Week 181

And then all of a sud­den there’s only a few more weeks left in the year. As is usu­al­ly the case at such a time I’m try­ing to tie up as many loose ends as I can before tak­ing a one-week break between Christ­mas and the new year:

I worked with Alper, Simon and Bernard to get the last PLAY Pilots addi­tion out the door. I did a final assess­ment of the work my stu­dents did for Pam­pus. I worked with Wieger and Syl­van to tweak the very last test they’ll be doing for the Learn­ing Lab metagame…

And then there’s new things, such as Maguro, for which I wrote a brief­ing and drew up con­tracts. And Twee­t­akt 2011, for which I had anoth­er meet­ing to go over pro­duc­tion details of the var­i­ous works on dis­play. I also talked with Ianus and Alexan­der about the next edi­tions of This hap­pened – Utrecht. So 2011 is a lot on my mind already.

I don’t know if I will keep on keep­ing these notes next year. I want to free up some time to do oth­er writ­ing, and I think a bet­ter place for these sta­tus updates is the Hub­bub blog, since I have more or less phased out my free­lance prac­tice this year and so don’t work under the Leapfrog moniker any­more. We’ll see.

Week 180

Last week was packed again. When a few last minute meet­ings get squeezed in, it usu­al­ly means trou­ble. Week num­ber 180 was no excep­tion, which explains the absence of a wee­knote on fri­day. A quick run­down of stuff that went down:

  • Wieger and Syl­van worked on a pro­to­type of the Learn­ing Lab metagame, which we pre­sent­ed on fri­day. Got heaps of feed­back, now all that’s left to do is: do a last live test, doc­u­ment the design, write up things we learned through­out the project.
  • Togeth­er with Irene I spent time detail­ing a sto­ry­board for a video sketch for project Buta. We met up with Hein on fri­day, to see if he could be assist us, since he has mad video and motion graph­ics skills.
  • Prop­er­ly kicked off Maguro on thurs­day. More on that one soon.
  • Did a review of the Pam­pus project, which is com­ing along nice­ly. This fri­day I’ll do the final assess­ment of the project, and the week after it’ll be pre­sent­ed to the client so the heat is on.
  • We did a “pants down” release of the Band­jes­land addi­tions to the PLAY Pilots web­site. Shame’s a good moti­va­tor, so now we have a real incen­tive to tweak it so we can announce it offi­cial­ly this tues­day.
  • I wrote some descrip­tions of the inter­ac­tive work that’ll be on dis­play at Twee­t­akt 2011.

Week 179

Anoth­er quick wee­knote, things are sim­ply too busy. I was going to attend the STRP con­fer­ence today, for exam­ple (which looks great) but have had to can­cel. Too much to attend to.

So what’s up?

  • We ran This hap­pened – Utrecht #8 last Mon­day. For a great impres­sion of the evening read this report by Iskan­der. Video’s will be up soon at the event’s page.
  • Work with Alper, Simon and Bernard on the last of the addi­tions to the PLAY Pilots web­site. The project is near­ing its end as the last live game will launch tonight at Le Guess Who?
  • A full day of meet­ings and a ses­sion with the Pam­pus stu­dent team at the HKU. I also had the chance to dis­cuss the next steps for project Buta (you know, the thing involv­ing pigs).
  • A trip to the Graph­ic Design Muse­um to dis­cuss the chal­lenges of exhibit­ing games.
  • Some work with my interns at Hub­bub on the Learn­ing Lab metagame. They’ve built a great paper pro­to­type; we’re going to play it today.
  • And some talk in between about what hap­pens after PLAY Pilots, as well as about the inter­ac­tive pro­gram for Twee­t­akt 2011…

Week 178

I have devel­oped a sort of rou­tine when it comes to writ­ing these notes. I usu­al­ly sit down on fri­day morn­ing and bang them out in around half an hour. The trick to a lot of the things I do is devel­op­ing habits. Oth­ers would call it OCD.

But when­ev­er some­thing oth­er than the ordi­nary stuff hap­pens on fri­day, it’s a chal­lenge to still post wee­knotes. This was the case last week. I was at Game in the City to see Kei­ta Taka­hashi speak and also par­tic­i­pate in an invi­ta­tion-only work­shop with him. A great expe­ri­ence all around, Taka­hashi-san turned out to be a bit of a philoso­pher, an inter­est­ing com­bi­na­tion of a super-seri­ous and very play­ful per­son­al­i­ty. The signed Kata­mari disk I took home is a per­fect sou­venir.

