Week 250

Last week I was in the Netherlands to wrap up some stuff at our Utrecht studio and to discuss a realign of the studio (more on that later!). On Tuesday I caught up with some people in Amsterdam and on Wednesday I made my way back to Berlin, just in time for the games.net summer party, always a great event for people making games in Berlin.

Games.net summer thing

On the projects front: the SHIJIMI proposal needed some adjustment before being final. There is a bunch more stuff in the pipes that will make its way into a future weeknote. Standing got written up on Bright. We are glad about the attention it is getting and we’re now in talks about development. Kars met up with a couple of Dutch cultural attachés to talk about the role games and play can take in the Netherlands’ representation abroad.

Thursday evening I organized a get-together at our Berlin studio for game designers to discuss open problems together and find solutions. This proved to be immensely valuable and will likely become a regular thing.

Kars playtested KEGANI, a game we’re making together with Subalekha Udayasankar and we’re really excited about the results from that.

Playtesting KEGANI

I did maintenance on (your daily) Victory Boogie Woogie on Friday before I went to an event in the Grüner Salon about the protests in Taksim.

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Week 249

This week’s focus was squarely on our celebration of Standing’s launch at Mediamatic. While Alper and Simon put the final touches on a live display showing all active standing sessions around the world, I got the word out about the event on social media, coordinated with the event producer and got a streaming setup put together. I also did a quick ignite on the night before the event.

Setting up for Standing event at Mediamatic

We had a nice turnout and really enjoyed ourselves. The course on standing—heavily influenced by qigong—was a good warmup. Dirk’s essay likening smartphones and apps to lamps and jinn served as a nice framing of our work. We then got standing to a live set by Salvador Breed. (A recording of this is available over at Twitch.) The combination of ambient noise, standing super still for something you care about, and seeing people across the world join in on the live display was rather magical.

Standing session by Hubbub at Mediamatic with music by DJ Salvador. Picture credits: Simon Scheiber.

Aside from our work on Standing, we sent out two updated offers and had an assortment of meetings. Most notably, I went over to RIVM to critique the current state of VTV game (which we did strategic design for late last year).

On Friday, I cleaned out the various inboxes in the morning and subsequently went over to The Village to decompress together with Alper, who had come over for the event.

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Week 248

Standing

Most of last week for all of us was spent on Standing, our app for playful activism which saw public release (announcement). Responses have been more than positive and we have had people standing from all over the world already. One of our biggest inspirations, Bernie De Koven called it an example of inactivism. We like that term a lot. We have been busy improving the website, fixing bugs, talking to people about the project and planning the launch party at Mediamatic Thursday evening. You are more than welcome to join us!

Other than that Kars dropped by EYE for a workshop. We had a good chat about games with Nina Polak of Dutch publication De Correspondent. We debriefed the project CHUTORO with GEElab and reflected on our experiences collaborating.

We discussed further work on KEGANI since the proposal we made for it was not selected. The idea of KEGANI is to create a hybrid game to make more people aware of a social issue. We are going to work on the concept further and explore other partners who would be interested in working with us on this. The SHIJIMI proposal is moving forward steadily and it turns out that a lot of people are interested in gamelike urban development right now.

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Announcing Standing – an app for playful activism

Standing

Today we are making Standing available for iPhone. Standing is an app for playful activism, which we have been working on intermittently since we first announced it back in August 2013. We are pleased to have it out there and are excited to see what people will do with it.

With Standing, you can stand still for a cause of your choosing in whatever place you feel is suitable. The app records how long and where you are standing and shares it live on the accompanying website. Once you have finished, it is turned into a lasting record, which you can share as proof of your commitment to the cause.

Standing

The project was inspired by the standing wo/man protests, which were initiated by Erdem Gündüz, on 17 June 2013 by standing in Taksim Square in Turkey. The topic of ludic resistance has been a long-lasting interest of ours and after much speaking and writing on the subject we felt the need to make something that directly contributed to it. Seeing the act of standing being used as an effective way of civil disobedience delighted us and we felt it served as a perfect starting point.

Hashtags, posts and photos of the people standing in Turkey easily found their way online. It had a very meme-like quality. We wanted to extend the act of standing even further by creating an app that would track the location and duration in real time.

Standing

Nonviolent civil disobedience can contribute to change and has done so in the past. A well-known example would be the 1960 Nashville sit-ins. Today, the relationship of contemporary tech culture with activism is many-faced. Websites and apps have become the forefront of government and corporate persuasion. We are interested in using this vernacular for playful resistance.

More practically, and perhaps more importantly, we think Standing sits in between the frictionless, and therefore almost meaningless act of signing an online petition and participating in a physical protest which can be intimidating, challenging or even dangerous. Standing is a distributed, asynchronous way to playfully and nonviolently express that you really do care about a cause.

