Week 183

And so the last work­week of the year has come to an end. I’ve just wrapped some going-away gifts for Wieger and Syl­van, who have been interns at Hub­bub for the past four months. I’ve put togeth­er a lit­tle sur­vival kit con­tain­ing every­thing a junior agent of Hub­bub needs to make it out in the big bad world.

It’s been a rel­a­tive­ly qui­et week, with some work on Maguro, which will kick off prop­er­ly in the new year when all of the team is back on deck. Alper has start­ed doing some small soft­ware pro­to­typ­ing of the basic game­play. Pro­to­types over ideas, that’s how I pre­fer to do things.

I went over to the Nether­lands Film Fes­ti­val to look back on our col­lab­o­ra­tion as part of the PLAY Pilots project. Seems like we’re both keen to do more work togeth­er in 2011, which is nice.

I was at Media­mat­ic wednes­day night to do an Ignite talk on the work that’s been going on at Hub­bub. That went quite well (I was glad to have prac­ticed the thing a few times, because the time pres­sure is killer). I’ll post slides and a tran­script to the Hub­bub blog soon­ish.

I man­aged to squeeze in some shenani­gans in the snow too. A nice fol­low up to last friday’s snow fight, this time I rode a too-fast-for-my-own-good sleigh down the side of the old city for­ti­fi­ca­tions towards the moat and almost col­lid­ed with a dog and a lit­tle kid. I man­aged to stay dry though. That was fun.

And with that it is time to sign off. I start­ed writ­ing these wee­knotes at the begin­ning of this year and wasn’t at all sure if I would keep it up. Turns out I did, and I have to say it’s been a plea­sure to write these for the most part.

Even so, I don’t think I’ll keep writ­ing these here in 2011. Most of my work now hap­pens at Hub­bub so I’ll be writ­ing the occa­sion­al update over at the blog there.

When it comes to the link posts, I used to do this with Deli­cious, but like many I’ve made the switch to Pin­board last week. I don’t think I’ll reac­ti­vate link posts, so if you want to fol­low the book­marks, fol­low me there.

And of course there’s my per­son­al Twit­ter account, and the Hub­bub one. That might be eas­i­est in fact although maybe a bit over­whelm­ing at times.

All that’s left to say is thank you for read­ing this, have a mer­ry Christ­mas a hap­py new year, and I will catch you again some­time some­where.

Week 182

First at the stu­dio, cof­fee brew­ing, Tron Lega­cy sound­track play­ing mak­ing this feel like an epic morn­ing. It’s week 182 which means the penul­ti­mate work­week of this year. I’m look­ing for­ward to a much need­ed hol­i­day between Christ­mas and the new year dur­ing which I will be com­plete­ly off the grid. Being dis­con­nect­ed has become a lux­u­ry.

Thing are qui­et­ing down, but still there’s plen­ty to do, although things seem a lit­tle less frag­ment­ed. I basi­cal­ly focused on get­ting a new project code­named Maguro off the ground. I signed the con­tract with the client and briefed the team. We’ll be mak­ing a per­va­sive game aimed at cre­at­ing a change in the atti­tude of a large gov­ern­men­tal service’s per­son­nel. It’s ambi­tious and excit­ing. Good thing I have some very bright minds on the team: Alper, Simon, Karel and Niels. We’ll get start­ed prop­er­ly next year. Can’t wait.

Besides this I went over to Muiden to attend a demo and pre­sen­ta­tion of the game my stu­dents cre­at­ed for the island of Pam­pus. There was too much ice in the IJs­selmeer so we couldn’t actu­al­ly go to the island, so the demo was done on a dike with a view of the lake. I took some pho­tos. It was great.

And in between I have been talk­ing to the stu­dios who cre­at­ed the PLAY Pilots live games. Eval­u­at­ing the project, so that if we get to do it again in the new year (which I am very much hop­ing we can) we keep doing what we did well, and improve on the things we could have done bet­ter.

With that it’s time to sign off and dive into fri­day. Tonight’s Hub­bub Christ­mas drinks at Kafe Bel­gië. Very much look­ing for­ward to that.

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 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 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 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.

Week 166

This week was all about fran­ti­cal­ly get­ting things sort­ed so that I can com­plete­ly dis­con­nect for a week on start­ing fri­day (tomor­row).

  • Putting up the scaf­fold­ing for project Fugu; a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Riv­er Insti­tute on an exper­i­ment in high­er edu­ca­tion at the UvA. Hub­bub will be design­ing some ARG-ish addi­tions to its pro­gram. I am bring­ing on board two interns to work with me on this. I’ll have them intro­duce them­selves at the Hub­bub blog soon.
  • Final exams at the HKU which is best described as a roller-coast­er ride of drain­ing and exhil­a­rat­ing moments. I judged the work of 10 inter­ac­tion design and game design stu­dents, includ­ing those I coached myself. Some were very good. There is a show at the fac­ul­ty on sep­tem­ber 10 & 11 called EJECT.
  • Had some meet­ings about yet anoth­er project which I have decid­ed to code­name Ika. This is a mix of me coach­ing a group of HKU stu­dents and doing design research in the cul­tur­al her­itage domain. A hybrid edu­ca­tion­al mod­el.
  • Var­i­ous man­age­ment-type activ­i­ties for PLAY Pilots. Most­ly aimed at help­ing the Zes­baans / NFF pilot make it into the world and get­ting the Wip ‘n’ Kip addi­tions for the site up.
  • This after­noon we’ll kick off project Maguro which is about using per­va­sive games for inter­nal train­ing pur­pos­es at a gov­ern­ment agency.
  • Tomor­row at 12:15 I will get on this boat to this island and will be very hard to reach for a week. I plan to do a lot of read­ing, cycling and walk­ing and not much else. Well, sleep­ing prob­a­bly. Lots of that too.

So, don’t expect any notes for week 167. I’ll be back to report on #168.