Week num­ber 179 has tak­en off already, so I’ll have to keep this short now. The most impor­tant things to report are that I worked on the Band­jes­land addi­tions to the PLAY Pilots web­site with Alper, Simon and Bernard. The game had a test-run last fri­day and we’ll be doing a test of the data import this week so we can tweak and tune before the whole thing goes live com­ing fri­day.

Fur­ther­more, I spoke at an event for mid­dle school teach­ers on wednes­day, where I pro­posed a trav­el­ing games stu­dio that would part­ner with teach­ers and stu­dents to make games about a vari­ety of sub­jects (any­thing real­ly). Got some nice respons­es after­wards, which was heart­en­ing. Slides and notes will prob­a­bly show up once things calm down a bit on the Hub­bub blog.

Aside from this I worked on Maguro, the Pam­pus project, Twee­t­akt 2011 and the Learn­ing Lab project, and took care of the last prepa­ra­tions for This hap­pened – Utrecht #8. The lat­ter took place last night and was a lot of fun once again. Bring on the rest of num­ber 179!

Week 177

I was just check­ing out a secret devel­op­ment ver­sion of the Band­jes­land page on PLAY Pilots. It is shap­ing up nice­ly, all the basic tech is in place, now it’s just a mat­ter of knead­ing it to look nice and con­nect­ing it to the instal­la­tion Monoban­da are build­ing for Le Guess Who? When all goes accord­ing to plan we’ll have a love­ly online record of what went down in that very spe­cial place in Tivoli Oude­gracht. Get­ting the scaf­fold­ing up for this took up a large chunk of the week, with Alper and Simon back in the stu­dio for engi­neer­ing and design.

Next wednes­day I’ll be speak­ing at an event for teach­ers in mid­dle edu­ca­tion at Pakhuis de Zwi­jger orga­nized by Noord­hoff Pub­lish­ers. I’ve been asked to share my most remark­able idea for engag­ing stu­dents in a nov­el way. I have a rough out­line of the thing on paper (it popped up almost ful­ly formed when I woke up this morn­ing, love it when that hap­pens). Now it’s just a mat­ter of build­ing the slides. Shouldn’t take too long.

Anoth­er major thing this week was coach­ing the devel­op­ment of a paper pro­to­type of the game we’re design­ing for the Learn­ing Lab. Wieger and Syl­van, my two awe­some interns at Hub­bub, have come up with a love­ly con­cept for some­thing that runs on top of the course’s inter­nal blog sys­tem and sup­ports stu­dents with reflect­ing on their self-devel­op­ment. We played through it this morn­ing with the client, filled a big white­board with com­ments and are now in good shape to work towards a ver­sion that we can playtest with stu­dents. Love­ly.

Week 175

This week, a large chunk of my time was tak­en up by the return of project Maguro. A few weeks ago, I think it was num­ber 171, we (a team of free­lance con­sul­tants put togeth­er by Demo­vides) pre­sent­ed our con­cept. It turns out the client liked this con­cept so much, they actu­al­ly want it pro­duced, pron­to. Demo­vides has asked Hub­bub to take care of all cre­ative work, which is great. I’ve been plan­ning the project, togeth­er with the oth­er folks dri­ving it, and fig­ur­ing out bud­gets and dead­lines and deliv­er­ables and so on. We should be able to send the client a pro­pos­al before the end of next week.

Anoth­er big ses­sion was devot­ed to a review of the work Hub­bub has been doing for the Learn­ing Lab. We have three games under our belt so we talked about what worked and what didn’t. And we looked ahead and came up with a plan for the next phase. In gen­er­al, we’ll be mov­ing away from prop­er games and explor­ing more sub­tle ways of intro­duc­ing rule­sets into exist­ing process­es. It’s going to be more about mak­ing game-like learn­ing tools and less about prop­er games that have sec­ond-order teach­ing effects.

On mon­day we announced This hap­pened – Utrecht #8. Rain­er Kohlberg­er, Hel­ma van Rijn, Lotte Mei­jer and my friends at Fource­Labs… it’s going to be awe­some, I am sure. Three more weeks to go. Apart from the usu­al arrange­ments, not much needs to be done for this, luck­i­ly.

