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 150

That’s a nice num­ber, 150. One-hun­dred-and-fifty. I like the sound of that. So what’s been going on this week?

I hopped on a plane last Sun­day to the Nether­lands for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6. Wouldn’t miss out on my own par­ty, of course. And I’m so glad I didn’t, because we had awe­some talks by Berend & San­neke, Matt, Sebas­ti­aan and Keez, plus a sur­prise appear­ance over Skype by Mr. Bux­ton. The room was packed, inter­ac­tion design­ers of all stripes were chat­ting away before­hand, dur­ing the break and after­wards over drinks. I had a blast and judg­ing by the reports that have been com­ing in, so have many oth­ers.

Before head­ing back to the Nether­lands the next day I man­aged to squeeze in a few meet­ings. One of those was for PLAY which, now that I’ve wrapped up project Tako,1 is ready to move into its next phase. We’re plan­ning to pro­duce sev­er­al play­ful ‘things’ for a num­ber of cul­tur­al events and tie them all togeth­er with a meta-game. It’s a mat­ter of get­ting all the right peo­ple on board now and get­ting going as fast as pos­si­ble. So I’ve a list of folks to con­tact in the com­ing days.

I think I broke a per­son­al record for the num­ber of Skype ses­sions in one day on Wednes­day, with back to back talks with my HKU stu­dents as well as a plan­ning ses­sion with Karel and Julius for an urban games work­shop they’ll be run­ning tomor­row in Lei­d­sche Rijn.2

And today, after spend­ing Ascen­sion day on a couch, plug­ging away at email and to-dos, I’ll be mak­ing the trip across the Øre­sund to Malmö in a bus full of mak­ers and inter­ac­tion design­ers to attend Thought­Made, which I’m real­ly excit­ed about; an exhi­bi­tion and talks includ­ing a can­dy machine con­trolled by Twit­ter. What more can one ask for?

  1. I need to write a report on that one at the Hub­bub blog soon. []
  2. A new devel­op­ment area of Utrecht I’d say is the clos­est thing to a real-world Sim City project that I ever saw. []

Week 148

So, the first full week of work­ing in Copen­hagen is behind me. I’ve most­ly been work­ing from our apart­ment in Nør­re­bro. Which is fine for now but I am look­ing for­ward to get­ting out more, and maybe doing some cowork­ing here and there. Wouldn’t want to turn into a real her­mit here.

Let me have a look at my cal­en­dar, what’s been going on?

Ah, so I had a meet­ing with Mar­tin and Andreas of Social Square (at the very charm­ing Gra­nola, where they serve very tasty mixed juices, by the way). We’ll be doing a mul­ti­ple day work­shop to look at their design process and dis­cov­er ways to use play as a tool for work­ing with clients. The ses­sion is sched­uled to take place in a few weeks. I just need to devel­op a more detailed plan for the ses­sion.

Nordic Game Indie Night

I crossed the Øre­sund on tues­day evening to attend the Nordic Game Indie Night, which was orga­nized by the Copen­hagen Game Col­lec­tive (whose Dark­room Sex Game I’ve blogged about here before). There were six games on dis­play, all from Scan­di­na­vian cre­ators. There was free beer. And there were a few talks, of vast­ly dif­fer­ing depth and enter­tain­ment val­ue. The set­up was nice though: the games’ cre­ators talked about each oth­ers work. The only prob­lem was that many weren’t very artic­u­late, and shied away from actu­al­ly crit­i­ciz­ing games. Some, though, like the guys from D-Pad Stu­dio, real­ly took the time to ana­lyze a game on dif­fer­ent lev­els. Oth­ers, like Cac­tus, seemed more inter­est­ed in drink­ing beer. How­ev­er, Cactus’s game Tun­ing was my favorite of the bunch, for its sheer mind-fuck awe­some­ness.

Apart from this, I’ve con­tin­ued work on Layar, had anoth­er round of men­tor­ing chats with my stu­dents and made some more prepa­ra­tions for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6. We opened reg­is­tra­tion for the lat­ter on mon­day, by the way, and were ful­ly booked in 58 sec­onds (and had some serv­er wonk­i­ness in the process). Crazy, crazy stuff.

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 145

It’s been a short­er week than usu­al due to East­er (which was a nice long week­end with friends and fam­i­ly, by the way). I’ve divid­ed up my time equal­ly between work at Layar — which for me has entered its last phase; a few more weeks to go and then I’ll be hand­ing over — and “oth­er stuff”, being:

  • Some prep work for This hap­pened – Utrecht #6. The line-up is shap­ing up nice­ly and we have an awe­some spon­sor again. Announce­ments will be made next mon­day.
  • An appear­ance at Vis­i­ble Cities #03 which was all about urban games. I had the plea­sure of shar­ing a table with Michiel, James and Juha; sharp folk all around. Some notes will prob­a­bly find their way to the Hub­bub blog soon.
  • Teach­ing at the HKU. Which can more or less be summed up by the tweet I post­ed after­wards: “Real­ly pleased with the hands-on men­tal­i­ty of my design stu­dents. Feet in mud, head in clouds, as it should be.”
  • And now, on fri­day, some loose ends to tie up before the last week­end of my life as a twen­ty-some­thing kicks off.

