Week 142

I am sat on the couch at home typ­ing this. iTunes is on shuf­fle (some Bur­ial at the moment). I’ve just had a Bi-Fi snack sausage (a guilty plea­sure) and some ice tea. I was kind of hun­gry, but now I’m ok.

Last week wasn’t as crazy as many recent ones have been. Still pret­ty busy, with some work in the evenings etc. But the pace is low­er. That’s a nice change.

Today I sort of wrapped up project Tako. Sort of, because although I’ve deliv­ered what was this project’s aim, it is part of some­thing much larg­er. So we’re already mak­ing plans for phase two. Any­way, I’ve pub­lished an anno­tat­ed deck of slides to the project’s par­tic­i­pants weigh­ing in at 100+. It describes con­cepts for play­ful stuff that can be added to the pro­grams of ten of Utrecht’s major cul­tur­al events. It also describes a metagame that can be used to tie it all togeth­er. The response to it has been good so now the next step is to actu­al­ly pro­duce a selec­tion of these con­cepts, which is super excit­ing.

I start­ed the week with a long dri­ve to the West­land for a slight­ly over­due eval­u­a­tion of Mega Mon­ster Bat­tle Are­na. Dario Fo, Daniël and myself agree it would be awe­some to put on an improved ver­sion of the show at oth­er venues because it real­ly is some­thing spe­cial, more peo­ple should see it. If you have sug­ges­tions for a suit­able event or venue, let me know.

On wednes­day I made a last minute deci­sion to drop by the great TrouwAms­ter­dam again for an evening on maps as art and new car­tog­ra­phy tech­niques. Amongst other’s Sarah van Sons­beeck was there to talk about her work. She men­tioned the project Alper and I did with her, which I found flat­ter­ing. The evening’s pro­gram con­tained a love­ly range of the super-artis­tic to the very applied and the hyper-ana­log to the pure­ly dig­i­tal. Good stuff. It reminds me of the fact that I want to do Hub­bub games that involve maps in some way.

In between, I’ve been bang­ing away at designs for Layar. It’s inter­est­ing to expe­ri­ence the rhythm of idea diver­gence and con­ver­gence in a project. It’s like ebb and flow. This week was def­i­nite­ly char­ac­ter­ized by a new wave of diver­gence, which means scram­bling to cap­ture all that emerges. Next week we’ll need to bring it all togeth­er again and focus things. Ebb and flow.

iTunes has start­ed play­ing an Inter­pol song now. I think I might grab some crisps after I’ve post­ed this.

Announcing a hybrid game opera for Monster

I nev­er thought I would make an opera. But now I have.

A bit of Monster

In a few weeks time the above mar­ket square in the town of Mon­ster will be trans­formed into an are­na where fight­ers duel each oth­er using their pet mon­sters. If this sounds famil­iar, it is no coin­ci­dence.

Mega Mon­ster Bat­tle Are­na is one of 11 operas pro­duced by Dario Fo to cel­e­brate the fifth anniver­sary of the West­land munic­i­pal­i­ty. Dario Fo spe­cial­ize in cre­at­ing music the­atre in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the local com­mu­ni­ty. They asked com­pos­er Daniël Ham­burg­er to cre­ate the opera for Mon­ster. The brief was to do ‘some­thing’ with the town’s curi­ous name, and to make it a pro­duc­tion that would appeal to youth by ref­er­enc­ing games cul­ture.1

Daniël in turn approached me, since he had lit­tle affin­i­ty for games, and want­ed the piece to not only be about games, but to be a game itself. So that’s what I helped do. By turn­ing the game design prin­ci­ple of embed­ded nar­ra­tive inside-out, we’ve man­aged to cre­ate a struc­ture in which we can both tell a sto­ry using a script, and have per­form­ers impro­vise using game rules. Those rules I designed as a prop­er game. I could give you those rules and you would be able to play it your­self.

So there will be fights, and they’ll not be script­ed. You won’t know before­hand who will win, and nei­ther will we. There will also be a sto­ry, about a hero­ine fac­ing off with a bad guy, in the best game and mar­tial arts film tra­di­tion. Sieger M.G. was our third man, the piece’s writer. A rap­per turned poet with a life-long games addic­tion, there could be no bet­ter fit.

What’s prob­a­bly most excit­ing to me is that on top of the impro­vi­sa­tion­al chore­og­ra­phy of the duels, a live band will use a rule set of their own, com­posed by Daniël, that takes the game as it unfolds as its input to impro­vise. How’s that for adap­tive music?2

It might all go hor­ri­bly wrong, or it might become a won­der­ful spec­ta­cle. If you are like me and would like to find out which it will be, head to Mon­ster for one of the shows. They’re sched­uled for:

  • Thurs­day 18 June 20:30 (try­out)
  • Fri­day 19 June 20:30
  • Sat­ur­day 20 June 20:30

Tick­ets are 15 Euro and can be bought at the venue. Once the show is over, I’ll post some more detailed stuff about the actu­al work I did. Stay tuned.

Mega Moster Battle Arena flyer

  1. There would be tons of kids from local high schools to work with. They also want­ed to use the local fire­men choir. Oh, and aer­i­al work plat­forms too… []
  2. One of the sources of inspi­ra­tion for Daniël was John Zorn. []