Those were the high­lights of this week I guess. I did work on the Pam­pus project and on PLAY Pilots (have you seen the roundup in Eng­lish for that one, by the way?) but that’s about it.

Week 174

STT again

This week on Wednes­day I found myself in the love­ly KNAW build­ing to talk about the far future of applied game design. I was invit­ed to do so by STT, togeth­er with David Shaf­fer, Jeroen van Mas­trigt and Jeroen Elf­ferich. I talked about the inca­pac­i­ty of design as well as sci­ence fic­tion to effec­tive­ly imag­ine a future, how to deal with that as a design­er, and two areas that I see as tru­ly vir­gin ter­ri­to­ry for applied game design: the new type of city we’ve seen emerge in the East, and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy. I got some nice respons­es and some chal­leng­ing ques­tions from the crowd, so I guess things went OK. The anno­tat­ed slides will find their way to the Hub­bub blog soon.

Aside from this, I spent the week work­ing on PLAY Pilots — con­tin­u­ing work on the next pilot for Le Guess Who? togeth­er with Monoban­da. And at the HKU, work­ing with my stu­dents on the Pam­pus project. Final­ly, my interns have kicked off their third game at the Learn­ing Lab, this one run­ning on their inter­nal blog plat­form. It involves mon­keys and a blind drag­on. Look­ing for­ward to the write­up for that one.

Quite a few bits of con­tent found their way online too, by the way. In case you missed them the first time around, here they are:

Plus a video of the Boc­ce Drift ses­sion Hub­bub ran a while back:

Week 171 & 172

I have a lot on my plate at the moment. A bit too much it seems. So it’s a good thing I got to wrap up a few things in the past two weeks…

Most notably Maguro, for which we pre­sent­ed our design to the client last wednes­day. We gave away quite a show, includ­ing music and spo­ken word per­for­mances. The whole thing was well-received.

Anoth­er deliv­ery of a kind was This hap­pened – Utrecht #7. Nev­er before did it take us so long to com­plete our speak­er line­up. It’s an expe­ri­ence I would like to pre­vent in future, but we couldn’t real­ly help it. As a result, I had very few expec­ta­tions about this par­tic­u­lar one, but it turned out great. We even man­aged to try out a few new things. A new clock, and a new “badge” (actu­al­ly a but­ton). Good stuff. Some nice reports have been writ­ten about it, too.

More deliv­er­ies, at the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val we had a good run with PLAY Pilots live game num­ber two: De Stere­oscoop by Zes­baans. We man­aged to get some nice pub­lic­i­ty, we had it set up at the clos­ing par­ty and lots of peo­ple played on it. Good stuff.

Apart from this I have been busy find­ing projects for Twee­t­akt 2011’s inter­ac­tive pro­gram, and man­ag­ing the Pam­pus group project at the HKU.1 My interns at Hub­bub are also plug­ging away at the Learn­ing Lab games, they deliv­ered their sec­ond one last week.

Good grief. No won­der I was a lit­tle sick and had to take a day off yes­ter­day. I’m hop­ing to take a it a lit­tle bit eas­i­er the com­ing peri­od. No idea how, though. Any ideas?

  1. The group is blog­ging, too, by the way. []

Week 169

Fiona Raby once told me that the major­i­ty of her work with stu­dents at the RCA was about psy­chol­o­gy. After a week like this, I can see where she’s com­ing from. With­out going into too much detail, I had my work cut out for me with a new group of stu­dents who I will be work­ing with on a design research project at the HKU. After a first meet­ing with the team and a kick-off with the client the next day, it became clear I was deal­ing with a group with some seri­ous moti­va­tion­al issues. The trick was to fig­ure out where it all was com­ing from. To do this it was vital to try and see things as they real­ly are in stead of as they were pre­sent­ed to me by the group. After sev­er­al addi­tion­al ses­sions (mess­ing with my sched­ule but that comes with the ter­ri­to­ry) I had it fig­ured out more or less and have for­mu­lat­ed a plan to deal with it. Psy­chol­o­gy.

