Week 152

This was the last week of my stay in Copen­hagen. Com­ing Sun­day it’s back to the Nether­lands. As usu­al leav­ing feels bit­ter­sweet. There cer­tain­ly things I’ll miss about being here, not in the least our love­ly apart­ment in one of the city’s nicest neigh­bor­hoods. And the many great cafés. But there’s a lot to be said for being in Utrecht, too. I have so much stuff going on there, it got a bit tir­ing towards the end man­ag­ing it all remote­ly.

So this week…

  • I went over to Malmö to meet with Dan Gär­den­fors at TAT and with Jonas Löw­gren at MEDEA. In both cas­es there is rea­son for fol­low-up; it looks like there might be a TAT-Hub­bub con­cept video about per­va­sive play and mobile UIs on the hori­zon, and I might come back to MEDEA to do some teach­ing.
  • I had a marathon Skype ses­sion on wednes­day. Talk­ing to all my stu­dents who are now ner­vous­ly prep­ping for their mid-terms. As well as ses­sions with Clau­dia and Karel in prepa­ra­tion of the urban games fes­ti­val in Lei­d­sche Rijn we’re assist­ing with.
  • I lec­tured (and ran a lit­tle playtest of an audi­ence game I’ve been tin­ker­ing with) at CIID. Look for a full report and anno­tat­ed slides at the Hub­bub blog, soon.

And now, it’s time to do a few more touristy things and then pack, and head home. The next wee­knote will be Dutch fla­vored again.

Week 149

I’m writ­ing these notes on a train to Malmö for a change. I was there this wednes­day and am back again to have a chat at Illu­sion Labs. I was put in touch with them by Ham­pus of The Aston­ish­ing Tribe, whom I vis­it­ed on wednes­day. TAT’s an inter­est­ing group, spe­cial­ized in the design of inno­v­a­tive mobile UIs. Their Rec­og­nizr con­cept video made quite a splash in AR cir­cles ear­li­er this year. I once gave a lec­ture on play­ful UIs at their office and even though noth­ing con­crete is in the works it would be inter­est­ing to col­lab­o­rate some more on that top­ic some time.

On wednes­day I also met up with my friends at InUse, whom I did some work with when I was last in Copen­hagen. That project dealt with appli­ca­tions of mul­ti­touch in a real-estate project. Over a Lebanese buf­fet lunch Mijo and I most­ly mused on what’s changed in UX con­sult­ing land the past few years and how that might devel­op into the future. We talked about ‘peak com­plex­i­ty’, the inter­net of things and strate­gies for design­ing deeply net­worked things. Good stuff.

To wrap up that day, I had a sur­prise meet-up with Karin of Ozma, (again thanks to the awe­some con­nect­ing pow­ers of Ham­pus). Ozma is a game design stu­dio work­ing very much in the same spir­it as Hub­bub, with a focus on “gam­ing beyond the screen”. It was very encour­ag­ing to dis­cov­er a com­pa­ny that’s been suc­cess­ful­ly work­ing in this space for the past four years. (And they’re not the only one, in Swe­den alone there’s also Fabel, The Sto­ry Lab and Grul…) One of the things we talked about is a cool plat­form they’re devel­op­ing for urban games that is not GPS-based, but runs entire­ly on SMS and is there­fore very use­ful for work­ing with tar­get audi­ences who do not have access to high-end phones (i.e. teens and tweens).

That wednes­day I head­ed back to Copen­hagen, my mind suit­ably blown, as you can prob­a­bly imag­ine.

Oth­er than that I have been enjoy­ing Social­square’s hos­pi­tal­i­ty on the Vester­bro­gade. Mar­tin, Mag­nus and I spent some time hash­ing out the details of the work­shop we’ll be doing and we man­aged to nar­row down the ques­tions we’d like to answer to a man­age­able set. I’m keen on hav­ing part of this project’s out­put be share­able with the world; in what shape or form we have yet to deter­mine.

My active involve­ment with Layar has gone on hold for the time being, but at the same time the first bits of my work for Layar are find­ing its way into the world. They’ve launched a new ver­sion of their app, which now sup­ports paid con­tent. (Android is out, iPhone should fol­low soon.) This was one of the first things I worked on for them, before mov­ing on to stuff that’ll hope­ful­ly see the light of day some­where over sum­mer. Design­ing the paid con­tent stuff involved deal­ing with a ton of depen­den­cies on process­es behind the scenes. It was an inter­est­ing chal­lenge to make it as fric­tion­less as pos­si­ble. Plus, the mobile pay­ment ecosys­tem is itself an inter­est­ing beast to deal with for a while. I also found myself design­ing for sev­er­al mobile plat­forms at the same time, which can real­ly mess with your head; both Android and iPhone have their own ‘gram­mar’ of inter­ac­tion (or more pre­cise­ly, one of them has some­thing resem­bling a prop­er gram­mar, the other’s is more accu­rate­ly described as a pid­gin). So design­ing in par­al­lel for both is a bit like speak­ing two lan­guages at the same time. Con­fus­ing, even to a Dutch­man.

