­named Uni, Maguro and Fugu. More on those as things devel­op.

Week 162

Slight­ly over­due so I’ll keep it (very) short.