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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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:
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. 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?
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.
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.