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Week 218

Last week Kars and I went on a trip to London which was chock-full of things to do and people to meet. What had started out as a visit to Playful quickly snowballed out of control. Take a seat, these weeknotes are a bit longer than usual.

We put some finishing touches on our work and prepared stuff for the trip on Monday after which on Tuesday both of us flew into London from Berlin and Schiphol. Kars met with Joris Dormans and Karel Millenaar to discuss automated game design tools for practicing game designers.

I hung around in Hoxton while waiting for Kars to arrive.

Look mum no hands

Wednesday we started the day with our first engagement in London. John Fass had invited us to give a brief for students in the decomputation elective of IED. After his introduction on play and philosophy, we presented on how we approach game design and then gave them the brief to apply free to play game design principles to a real world transportation system.


It is very gratifying to present for such highly motivated students. What struck us was their interest in how we use modeling and simulation with the help of Machinations in our work.

The brief is complex but the economical questions in it are current in games and other fields. There is a lot of potential to critically apply game design to the real world and we look forward to the results in two weeks.


On Thursday I explored the coffee scene of London while Kars caught up with Adrian Hon (see this profile on Polygon) and Tom Armitage. While he was working at Makielab I caught up with my Berlin studio mate Peter Bihr and we worked for a bit at the Shoreditch Grind.

Shoreditch Grind (so past the shark)

Kars had asked Matt Sheret if we could tour the Government Digital Service so all of us headed to Holborn at the end of the afternoon. The tour was unforgettable and I think it managed to impress everybody there (read these notes Peter wrote about it). The team and the work they are doing there are immensely inspiring and we long to see similar work in the Netherlands and Germany.

at GDS

What was very interesting for us as well is to see the pragmatical agile process that adorns most of their walls and how their way of working produces culture right there on those same walls.

at GDS

We then hit a pub nearby with Matt, Anne and Greg & Richard from Mudlark.


And at the end of the evening we dropped by the GV Art gallery for the opening of the Helix exhibition and briefly met Dan Williams and Honor Harger.


Then on Friday we attended Playful which was a brilliant day of talks about play in the widest sense possible. Greg and the team at Mudlark always manage to curate an excellent program and going to an event in Conway Hall always feels a bit like coming home.

Anne Holiday at Playful

Kars’s summary of the event’s highlights includes:

Anne Hollowday’s documentary films showing the work habits of old-school makers and inventors. George Buckenham’s geekery over game feel and physical controls. Ben Reade’s enviable position as mad food professor at Nordic Food Lab. And finally Dan Catt’s humorous, herculean—and arguably totally misguided—effort to breed the “best” Snakes & Ladders board.

It was also a lot of fun to hang out with lots of old and new friends from the games scene.

Hanging out after Playful

On Saturday we attended Mozilla Festival. We contributed to what turns out to be a massive event by facilitating a session on applied game design. We modified a format I had run with Sebastian a while back on modifying Parcheesi but we added the freedom for everybody to choose a social issue themselves to modify the game for.

Game designing

We got a spectacular group of people with both people with lots of game design experience and novices in it and they took to the challenge with gusto. Immigration seems to be an issue on everybody’s mind right now and the adaptations ranged from heartfelt to somewhat offensive. We called it a win.

Playing with Rules workshop at Mozilla Festival 2013

Mozilla Festival is a hugely inspiring event for the open web and we were happy to be a part of it. We then rode the cable cars back to the city, ran into Comic-Con cosplayers and hung around London a bit more before flying back on Sunday. All in all this was a week to remember.


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