So there you go.

Week 144

In between the work I’ve been doing at Layar (which I can’t real­ly tell you much about still, sad­ly) it’s been a rel­a­tive­ly qui­et week.

On mon­day I got my pho­to tak­en for this book on cre­ative SMEs in Utrecht that I men­tioned in the pre­vi­ous wee­knotes. I had a chat with Lodewijk of Stekker Fest about the next phase of Tako and then head­ed off to Ams­ter­dam for Mobile Mon­day #15. As is often the case with MoMo, I end­ed up half pro­voked — I find the views of Sin­gu­lar­i­ty peo­ple a lit­tle prob­lem­at­ic — and half inspired — Boor­ei­land and Tinker.it! had some fine design work to share. The best part was the pleas­ant din­ner I had after­wards with Alexan­dra, Iskan­der and Peter.

On tues­day, after a day of hard graft at Layar I had a chat with Jeroen about Tako too. We’ve more or less fig­ured out the orga­ni­za­tion­al scheme we’ll need to push things for­ward so now it’s a mat­ter of find­ing a few more peo­ple to help run it. We have a list.

Wednes­day morn­ing was spent at the HKU; chat­ting with sev­er­al of my stu­dents about their progress. Com­pared to the ones I had last year, these guys are more hands-on and have all start­ed build­ing stuff already. That makes men­tor­ing much eas­i­er. In the after­noon I spent some time at Waag Soci­ety talk­ing to Ronald and Mar­ti­jn about a 7scenes work­shop we’ll be run­ning on april 14. If you’re read­ing this, it might be of inter­est to you. Have a look.

Yes­ter­day (thurs­day) and today are all about Layar again so not much to report there. Next week’s notes will dis­cuss just four work­ing days since it’s East­er here. I’m look­ing for­ward to a longish week­end catch­ing up with friends and fam­i­ly. See you on the oth­er side.

Week 143

I near­ly for­got about last week’s notes even though I wasn’t even that busy. So here I am writ­ing this on a sun­day from the couch after hav­ing had a nice fam­i­ly brunch and with a La Chouffe close at hand. It’s all good.

Since this is a sun­day I will keep it short and strict­ly chrono­log­i­cal for once. Mon­day start­ed off with a long inter­view for a book on Utrecht’s cre­ative SMEs. This was fol­lowed by a meet­ing with Alexan­der and Ianus to eval­u­ate the last This hap­pened – Utrecht and make plans for the next one. On tues­day I vis­it­ed the HKU for the first of what will become many con­ver­sa­tions that I’ll have with my new group of stu­dents. After­wards I hur­ried to Layar HQ for more design work, which basi­cal­ly took up the rest of the week (punc­tu­at­ed by a lunch with Alper about his trip to Austin and NYC and anoth­er one with James about the Urban­ode project he is plan­ning at VURB.) Lau­rens (of LouLou & Tum­my fame) has joined us at Layar bring­ing a whole new dimen­sion to the cre­ative work being done there. It’s excit­ing to be part of that.

So there we are, a brief review of the week. Now if you don’t mind I have a Chouffe to quaff and a few 3voor12 Draait pod­casts to lis­ten to. Bring on week 144!

Week 141

It’s been a while since I spent time at my own desk in the Dutch Game Gar­den. It was nice to do this again yes­ter­day, hav­ing the city right out­side my door and kin­dred spir­its such as Fource­Labs upstairs. I wasn’t inside the whole time though, in the morn­ing I had anoth­er chat at EKKO about Tako. And in the after­noon I head­ed to Lei­d­sche Rijn accom­pa­nied by Julius to attend a work­shop con­cern­ing Utrecht’s bid to become Euro­pean cap­i­tal of cul­ture.

I kicked off the week with two days of work at Layar (now on my way to Ams­ter­dam in a divert­ed train for my third and last day of the week there). I’ve been col­lab­o­rat­ing close­ly with some of the engi­neers to shape some upcom­ing new… stuff. Things are devel­op­ing at such a high pace that it’s a real chal­lenge to keep up. It feels like being on top of a rodeo bull some­times, but in a good way. This means I need to be prag­mat­ic and fast with devel­op­ing and doc­u­ment­ing designs.

In between, I’ve post­ed a long over­due project descrip­tion to the Hub­bub site for Mega Mon­ster Bat­tle Are­na. It’s this quirky project — a cross between a game and an opera — that I was involved with last year. It feels good to final­ly have it out there for me and oth­ers to point to.

