This happened – Utrecht #8, coming up

I have to say, num­ber sev­en is still fresh in my mind. Even so, we’ve announced num­ber eight. You’ll find the line­up below. I hope to see you in four weeks, on Novem­ber 22 at the HKU Akademiethe­ater.

Theseus

Rain­er Kohlberg­er is an inde­pen­dent visu­al artist based in Berlin. The con­cept and instal­la­tion design for the THESEUS Inno­va­tion Cen­ter Inter­net of Things was done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Thomas Schrott and is the basis for the visu­al iden­ti­ty of the tech­nol­o­gy plat­form. The instal­la­tion con­nects and visu­al­ly cre­ates hier­ar­chy between knowl­edge, prod­ucts and ser­vices with a com­bi­na­tion of phys­i­cal poly­gon objects and vir­tu­al­ly pro­ject­ed infor­ma­tion lay­ers. This atmos­pher­ic piece trans­fer knowl­edge and guid­ance to the vis­i­tor but also leaves room for inter­pre­ta­tion.

De Klessebessers

Hel­ma van Rijn is an Indus­tri­al Design Engi­neer­ing PhD can­di­date at the TU Delft ID-Stu­di­o­Lab, spe­cial­ized in ‘dif­fi­cult to reach’ user groups. De Klessebessers is an activ­i­ty for peo­ple with demen­tia to active­ly recall mem­o­ries togeth­er. The design won the first prize in design com­pe­ti­tion Vergeethen­ni­et and was on show dur­ing the Dutch Design Week 2007. De Klessebessers is cur­rent­ly in use at De Lan­dri­jt in Eind­hoven.

Wip 'n' Kip

Fource­Labs talk about Wip ‘n’ Kip, a play­ful instal­la­tion for Stekker Fest, an annu­al elec­tron­ic music fes­ti­val based in Utrecht. Play­ers of Wip ‘n’ Kip use adult-sized spring rid­ers to con­trol a chick­en on a large screen. They race each oth­er to the fin­ish while at the same time try­ing to stay ahead of a horde of pur­su­ing mon­sters. Wip ‘n’ Kip is a strange but effec­tive mashup of video game, car­ni­val ride and per­for­mance. It is part of the PLAY Pilots project, com­mis­sioned by the city and province of Utrecht, which explore the appli­ca­tions of play in the cul­tur­al indus­try.

Smarthistory

Lotte Mei­jer talks about Smarthis­to­ry, an online art his­to­ry resource. It aims to be an addi­tion to, or even replace­ment of, tra­di­tion­al text books through the use of dif­fer­ent media to dis­cuss hun­dreds of West­ern art pieces from antiq­ui­ty to the cur­rent day. Dif­fer­ent brows­ing styles are sup­port­ed by a num­ber of nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems. Art works are con­tex­tu­al­ized using maps and time­lines. The site’s com­mu­ni­ty is engaged using a num­ber of social media. Smarthis­to­ry won a Web­by Award in 2009 in the edu­ca­tion cat­e­go­ry. Lotte has gone on to work as an inde­pen­dent design­er on many inter­est­ing and inno­v­a­tive projects in the art world.

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 161

This past week, again, was most­ly about project Ebi. We kicked off the third iter­a­tion on mon­day with a review of the ver­sion we deliv­ered the fri­day before. What fol­lowed was a heat­ed dis­cus­sion about the rule­set. I felt it need­ed a bit more depth so play­ers would have more inter­est­ing choic­es. The trick is to not go over­board with the com­plex­i­ty, because we want the game to still have imme­di­ate appeal.