All this, plus some more Skype calls with my HKU stu­dents (remind me to share some details on their work next time), anoth­er Skype ses­sion with the U-Turm group and the very final prepa­ra­tions for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6 took up week 149.

Week 147

Well, the vol­cano did mess with my flight. Despite that, I am still writ­ing this from an apart­ment on Birkegade in CPH, where I’ll be spend­ing the com­ing 5–6 weeks. Here’s what my work­space looks like:

What my CPH work space looks like at the moment

Trav­el­ing here took up the whole of wednes­day. We went by train; Utrecht to Duis­burg, Duis­burg to Ham­burg, Ham­burg to Copen­hagen. They put our train on a freak­ing boat for a bit. That was dif­fer­ent.

So I’ve been set­tling in. Get­ting a bike, recon­nect­ing to old haunts, that sort of thing (I was here for a year in 2007–2008).

Apart from that, I’ve been tak­ing care of some last bits of work for Layar, doing some prep for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6 (reg­is­tra­tion opens Mon­day!) and talk­ing to my HKU stu­dents. I also had a first meet­ing with a group of Medi­aL­AB Ams­ter­dam stu­dents who are cre­at­ing a play­ful urban pro­jec­tion for ISEA2010 in Dort­mund.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to explore.

Week 146

Crazy, crazy week I am glad to have sur­vived. But wait, it’s not done yet. Tomor­row (sat­ur­day) I’ll be run­ning a work­shop in Lei­d­sche Rijn with local young folk, for Cultuur19. The aim is to design a lit­tle social game that’ll func­tion as a viral mar­ket­ing tac­tic for our upcom­ing urban games design work­shop in the same dis­trict. This is a Hub­bub mis­sion, and I am glad to have the sup­port of Karel who — besides cook­ing up crazy plans at Fource­Labs — is an occa­sion­al agent of Hub­bub.

This was my last week work­ing on site with Layar because I’m head­ing to Copen­hagen on sun­day. I’ll be stay­ing there for a few weeks, work­ing there — for Layar still, pos­si­bly for Social Square — lec­tur­ing at CIID and apart from that just tak­ing it a lit­tle slow­er. My apart­ment is around the cor­ner from the Laun­dro­mat Café in Nør­re­bro so that should be no prob­lem.

I was at Waag Soci­ety’s beau­ti­ful The­atrum Anatomicum last wednes­day to cohost a work­shop on games and archi­tec­ture as part of the Best Scene in Town project ini­ti­at­ed by 7scenes. I pre­sent­ed three bold pre­dic­tions for the future of games in the city. Look for a write-up of that one at the Hub­bub blog soon. The teams came up with inter­est­ing con­cepts for games in Ams­ter­dam and I enjoyed work­ing with all of them.

Going back to the start of this week, I turned 30 on mon­day. A water­shed moment of some sort I guess. Some­what appro­pri­ate­ly, we announced This hap­pened – Utrecht #6 that day too. Check out the pro­gram, I am real pleased with our speak­ers.

Now let’s just hope that vol­cano doesn’t mess with my flight in sun­day and the next note will be com­ing to you from love­ly CPH.

Week 132

I’m tak­ing up the chal­lenge Matt Webb post­ed in his last wee­knote of the year 2009 and will be post­ing wee­knotes of my own here for the fore­see­able future. You can expect stuff about design work I do at Hub­bub, teach­ing at the Utrecht School of the Arts and per­haps bits about This hap­pened and oth­er side endeav­ors.

So this is week 132 of my free­lance career. I start­ed on July 1st 2007, which coin­cid­ed with a move to Copen­hagen (I’ve moved back to Utrecht since).

Most of this week is tak­en up by a work­shop — titled Move It — I’m run­ning togeth­er with Evert Hoogen­doorn and Marin­ka Copi­er at the Utrecht School of the Arts. All first year stu­dents of the games and inter­ac­tion cours­es are par­tic­i­pat­ing, around 130 in all. That’s a crazy num­ber, it’s real­ly tax­ing, but also a lot of fun. Lots of good vibes when we’re all in the same room. The assign­ment we’ve giv­en them is to design a new sports expe­ri­ence. It should take place in the cen­tre of Utrecht, and they should not only design the play of the sport, but also the expe­ri­ence of the audi­ence, the ref­er­ee, book­mak­er, etc. We kicked off on mon­day,1 today was open Q&A, tomor­row will be a mid-way review and on fri­day they’ll present the final game in the form of a three-minute video. There’ll be 24 videos in total, all post­ed to this Vimeo group. I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to the end results.

Oth­er than that I’m hop­ing to get start­ed prop­er­ly with a con­sult­ing project I’ve code­named Tako.2 It’s about explor­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for play­ful addi­tions to the pro­grams of some of Utrecht’s major cul­tur­al events. The project’s com­mis­sioned by the city of Utrecht. I’ll talk more about it once the work is under­way.

What else… This being the new year, there’s plen­ty of recep­tions. Today I attend­ed one at the Utrecht School of the Arts. Tomor­row I’ll be at the month­ly lunch organ­ised by the Dutch Game Gar­den3 which’ll prob­a­bly involve some new year shenani­gans.

