We were lucky to be in Copenhagen for the Play Festival where we presented both a paper and a game related to our AHRC game/hospital project. The festival brought together children and adults, game specialists and inhabitants to play together for three days in a temporary experimental playground. The three days were divided into game talks, games session and board games. See below for our summary/experience of the festival!
Game Talk Session:
Alongside the festival there were a series of presentations from innovators and game developers who talked about both their practice and experience of games and play. Saturday started with keynote speaker Bernie DeKoven who presented Playful Play. In his recent book he describes a collection of ideas and tools to help bringing back in playfulness (details here). Through his talk he highlighted concept of playfulness and how important it was not only in a game/play context but in any aspect of life. He emphasised the following:
- The importance of creating opportunities for ownership/games’ appropriation
- How games should be engaging
- With flexible challenge
- Players have to understand they can step in and out at any time
Throughout his talk, he invited the audience to play a series of game. The first one was Rock, Paper, Scissors. He asked people to play it with more than three participants to create new rules and create variations of the game to make it more playful. Then we played « slapsie » and again the audience was asked to challenge the original game. For the speaker playfulness redefines it all, it is transformational.
Playfulness opens you. It lightens your hear.
With Oracle of Frogs he demonstrated how playing game in public can be political but also how easy it is to transform public space into playfull space, into a “zone of shared laught”, a place to be safe enough.
Sabine Harrer talked about awkwardness in games and questionned both how can we understand the pleasurable experience of awkward in play? And what does it take to design awkward games? To illustrate her arguments she presented her game LoveBirds which challenges players’ intimate sphere. In the game, players wear bird mask which have conductive paints to allow one player “to connect” with another one. The game deals with some kind of physical contact, innocent theme and ambivalent interface. Through her talk, she described awkwardness as a light disturbance which can be also described as a temporary spatial disruption of normal codes of behaviour. She shown example of “social glitch”, a “temporary failure” in games which invites players to find the glitch and explore an alternative narrative. For her, awkwardness has enormous potential and can create new meanings.
Co-director of interactive theater maker company Coney, Tassos Stevens presented It’s all Play: Theatre as Games and Stories via System. He shown A Small Town Anywhere (2009), project inspired from Clouzot’s film in which audience takes hats and badges to become citizen of a small town for one week (a few hours in real time). The project featured a game which starts with gossips around the town and develops by building on stories told by both individuals and communities. Through the talk, he described different approaches of making play in theater and questioned the following: can game be art? He mentioned Flow Theory: when creating games we need to “punctuate” meaning that we give space for reflexion to happen which according to him is very important when designing an experience.
Later in the afternoon, it was our turn to present and both Dylan and Elizabeth introduced the project, the process (eg. workshop, collaboration) and the first series of outcome which features our game Hospital Heights. The talk was followed by great conversation which revealed others’ play/hospital project and interest.
Filmaker Jules Oosterwegel presented on sunday morning A collective play memory to be lost in a decade: some thoughts. He shown a website he created: kidsplaybook where he collected and documented over 400 games around the world. Kidsplaybook features a database of outdoor street games filmed in countries all around the world. Jules’ work aims to preserve culturage heritage/collective memory of play while promoting its diversity (more details on Playworks). Before we left for the airport, Scott Gaule introduced some of his research in Other (playable) worlds are possible and questioned how can play challenge the world we are in playfully?
Board Game Session:
On the Saturday we installed our game and invited visitors to sit and play with us. We collected feedback and will soon work on updating the game. Generally, participants liked playing the game, they liked the playfulness of building with the cards and the colourful pictures. Below are some pros and cons:
- Easy to start playing.
- Suitable for target group.
- Nice pictures and raise conversation about personal stories (eg. nostalgia).
- They appreciate the figures (especially the dog!)
- Easy to appropriate the rules once you play
Following are things we need to think about:
- Some categories the cards feature are not very explicit (eg. MiiSpace category).
- Include a twist at the end when someone runs out of cards.
- The categories are mostly positive.
- Players tend to choose the cards which will advantage them when di-assembling their structure.
- Players don’t always get the meaning of the “risk cards”.
- Think about a special card (eg. the ice cream card).
- Make it more competitive and with a bit more strategy.
- More figures (eg. animal)
In the board game session, there were a variety of games all very different and well crafted (look, colours/players numbers/time played/themes/complexity). Top is Usagi, is a two players game where the rabbit player must reach the opposite side of the board before the fox player captures him. Below is The Grid, another two players game but with more strategy involved: each player controls cubes with different abilities (eg. direction). Following was another lovely game we played called Merry Go Round, a challenging board game set in an amusement park.
The Neighbor was specifically commissioned by the festival to create a specific game influenced by the local environment (eg. the new metro station built in the park: pros & cons). The game involved both local people and the building in the area and reflects on notion of preservation of place, power (eg. participants can lie to influence others) and decision making.
Video and Performance artist Abby Manock presented Lesser Evils, a game where the different participants (farmer/fox/chicken/grain) have to run after each other. While trying to cross the river to catch the grain, the chicken risk to be caught by the fox which is been pushed away by the farmer. The game have some “twist” rules which allow one character to catch unexpected one (eg. chicken catches the fox). Initially, the artist is interested in riddles challenging its format: from paper to physical settings, from mental to physical skillset. She worked with physical version of riddles where people had to figure out how to carry things physically from one point to another. With the game Lesser Evils she takes her interest and inspiration in riddle and transforms it into a game where more people can be involved, with offensive and defensive aspects.
Talking with her reminded us about Tassos Stevens’ talk/question on saturday: is game art? Abby believes yes and she thinks games and play have both potential in breaking down the pretension of performance art. We also loved her “toolkit” suitcase where she meticulously prepared the toolkit of her game (eg. bike helmet transformed into beautiful outfit).
Following were two games crossing digital and physical spheres: The Great Gottlieb and Avatar Controller. Daniel Ernst presented the Great Gottlieb where one participant is invited to come up a beautiful installation to experience his Oculus Rift experiment. Daniel has built a world inside where the participant can reach for the stars. He mentioned the potential of this technology as the “new things”. The Great Gottlieb is his second experiment where he created from the programming to the sound and physical installation. In his first experiment “Diorama”, there was no specific interaction but he emphasised how this technology can be an experience in itself: people can spend over 20 minutes in the work he creates and even fall asleep!
Following was Avatar Controller: “a physical cooperation game played entirely through the body of someone else”. Team of two players were created where one player took control of an “avatar-player”. The game took place in a maze were the avatar player had to throw balls on others’ avatar. They could only hear direction given by the other player based outside the maze and using his tablet.
Holly Gramazio presented Nowhere I’d rather be, a game that challenged participants’ utopian vision of a city. Participants were invited to come and pick up a box. It featured keywords they had to work from in order to create three sentences which would describe their imaginary city. The challenge was to use most of the words from the box and to create original models for each of the sentence. At the end the group met to discuss the different models created, points were given according to a specific scale.
With Paparazzi, participants were asked to track celebrities who were walking around the area. Actors were indeed hired for the day and tracked by the different players. Posters were made to show players who were they and participants/parents’ phones were used to take photo of the celebrities. Participants’ scores were attributed according to the legibility and originality of their photos.
- Copenhagen Play Festival, website