Urban procedural rhetorics — transcript of my TWAB 2008 talk

This is a tran­script of my pre­sen­ta­tion at The Web and Beyond 2008: Mobil­i­ty in Ams­ter­dam on 22 May. Since the major­i­ty of pay­ing atten­dees were local I pre­sent­ed in Dutch. How­ev­er, Eng­lish appears to be the lin­gua fran­ca of the inter­net, so here I offer a trans­la­tion. I have uploaded the slides to SlideShare and hope to be able to share a video record­ing of the whole thing soon.

Update: I have uploaded a video of the pre­sen­ta­tion to Vimeo. Many thanks to Almar van der Krogt for record­ing this.

In 1966 a num­ber of mem­bers of Pro­vo took to the streets of Ams­ter­dam car­ry­ing blank ban­ners. Pro­vo was a non­vi­o­lent anar­chist move­ment. They pri­mar­i­ly occu­pied them­selves with pro­vok­ing the author­i­ties in a “ludic” man­ner. Noth­ing was writ­ten on their ban­ners because the may­or of Ams­ter­dam had banned the slo­gans “free­dom of speech”, “democ­ra­cy” and “right to demon­strate”. Regard­less, the mem­bers were arrest­ed by police, show­ing that the author­i­ties did not respect their right to demon­strate.1

Good after­noon every­one, my name is Kars Alfrink, I’m a free­lance inter­ac­tion design­er. Today I’d like to talk about play in pub­lic space. I believe that with the arrival of ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing in the city new forms of play will be made pos­si­ble. The tech­nolo­gies we shape will be used for play wether we want to or not. As William Gib­son writes in Burn­ing Chrome:

…the street finds its own uses for things”

For exam­ple: Skate­board­ing as we now know it — with its empha­sis on aer­i­al acro­bat­ics — start­ed in emp­ty pools like this one. That was done with­out per­mis­sion, of course…

Only lat­er half-pipes, ramps, verts (which by the way is derived from ‘ver­ti­cal’) and skateparks arrived — areas where skate­board­ing is tol­er­at­ed. Skate­board­ing would not be what it is today with­out those first few emp­ty pools.2

Con­tin­ue read­ing Urban pro­ce­dur­al rhetorics — tran­script of my TWAB 2008 talk

  1. The web­site of Gram­schap con­tains a chronol­o­gy of the Pro­vo move­ment in Dutch. []
  2. For a vivid account of the emer­gence of the ver­ti­cal style of skate­board­ing see the doc­u­men­tary film Dog­town and Z‑Boys. []

Designing a mobile social gaming experience for Gen‑C

Update 21-03-2008: I’ve added some images of slides to allow for some more con­text when read­ing the text.

This is a rough tran­script of my lec­ture at GDC Mobile 2008. In short: I first briefly intro­duce the con­cept of expe­ri­ence design and sys­tems and then show how this influ­ences my views of mobile casu­al games. From there I dis­cuss the rela­tion of casu­al games with the trend Gen­er­a­tion C. Wrap­ping up, I give an overview of some social design frame­works for the web that are equal­ly applic­a­ble to mobile social gam­ing. As a bonus I give some thoughts on mobile game sys­tems mobile metagames. The talk is illus­trat­ed through­out with a case study of Playy­oo—a mobile games com­mu­ni­ty I helped design.

  • I’ve includ­ed a slight­ly adjust­ed ver­sion of the orig­i­nal slides—several screen­shot sequences of Playy­oo have been tak­en out for file size reasons.
  • If you absolute­ly must have audio, I’m told you will be able to pur­chase (!) a record­ing from GDC Radio some­time soon.
  • I’d like to thank every­one who came up to me after­wards for con­ver­sa­tion. I appre­ci­ate the feed­back I got from you.
  • Sev­er­al aspects of Playy­oo that I use as exam­ples (such as the game stream) were already in place before I was con­tract­ed. Cred­its for many design aspects of Playy­oo go to David Mantripp, Playy­oo’s chief architect.
  • And final­ly, the views expressed here are in many ways an amal­ga­ma­tion of work by oth­ers. Where pos­si­ble I’ve giv­en cred­it in the talk and oth­er­wise linked to relat­ed resources.