In between all that crazi­ness my week con­sist­ed of:

  • Work­ing with my two new interns at Hub­bub. We reflect­ed on their expe­ri­ences at the Nat­ur­al Net­work­ing Fes­ti­val and pre­sent­ed a post-mortem of the first game to Thieu after attend­ing one of the Learn­ing Lab mee­tups.
  • Sketch­ing out addi­tions to the PLAY Pilots web­site nec­es­sary to sup­port the Zes­baans instal­la­tion for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val. These will launch next week in time for the installation’s unveil­ing on Thurs­day.
  • Pre­sent­ing my pre­lim­i­nary list of inter­ac­tive works suit­able for next year’s Twee­t­akt fes­ti­val. This is my first time curat­ing an event oth­er than This hap­pened. I am keen to mash up play­ful inter­ac­tion design with the fringes of game design and it seems Twee­t­akt are up for it too. Hap­py days.
  • Anoth­er full day of work on Maguro. Best part of which was a few qui­et hours to bang out a first playable paper pro­to­type of the game. Con­ver­gence is a bitch but always reward­ing when it hap­pens.
  • Today, I hung out at BUROPONY and took care of a few odds and ends for their web­site. In return work has start­ed on a last bit of Hub­bub cor­po­rate iden­ti­ty: a design for the box to hold our busi­ness-slash-col­lectible play­ing cards.

And with that I am sign­ing off. A train is tak­ing me from Rot­ter­dam to Utrecht, per­haps I will be in time to catch the tail end of fri­day drinks at the Dutch Game Gar­den. Nev­er a dull moment there.

Week 168

So, I got back from a one-week hol­i­day on Ter­schelling last week­end (which was love­ly, by the way) and imme­di­ate­ly dove into work again. So much to do at the moment, it’s a chal­lenge not to get swamped. Any­way. And it is one of those weeks where I need to look back on my cal­en­dar just to remem­ber what has been going on…

Most notably, two interns have start­ed at Hub­bub. They are work­ing on games for the sec­ond install­ment of the Learn­ing Lab, an exper­i­men­tal edu­ca­tion­al pro­gram cre­at­ed by Riv­er Insti­tute, which will be run­ning at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ams­ter­dam the com­ing months. Their first assign­ment is to design a game that will be played by Learn­ing Lab par­tic­i­pants (who are called “pio­neers”) today and tomor­row at the Nat­ur­al Net­work­ing Fes­ti­val. It is nice to have these guys on board. This week I reg­u­lar­ly sat down with them to review their plans but aside from this they are incred­i­bly self-steer­ing. They’ll be blog­ging about their exploits on the Hub­bub blog soon.

Also, I had a full day of work on Maguro yes­ter­day. We spent the whole day at the client’s office (a large gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion which I can’t name at the moment). The morn­ing was tak­en up by short pre­sen­ta­tions from the side of us, the design team. We also had the chance to talk to a selec­tion of peo­ple from our tar­get audi­ence and get a tour of their work envi­ron­ment. In the after­noon we sat down to brain­storm con­cepts, and came up with some inter­est­ing ones. I enjoyed get­ting a chance to see this orga­ni­za­tion from the inside, which due to to the sen­si­tive nature of their work is a lit­tle secre­tive. We decid­ed to use part of the workshop’s pro­gram to try out some mechan­ics that we might be using in the game, with­out the audi­ence being aware of it. That lead to some inter­est­ing results.

This week is book­end­ed by meet­ings for project Ika. This project is run from the still very new Design for Play­ful Impact research group at the HKU. On mon­day I spent some time with the peo­ple lead­ing the oth­er projects to get a gen­er­al sense of the pro­gram. Today I’ll be meet­ing up with the client for the first time.

And in between I’ve been doing more work on PLAY Pilots. I dropped by Zes­baans to check out an ear­ly ver­sion of their instal­la­tion for the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val, which is called The Stere­o­scope and is this kind of toy-like VJ-ing tool loaded with frag­ments from Dutch films from the past 30 years. Awe­some, awe­some, stuff. It’s already fun to play with, even though the cus­tom-built con­sole is yet to be fin­ished and the game mechan­ics haven’t been imple­ment­ed yet.

And final­ly, in oth­er news: we announced the next This hap­pened — Utrecht, and I uploaded a selec­tion of pho­tos from the Boc­ce Drift game Hub­bub ran a few weeks ago.