Although earnestly intended as a thing people can actually use to express themselves, the irony of using an app to “solve” the “problem” of activism is not lost on us. We are fully aware of and sympathetic towards the arguments against “solutionism” as articulated by Morozov and others. This project is a way for us to comment on the same phenomenon, by playfully appropriating the “medium” of the app for non-instrumental purposes.

Get Standing in the Apple App Store. Meanwhile, we intend to develop both the app and the website further. They are both still in an early, experimental stage. Regardless, we do hope you enjoy using it to stand for a cause, and look forward to hearing any feedback you may have.

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Week 247

We focused on two projects this week: SHIJIMI and Standing (formerly known as AJI).

For SHIJIMI, we wrote a proposal and had a meeting with Heijmans and Rezone to discuss it and other documents drafted earlier by them. Each is a position paper of sorts, and next we need to merge them all into one thing suitable for submission for funding. It’s slow going, but I find devoting suitable amounts of time to the preliminary phase of a project always pays off in the end.

Standing’s first proper release version nears completion. We continued to adjust the app’s accompanying website and I drafted an announcement blog post. I also headed to Rotterdam to spend a day walking through the city with Simon, shooting photos that would make suitable press materials.

Being photographed by Simon

Meanwhile, De Gids published a sneak preview of the essay by Dirk which will be presented during the event which doubles as Standing launch party at Mediamatic, on Ascension Day. We’d love to have you over for this, but you can also participate from any other place on the globe. So mark your calendar.

Other than this, the usual meetings with potential clients and peers continued both in Utrecht and Berlin, as well as boring stuff such as taking care of finances. Alper dropped by UIkonf on several occasions and I whipped up a quick writeup of the Cuppings tasting game for our portfolio.

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Week 246

A large part of our time these weeks is spent writing proposals. A lot of things are heading our way so that’s good and it’s a welcome change from making things, which we’ve been doing for the past months. One fairly crystallised concept, codenamed SHIJIMI, is moving forward steadily and another, about Tokyo is in a preliminary stage. They are quite different but what they have in common is that they both deal with urbanism. Coincidentally Kars was also revising his chapter for the Gameful World which is about urban play and should be out later this year.

Standing saw dramatic developments back and forth with Apple and made its way to the app store in time for a public launch in two weeks at an event over at Mediamatic in Amsterdam. You can read an excerpt from Dirk Vis’s essay on it over at De Gids.

Car made from household consumables

Kars went off teaching at Delft University of Technology with students of Ianus who are designing boardgames for id8. The next day he went to lecture in Leiden on play at the local Studium Generale. From what I gather fun was had and minds were blown.

About to deliver studium generale lecture at Leiden University

I had lunch with Mike Lazer-Walker who was in town, a very interesting game maker from New York. I wrote a retort (full text) on a fairly uneven piece on gamification in German Süddeutsche. I was pleased that that got a reply from the author who is also the editor in chief.

Joust

I asked around in the Berlin game scene whether there would be a launch party for Sportsfriends in Berlin and one spontaneously happened. We took over an event in Berlin’s esports cafe Meltdown and found out that playing Joust without sound is hard. Thanks to Sjors and Lorenzo for putting that together.

And then on the weekend I got to play Betrayal at the House on the Hill by Rob Daviau, a game I had wanted to play ever since I saw him talk at PRACTICE.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill

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Week 245

Our collaboration with Subalekha (codenamed KEGANI) reached a milestone this week with the submission of a proposal to the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund. We talked through the draft proposal on Monday, made some final adjustments afterwards, and sent it in on Wednesday. It’s fingers crossed for now while we wait for a response.

I spent a day in Amsterdam on Tuesday, meeting with Monnik, having lunch at Open Coop and finally meeting at Mediamatic to discuss our plans for a Standing event during their Lightness exhibition.

Lunch at Open Coop

Speaking of which, I attended the Ignite which served as the opening event for Lightness on Wednesday. People demoed Ala Bandera, announced a full week’s investigation into soap bubbles and Dirk talked about ludic acts of resistance as a teaser for our thing on Ascension Day (watch this space).

Flag Aerobics / Ala Bandera demo at Mediamatic Fabriek

Work on Standing continues at a slow but steady pace. We were rejected by Apple on Thursday and proceeded to make the necessary adjustments to the app. I also fiddled with the website, which really truly is nearly there, now.

On Thursday, I headed to Dutch Game Garden to celebrate the launch of Bezircle, which is made by Ludomotion—associate Joris Dormans’s indie game studio. Bezircle is a quirky tactical action game with super easy one-touch controls, particularly fun for local multiplayer sessions.

I ended the week by drinking “vandeStreek” beers and playing Bang! at the monthly Bierclub. Alper, meanwhile, dove into the social circuit around ThingsCon and on Sunday attended an event on theatre and games.

