The next morning, we ran Playing with Rules. We followed roughly the same format as at Mozilla Festival last year, slightly adjusted based on feedback from some of the participants from back then. We had a nice group with a varied background. There were less people with game design experience this time around, which was fine as we have training wheels built into the format. Outcomes were interesting, including one game about road rage with some mechanics that actually generated traffic jams on the board.
In the reflection during the wrap-up we discussed things like how to argue with games, how with applied games it’s not so much about being realistic as it is about interesting. We also observed that some issues seem to naturally emerge from the starter game we picked, things like immigration, traffic, discrimination. It might be interesting to swap out Mens erger je niet! for something else next time. The main point of the workshop—the importance of iteration and the importance of experiencing a design first-hand as soon as possible—clearly came across.
After the workshop, Lift 14 kicked off in ernest. On the first day, I particularly enjoyed Alexis Lloyd‘s criticism of seamless design, the making-of of the first lab-grown hamburger and gorgeous still and moving images produced by Lia Giraud using algae.
That evening, we headed to the traditional Lift fondue, ate lots of cheese and drank a sufficient amount of wine. Good conversations were had.
During the remained of the conference, we found some time to play around with the work on display at the exhibition, including a demo of third-person perspective live video goggles by OuterBody Labs (which reminded me of 3RD by Monobanda) and neat retro-compatible games and playful interfaces made by HEAD media design students.
Towards the end of the conference we were treated to two excellent talks on algorithmic culture. Ian Bogost revealed how the algorithm has become a dominant metaphor of our time, highlighting but also obscuring certain aspects of the world, such as the fact that much work still involves humans, even when we think it’s just code. (I was reminded of recent reads Metaphors We Live By and We Have Never Been Modern.) Dan Williams took us on an enjoyable tour of what it means to be a maker in a world dominated by the algorithm, and arrived at similar conclusions. Making things—physical things especially—is still messy and a lot of work. It won’t do to defer all responsibility for how the world is organised to engineers or even designers. Reality is messy and demands equally messy assemblages of disciplines to deal with it.
We would depart on Saturday, but not before we were treated to a genuinely mind-blowing tour of CERN, including a visit to the control centre and down below to the LHC. It’s amazing to think humans are capable of projects of such enormous scale and encouraging to know science can bring nations together to jointly pursue such peaceful ends. James Bridle wrote a nice thing about this after his visit two years ago. I’ll leave it there, and let the photos below speak for themselves.