By the way, project Ebi has a name now and it is PLAY Pilots. The site is still cloaked but the process blog — where you can find many won­der­ful wee­knotes by Fource­Labs and Zes­baans as well as our­selves — is pub­lic. We’re also on Twit­ter and Face­book. Keep tabs on those chan­nels to get ear­ly access to the BETA

On tues­day I head­ed to Ams­ter­dam for a taste of Stump­town’s cof­fee — some­thing Alper had been bug­ging me about for ages — and a trip to Pris­tine for some acces­sories for my new bike. I spent the rest of the day at Alper’s stu­dio review­ing one of my stu­dents grad­u­a­tion the­sis. She’s designed a point-and-click adven­ture game with an inter­sex pro­tag­o­nist, an attempt to cri­tique gen­der con­ven­tions through game­play. Inter­est­ing stuff.

On wednes­day I con­tin­ued work on Ebi with the team. It was Bernard’s last day before his vaca­tion so we wrapped up an impor­tant part of the copy. In the after­noon I head­ed to the Ned­er­lands Film Fes­ti­val’s office to kick off the sec­ond pilot that is part of Ebi, which will be cre­at­ed by the awe­some crew at Zes­baans. They have post­ed their first wee­knote over at the project blog.

Thurs­day, I met up with a few of my stu­dents. Some still require help, but a few oth­ers are at the point that they looked apolo­getic when I asked when they would like to meet again. They’re in the final phase of their work, and I’ve done what I can. We’ll see each oth­er at the finals, which will be in august.

A first for Hub­bub, I had a chat with an pos­si­ble intern on thurs­day too. I’m still not sure if we’ve reached the point where we can offer a good envi­ron­ment for interns (I take the edu­ca­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty we would have quite seri­ous) so we’ll have to see if we take one on board.

On fri­day, I was back at the soon-to-be new Dutch Game Gar­den on the Neude square — we’re mov­ing next week — to work with the Ebi team. Alper was most­ly hack­ing away at sign-in stuff for Twit­ter and also the new ver­sion of the game engine. Simon made good progress with the designs for the game inter­face and I was surf­ing for fun cus­tomiz­able gad­get to hand out to our play­ers dur­ing the first fes­ti­val we’ll appear at; Stekker Fest 2010. Would you fan­cy an eight­ies style sun­cap?

Also, a few of our Fource­Labs friends dropped by to dis­cuss tech­ni­cal mat­ters deal­ing with how we’d inte­grate the web game we’re build­ing with the phys­i­cal one they’re doing for Stekker Fest. They also showed some awe­some mock­ups of the whole set­up made with LEGO. They’ve also been play­ing around with high speed cam­eras, yield­ing awe­some footage. I’m sure they’ll share more details in their next post.

Week 158

It’s the end of week 158 and I am sat at a table in what will soon be the new Dutch Game Gar­den. On the fourth floor builders are putting final touch­es to the stu­dio Fource­Labs and Hub­bub will be shar­ing. I am on the first floor, with a gor­geous view of the Neude square which is the scene of much sum­mery activ­i­ty. The city as the­atre.

This week has been main­ly about project Ebi. We kicked off a sec­ond iter­a­tion, after wrap­ping up basic func­tion­al­i­ty in iter­a­tion 0, this one is about adding the game spe­cif­ic stuff. Most of our ener­gies so far have gone into design­ing a good rule­set. We had a break­through on wednes­day and recon­vened today to for­mal­ize those ideas, and fill in the blanks. We now have enough mate­r­i­al to push for­ward on design, copy and engi­neer­ing. It’s that stage of that project where the shape of things starts to become clear and you can’t wait for it to mate­ri­al­ize so that you can touch it, use it, play with it.

In a short while I’ll be strolling through the cen­tre of Utrecht to the cur­rent and soon to be old Dutch Game Gar­den, for a farewell par­ty. We’ve had plen­ty of good times in Driehar­ingstraat 6, let’s give the old build­ing one more bash.

Week 155 & 156

I have some catch­ing up to do with these. What can I say, things got in the way of writ­ing last week’s notes.