Playing Bang! at Vechtclub XL Bierclub

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Week 244

Last week was cut a bit short because of the Easter break. Recharging our batteries a bit was a good thing for the amount of stuff we wanted to push out.

KEGANI continued with us putting the last touches on the game prototypes and discussing how to further flesh out the proposal to be able to develop the game further. We are having a lot of fun collaborating on this project together even though this is a pretty busy period for all of us.

Standing moved forward with us submitting the app to the app store finally. We just need to work a bit more on the website and we should be ready for a small public beta.

Kars was out and about a lot this week. First going to Heijmans to discuss our ideas around a game for Rezone. On Thursday he presented for a full house at Behaviour Design AMS on “Five Behaviour Design Principles You Never Suspected Would Work”. Links to the things he talked about are up on his tumblr. I coincidentally visited the Berlin UX Cocktail Hours earlier during the week. The differentiation user experience design is undergoing right now intrigues both me and Kars.

I was interviewed by German radio station Detektor FM who read about us in Vrij Nederland and wanted to get our perspective on gamification on the work floor. This seems to be a current topic in Germany again because of a study being undertaken by the TU Munich. Giving this interview was fun and I think necessary for the German discourse which seems to be focussed a bit too much on strict utility.

One Hubbub side project that we do with long time collaborator Simon Scheiber which had been on the back burner saw a release last week as well. The new version of Cuppings was approved by Apple this weekend and is available for purchase on the app store.

I fixed up our visual memetic archive on Tumblr again so LOUD NOISE ENTRANCE HALL is available again for your viewing pleasure and ours.

Kars closed of the week with some play related recreation by getting slaughtered at Netrunner by Tim Bosje and going to an escape room in Bunschoten with a large group of game designers. On this side I participated in Critical Mass Berlin and that ended the week.

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Week 243

Looking at my log for last week it’s clear a lot has been going on; work continued on Standing (codename AJI) and we (mainly Alper) did some support work on Beestenbende.

In the meantime we are starting up new projects; one is codenamed KEGANI, a collaboration between us and Subalekha who resides in NYC. We will be seeking funding for KEGANI, which is shaping up to be a (series of) games exploring contemporary global warfare. It’s grim but important subject matter. We’ve progressed from exchanging ideas to doing paper prototypes in parallel and discussing them over Google Hangout. I’ve struggled to find the right approach, but it appears sticking to earnestness and playfulness is helpful.

Finally, on the new projects front, we’re talking with people in professional sports which is an intersection of games and culture that has long fascinated us.

In between we squeezed various visits and conversations. I was interviewed by Mare, the Leiden University weekly paper, for a lecture I’ll be giving there in two weeks. We discussed plans for a Standing-related event at Mediamatic later this year with Dirk Vis.

I participated in an event organised by REZONE in which they looked back on their playful interventions project and started up discussions around possible new projects, including “solving” the vacancy problem plaguing real-estate, for which Heijmans has suggested a rather intriguing approach inspired by land consolidation.

Rezone at WII-fabriek Den Bosch

Alper had a very Apple week with both a visit the local genius bar and to the local CocoaHeads. Meanwhile, I ended the week with a visit to Joris Weijdom at MAPLAB, a lab set up by the Utrecht School of the Arts to enable research into, well, Media and Performance. They have a pretty sweet setup for doing all kinds of experiments in which image, sound and space converge.

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Week 242

We have been pursuing a project now officially called KEGANI with a friend in New York for the past couple of weeks. We hope to share a bit more about that but without giving too much away: we have set ourselves a brief to use our type of game design to tackle a specific social issue.

I spent most of the week working on AJI and we did a review of what we believe to be the final sprint for the app. We can then finally submit it to the app store and reveal something that you can actually play with.

We have two workshops over at CIID’s Summer School program about play and creativity which we think are going to be both very valuable and fun for those interested in these themes. One uses ‘Free to Play’ as a way to think about systems and get into game design. The other is an exploration to see what kind of new and unintended uses we can get out of “slideware” to further creativity and learn about design.

ITU

Then at the end of the week Kars was off to Copenhagen to teach at Miguel Sicart’s playful design course. Kars also dropped by CIID to talk about our workshops there and he caught a screening of work from the experimental imaging course given there by Matt Cottam and Timo Arnall. From what I gather he then had a great time spending his birthday weekend there as well. We are both rather fond of Copenhagen and welcome any opportunity to visit.

Urban Spree

Meanwhile in Berlin the A MAZE independent games festival happened as a part of Games Week Berlin. Thorsten and Lorenzo can be proud of their biggest edition yet. It seems to have turned into the go-to event for independent games makers in Europe. Lots of friends from the Netherlands and beyond were over and I managed to attend a couple of talks on Thursday morning.

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