That’s all the notes and dis­claimers out of the way, read on for the juice (but be warned, this is pret­ty long).

Con­tin­ue read­ing Design­ing a mobile social gam­ing expe­ri­ence for Gen‑C

Game design is ‘just’ specialised interaction design

First of all my best wish­es to you for 2008. It’s been a bit qui­et around here lately—the last prop­er post was pub­lished Decem­ber 19. Shame on me. The usu­al apolo­gies apply: I’ve been busy doing work, but also spend some time catch­ing up with friends and fam­i­ly in the Nether­lands around the hol­i­days.

I was con­sid­er­ing doing the tra­di­tion­al look back at 2007 and per­haps post some res­o­lu­tions for the com­ing year, but I won’t. 2007 has segued into 2008. There­fore I feel it’s best to just dive in and tell you what’s been occu­py­ing my mind lately.

How exact­ly do the fields of game design and inter­ac­tion design relate? I’ve found myself strad­dling the line between the two more and more often. And what I’ve been won­der­ing: Can game design be con­sid­ered a spe­cialised sub-dis­ci­pline of inter­ac­tion design, or are the two equals with some over­lap? (Or can inter­ac­tion design per­haps even be con­sid­ered part of game design?)

Here’s a dia­gram of how I tend to think of the rela­tion­ship between the two fields: 

Venn diagram of IxD and GD as equals with some overlap

Seen this way, inter­ac­tion design and game design each have their own body of knowl­edge with some over­lap. From this per­spec­tive you could con­sid­er my work to be bro­ker­ing of some sort—passing infor­ma­tion back and forth between the two. I tend to place myself in the inter­ac­tion design cir­cle, mak­ing the occa­sion­al for­ay into game design ter­ri­to­ry and bring­ing back inter­est­ing stuff I find.

But there’s at least one oth­er way of look­ing at these two fields:

Venn diagram of GD as part of IxD

I was trained to be an inter­ac­tion design­er. But part of the cur­ricu­lum con­sist­ed of game design. Nowa­days inter­ac­tion design’s empha­sis on effi­cien­cy nat­u­ral­ly makes it irrec­on­cil­able with game design. At the Utrecht School of Arts, these two were not seen as being at odds with each oth­er. You can con­sid­er this a gross over­sight, or alter­na­tive­ly as proof of a far-reach­ing vision. Whatever.

In any case, it can be argued that (dig­i­tal) game design is sim­ply a very spe­cialised sub-dis­ci­pline of inter­ac­tion design. This is not to say it is in any way less valu­able than ‘reg­u­lar’ inter­ac­tion design. How­ev­er, it might help peo­ple in both fields to advance their prac­tice if they look at each oth­er this way. Which is more or less a sum­ma­ry of what I’ve been argu­ing ever since I went free­lance last year.

The prob­lem is of course that in real­i­ty the two fields—or to be more exact the two com­mu­ni­ties of prac­tice—are very much sep­a­rate from each oth­er. I’ve been try­ing to make some change there, in my own lit­tle way.

On the oth­er hand this might just be me try­ing to jus­ti­fy my inter­est in game design as an inter­ac­tion designer… 

But per­haps there’s some­thing more than just pro­fes­sion­al guilt at play here. I’m not sure yet. Some obser­va­tions that might sup­port one or the oth­er view:

  • Although their def­i­n­i­tion of games is very exact, Salen & Zim­mer­man’s def­i­n­i­tion of play is broad­er: “Play is free move­ment with­in a more rigid struc­ture.” Isn’t that an apt descrip­tion of what peo­ple do with any­thing interactive?
  • The Inter­ac­tion Design Asso­ci­a­tion defines inter­ac­tion design on their site and says it con­cerns: “the struc­ture and behav­ior of inter­ac­tive prod­ucts and ser­vices”. Sure­ly that includes dig­i­tal games?
  • I don’t have the book with me at the moment, but I seem to remem­ber Koster men­tion some­thing about game design ulti­mate­ly being about putting peo­ple in touch with each oth­er. Sounds like inter­ac­tion design to me.

In any case, as long as I need 400+ words to explain why I want to do both inter­ac­tion design and game design, I’ll be in trou­ble. Can you boil it down for me?