Oth­er in-between stuff includes a final review of sev­er­al grad­u­a­tion project pro­pos­als. I need to pro­vide feed­back by the start of next week, and then I’ll switch to coach­ing a hand­ful of stu­dents.

The week will be topped off with what is sure to be a fun fri­day at the BUROPONY stu­dio. I’ll do some work on their site, and in return have them do some addi­tion­al work on the Hub­bub brand. Scratch­ing each other’s backs, that’s how small cre­ative enter­pris­es flour­ish.

Week 140

Is it march already? Time flies.

I’m on my way to Ams­ter­dam again. Around 10 hours ear­li­er, I was in a train in the oppo­site direc­tion, com­ing back from Vis­i­ble Cities #02. This turned out to be an evening well spent. Some nice exam­ples of AR projects were shown but in par­tic­u­lar Ole Bouman of the NAi’s per­spec­tive on the changes archi­tec­ture will go through under the pres­sure of new tech­nolo­gies was enlight­en­ing. He came across as both crit­i­cal and knowl­edge­able, pas­sion­ate about the field with a sol­id ground­ing in its his­to­ry. Inspir­ing. Final­ly spend­ing an evening in TrouwAms­ter­dam — eat­ing a burg­er and drink­ing a beer in the space where print­ing press­es used to run — was anoth­er plus.

I’m at Layar a lot this week again. Still can’t tell you too much about what’s going on there. But it con­tin­ues to be both a chal­leng­ing and fun engage­ment, so that’s good.

Apart from this, I spent a day brain­storm­ing new game con­cepts for one of the Netherlands’s big lot­ter­ies, with which they’re hop­ing to reach a younger gen­er­a­tion. It’s always a chal­lenge to immerse one­self in a new con­text that fast, but it went well. Lots of nice ideas came up and the work­shop was facil­i­tat­ed in a tight man­ner. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in these things always results in use­ful insights for when I run my own ses­sions.

I do feel slight­ly exhaust­ed from all this, not in the least because what should have been a two hour review of pro­pos­als on mon­day morn­ing with my stu­dents turned into a three-and-a-half hour marathon ses­sion. They’ve had to sub­mit their grad­u­a­tion project pro­pos­als now, so I’ll soon sit down and do a final assess­ment of them. Then they’re good to go.

And so will I.

Week 139

The pre­vi­ous week seam­less­ly flowed into this one when on sat­ur­day I sat down to final­ize the deck of slides for Raum Schiff Erde. On sun­day morn­ing, I grabbed a train and five hours lat­er I was in Stell­w­erk, the conference’s love­ly venue. Kind, clever peo­ple, a nice relaxed and friend­ly atmos­phere, inter­est­ing talks, all in all a good event. There is more about what I talked about on the Hub­bub blog. It wrapped up with some music and then we were off to din­ner. Turned in late and got up ear­ly the next morn­ing for anoth­er train. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed this short in a hotel, didn’t even man­age to squeeze in break­fast.

On the train ride, I man­aged to review all of the grad­u­a­tion project pro­pos­als of my stu­dents. These were first drafts, next week they’ll need to sub­mit a final ver­sion after one more round of reviews. Some have love­ly, curi­ous top­ics. (A satir­i­cal news­game, any­one?) I’ll share some of them with you some­time soon.

I had a few hours to take a breather when I got back to Utrecht and then it was off to the HKU Acad­e­my The­atre to pre­pare for This hap­pened – Utrecht #5. This was the first edi­tion of the new year, and also the first in a new venue, which made it kind of scary. But every­thing turned out great. (Read a few reports to get a sense of the evening, if you’re inter­est­ed.) We had pos­si­bly the best series of talks so far (although, of course, they’ve all been great) and a great crowd. I’m already look­ing for­ward to #6.

As if two of these chal­lenges weren’t enough, on wednes­day it was D-day for project Tako (which is part of a big­ger plan that is local­ly known sim­ply as PLAY). I pre­sent­ed the results of my research to a room full of cul­tur­al event orga­niz­ers, games devel­op­ers and assort­ed lumi­nar­ies of the Utrecht city scene. I man­aged to wrap up the siz­able stack of sketch­es only hours before in a final adren­a­line-fueled design sprint. The respons­es were encour­ag­ing, so it seems we can start explor­ing the next stage. But before this I’ll need to anno­tate the deck of slides, include all the feed­back and then we might have some­thing we can pub­lish.

In between and after, it’s been more work at Layar. I’ve been dig­ging into the specs for sev­er­al pro­to­types — lots of sketch­ing there, too — forc­ing myself to con­sid­er mul­ti­ple paths. Some of the out­put has been hand­ed over to engi­neers. I can’t wait to see the results of their devel­op­ment efforts.

Even though all of this is more fun than is legal, I can’t wait for a work free week­end, too.