These past two weeks I have been push­ing to get a new project, code­named Ebi, off the ground. It is the next step in my involve­ment with the PLAY project in Utrecht. I’ve put togeth­er a team con­sist­ing of Alper, Bernard and Simon to build a game that will tie togeth­er sev­er­al oth­er play­ful things that will take place over the com­ing months at sev­er­al Utrecht events. We’ve had our kick-off and are now in the midst of the first sprint, with deliv­ery of a first rough sys­tem by the end of next week. Copy is being writ­ten, soft­ware is being devel­oped and designs are being made. It’s a plea­sure to see this ad-hoc team com­ing togeth­er so fast and get­ting down to busi­ness. That takes real skill, in addi­tion to the crafts­man­ship each brings to the table.

Oth­er than that, project Buta (anoth­er code­name) start­ed this week, which is a research thing at the new Design for Play­ful Impact group at the HKU. We’ve been doing field research and have been sketch­ing and pro­to­typ­ing ini­tial ideas. The sub­ject mat­ter is kind of con­tro­ver­sial, so I can’t share too much about it, oth­er than that it involves pigs. Yes, pigs.

In between, I dropped by the pre­sen­ta­tion of the U-turm project, a stu­dent project where I act­ed as advi­sor on. The demo worked nice­ly. With some addi­tion­al work on the game design I am sure it will be a hit in Dort­mund. I also attend­ed Layar’s one-year anniver­sary event, where sev­er­al things were unveiled that I had some part in, such as the all-new float­i­cons.

Look­ing ahead, I’ll be busy with Ebi for the next month or two and will also have to take some time to move into a new stu­dio, that I will be shar­ing with Fource­Labs in the new Dutch Game Gar­den on the Neude. Ace loca­tion, nice space, can’t wait for that to hap­pen.

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.

A quick look at Tweetakt’s playful installations

Twee­t­akt is hap­pen­ing in Utrecht at the moment. It’s a youth the­atre fes­ti­val, real­ly push­ing the lim­its of what we think that means. As an exam­ple, they’ve pro­vid­ed space for sev­er­al instal­la­tions at the fes­ti­val cen­tre on the Neude. I went over for a quick look today — even though I know most of the cre­ators per­son­al­ly and am famil­iar with sev­er­al of the pieces. They’re all free and open to the pub­lic, so if you’re in the area, you should go too.

Knikker­baan

Medialab Utrecht's Knikkerbaan at Tweetakt

Made by a few prin­ci­pals at the Medi­al­ab Utrecht. Push a but­ton and a mar­ble starts rolling down a futur­is­tic look­ing track. Halfway through it enters a scan­ner of sorts, and is con­vert­ed into a vir­tu­al coun­ter­part vis­i­ble on a screen, only to emerge phys­i­cal­ly after some time again. At the end of the track, you get to keep the mar­ble.

It’s hard­ly inter­ac­tive, but does look kind of impres­sive and of course, mar­bles are always fun.

Kleurkamer

Monobanda's Kleurkamer at Tweetakt

A new ver­sion what is becom­ing a clas­sic by the trou­ble­mak­ers at Monoban­da. A beam­er, a white decor and wiimotes enable you to paint with light. It’s a sim­ple premise, the exe­cu­tion is ser­vice­able but the result is quite mag­i­cal. The addi­tion of white jack­ets for peo­ple that want to become part of the can­vas is a real nice touch.

Block­blaz­ers

Fourcelabs's Blockblazers at Tweetakt

Made by my friends at Fource­labs, this is the one that hasn’t the ben­e­fit of a spec­tac­u­lar phys­i­cal shape but is the most fun to play. It’s a com­pet­i­tive plat­form game playable with eight peo­ple at the same time with some clever social and phys­i­cal touch­es. Scor­ing points is reward­ed with a big pho­to of your­self that is shown for a few sec­onds, and the game wraps around two big screens that are back to back, forc­ing you to move around and com­pete with the oth­er play­ers for phys­i­cal floor space.

It’s nice to see this kind of stuff at a the­atre fes­ti­val. I hope the pieces will do well — despite the fact that not all of them have been placed and pre­sent­ed to the pub­lic in the best way — so that we’ll get more of this stuff in the years to come.