I was also doing the oblig­a­tory finan­cial admin that comes with the start of a new month, a new quar­ter and a new year (thank god there’s noth­ing spe­cial relat­ed to this being a new decade). Invoic­ing, that sort of thing.

Also, I sent out a mes­sage to some of my old friends in Copen­hagen, since I’m plan­ning a six-week stay there in spring. I’m hop­ing to do some work there. Have heard back from a few already, so that’s encour­ag­ing.

There’s also more than the usu­al amount of meet­ings to talk about poten­tial new projects. All quite inter­est­ing and excit­ing, who knows what’ll come of those.

So that’s the first wee­knote out of the way. It’s inter­est­ing how doing this increas­es my aware­ness of all the stuff that’s going on. It’s hard not to feel a lit­tle over­whelmed. I hope it’s of some inter­est to you though.

Onwards!

  1. I ran a brief ideation ses­sion using a design game devel­oped by Jus­si Holopainen et al. at the Nokia Research Cen­ter. []
  2. I’ve got­ten into the habit of nam­ing new projects after Japan­ese seafood. []
  3. Which is where I have my stu­dio. []

Goodbye DK, Hello NL

A photo of the Oude Gracht in Utrecht, the Netherlands taken by Josef F. Stuefer

And that was it. After exact­ly one year in Copen­hagen I am back in Utrecht. I enjoyed my time in Den­mark tremen­dous­ly, it has proven to be a great place to start my new life as a free­lance design­er. Now I will con­tin­ue my prac­tice over here. Dif­fer­ent city, same inter­na­tion­al out­look.

The final peri­od in Copen­hagen con­sist­ed main­ly of me speak­ing at a lot of con­fer­ences. First there was The Web and Beyond, then came From Busi­ness to But­tons, NLGD Fes­ti­val of Games and final­ly Reboot — I could not have wished for a bet­ter going-away par­ty.

There is not much time to catch my breath, how­ev­er. I have client projects hap­pen­ing through­out July and of course there is also plen­ty of unpack­ing and merg­ing of the old and new life to be done. I hope to pub­lish the NLGD and Reboot stuff short­ly, but it might take me a while.

Now that I am back in the Nether­lands, I can also move for­ward with some small plans I’ve had for some time: one being a local design event and the oth­er a ‘dif­fer­ent’ kind of office space. I am also still look­ing for a cre­ative tech­nol­o­gist to part­ner up with on poten­tial future projects. If any of this piques your inter­est, do drop me a line.

Pho­to cred­its: Josef F. Stue­fer.

Moving, speaking

It’s final days for me. In Copen­hagen, that is. July 1 I will exchange this love­ly city for my home town of Utrecht, the Nether­lands. The plan is to con­tin­ue work as a free­lance inter­ac­tion design­er. So if you’re inter­est­ed, but phys­i­cal dis­tance has been putting you off so far, get in touch.

Between now and then, most of my time will be spent at con­fer­ences. Here’s the run­down:

  • First up is From Busi­ness to But­tons, June 12–13 in Malmö, Swe­den. My talk is titled More Than Use­ful. I will attempt to show that for a cer­tain class of prod­ucts, play­ful­ness is a vital char­ac­ter­is­tic. The idea is to intro­duce the IxD crowd to some game design con­cepts.
  • The week after that I will be at the Fes­ti­val of Games, June 18–20 in Utrecht, Nether­lands. My pre­sen­ta­tion is titled Play­ing With Com­plex­i­ty. I will intro­duce the game design audi­ence to some inter­ac­tion design think­ing and sug­gest data visu­al­iza­tion might be an inter­est­ing area to team up on.
  • Last but not least is good old Reboot, 26–27 June in Copen­hagen. I have sub­mit­ted a pro­pos­al titled Play­ful Activism in the Real-Time City, which I hope will be select­ed to be on the pro­gram.1

If you will be at any of these con­fer­ences, do drop me a line or say hel­lo at the event itself.

  1. If you’d like to see it too, don’t hes­i­tate to vote it up. []

Work with me in Copenhagen (or where-ever)

Panorama of Copenhagen harbour

Now that I’m over three months into my stay in Copen­hagen I thought it would be good to post a short update. Here are the facts, bul­let-wise (with apolo­gies to Mr. Tufte):

  • I have been in Copen­hagen, Den­mark since July 1st 2007
  • Until now I have most­ly been work­ing on Playy­oo, doing inter­ac­tion and game design
  • I also pre­sent­ed on Play­ful IAs at the Euro IA Sum­mit in Barcelona
  • No lat­er than July 1st 2008, I will return to Utrecht, the Nether­lands
  • Yes, I intend to con­tin­ue free­lanc­ing when I get back (I offi­cial­ly left Info.nl on Octo­ber 1st 2007)
  • I am avail­able for free­lance inter­ac­tion design gigs that involve social media, mobile tech­nol­o­gy and/or gam­ing
  • You can also invite me to speak at your event or com­pa­ny, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the top­ic of apply­ing game design prin­ci­ples to the user expe­ri­ence of prod­ucts and ser­vices

Oh and of course, if you hap­pen to be in Copen­hagen, don’t hes­i­tate to drop me a line when you feel like going out for some drinks!