Week one-hundred-sixty-one was a long one. It effectively ran from Monday to Monday. I caught my breath yesterday and am back in the saddle now. Let’s see what happened.
Kohi sketching, Sake playtesting & Saba filming
It all started a bit sub optimal with myself being a bit under the weather. However, there was a significant amount of preparation ahead of me for the Hide&Seek Weekender, so I soldiered on.
On Monday I did some sketching for KOHI, so that Alper could continue to build and Simon could get started on the graphic design. The result was a larger stack of sketches than I had expected so they’ve got their work cut our for them.
I worked on preparing my Hide&Seek lecture. Wrote an outline, got some feedback on it from Alper and also from Alex which was all encouraging.
On Tuesday I headed to Amsterdam for another SAKE meeting with the Gids editors. I brought a paper prototype and had them play through it with some fun and interesting results. The first mechanics seem to work but they do need some complementary ones to prevent the whole thing from spiraling out of control.
After the playtest we met with writers who had expressed interest in participating. We ran through our plans and answered their questions. A number have since committed to the project, so that’s encouraging. Our crew is almost complete.
On Wednesday I headed to the Universiteitsmuseum to assist Stef with the Beestenbende (SABA) promotional video shoot. We had three lovely families who played part of the game as we followed them, and answered some questions on camera. That should give us enough material to cut together a nice short clip that will hopefully convince lots of families to come and play.
I should also mention we’ve submitted Beestenbende for a Dutch Game Award in the category best serious game. I think we’ve done something special in the games-for-museums space and I hope it will be recognized by what is the most important industry award of the Netherlands.
The rest of my time before flying to London on Friday was taken up with preparations for Ceremony of Surprise. Printing and cutting cards, making handouts, and keeping in touch with Tim as he ran around the city purchasing the last of our party items.
Once we’d arrived on Friday afternoon I killed a few hours in our hotel room making slides as Tim explored London. In the evening we headed to the Southbank Centre for the first evening of the Hide&Seek Weekender. Games I played included Discotect, Ordnungswissenschaft and Searchlight. We ended the day eating a burrito from Wahaca and having a real ale at the Harp.
On Saturday I finished my slides as Tim went out hunting for cake. In the afternoon we played more games at the Weekender — Killer Queen was a highlight for me — and sat in the sun eating various tasty dishes procured from the Real Food Market. We killed another hour or two playing a game of new Netrunner in a quiet corner of the Southbank Centre, which Tim had brought to try out.
In the evening we played more games at the Hide&Seek party, including the mind-bending Who Took The Apple?, the chaotic Do Move Say and the awkward Swordfight. I also enjoyed catching up with various luminaries from the London games scene.
On Sunday, we ran Ceremony of Surprise from 1-6pm at the Weekender and had a blast. We ended up running eight games, each lasting around 45 minutes. Groups ranged from eight to fifteen players. I particularly enjoyed how the game consistently built up towards an actual party atmosphere. People singing to each, sharing cake and so on, seemingly forgetting they were on a podium in a huge festival hall.1
At the end of Sunday Tim hopped on a plane home and I returned to the hotel, tired but satisfied.
And on Monday I had the pleasure of attending Playing in Public, the conference that rounded out the weekend. I was really impressed with the thoughtful treatment of the topic by everyone involved, balancing idealism with pragmatism with not a hint of cynicism to be found.
I particularly enjoyed Pat Kane’s analysis of the olympics as massive public event with a playful undercurrent, and Clare Reddington’s thoughts on designing public play that were firmly grounded in the Pervasive Media Studio’s practice. Other highlights included the heartwarming panel on regeneration games, Bennett Foddy’s slightly sadistic meditation on suffering in the olympics and Jason Anthony’s ideas about slow technology.
My own contribution consisted of around 20 minutes of rambling about the weird, legibility and the useful vs. useless games dichotomy. It got a nice writeup at Wired UK if you’re curious. I’ll post slides and notes soon(ish).
If you can’t tell this was a smashing weekend and I am super happy to have been part of it. Thanks to Alex, Holly, Sarah, Bronwyn, Tom and the rest of the Hide&Seek crew for having me.
Now to squeeze as much as I can from what remains of this week.