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Tested out some projects at the inspiration meeting/ open day of Waag Society’s Creative Learning Lab:

Games Atelier

During the afternoon we went across the bridge to play a GPS game at the Java Island. Being just short of phones, I shared one with a visitor who was interested in the technique because she worked with teenagers who had difficulties with learning.

The route was laid out as a free play along multiple locations with 7Scenes. Taking pictures and answering questions about the surrounding we moved along the streets. Getting into the game spirit, we tried to avoid other players when asking pedestrians for answers, while attempting to take a look at the actions of our competitors to learn what we had to do next.

Photo's that were uploaded during the play-time.

In sharing the phone, my teammate was more than happy to let me to the trial-and-error process of finding out the workings of the program. It was quite clear, although we did miss some points in not answering the question when trying to edit an answer or taking a picture. In the mean time she could imagine how her students would do the same.

We experienced some euphoria when at the end of the twenty minutes we discovered we were one of the groups with the most points.

Animaatje (Zand 2.0)

Drawing in the sand, following its relief, letting animated dots follow your tracks and all this is presented as a do-it-yourself device complete with manual and downloadable software. Intriguing how you can make a three dimensional drawing after building towers and holes in the sand.

Drawing in the sand with Animaatje.

Mijn naam is Haas
“My name is Hare” is a serious game that can aid children from 4-6 years in learning a language through exploring Hare’s world. I was thrilled by the easiness of drawing in numerous animals and plants into his surrounding, though wondering about the stimulation of children’s creativity: what would happen if they would be able to draw in trees and birds of their own choice and shapes?

Impression of Mijn naam is Haas.

ScratchWorx
After overcoming some nerves about breaking the device, I enjoyed the interaction of ScratchWorx, especially playing with the visuals. Looking up and down at my own mix-table screens and buttons and at the screen, I was able to experiment with and find out about the possibilities.

Impression of projected visuals and device.

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Great “how to” website which teaches you step by step to make it yourself. From things you cannot do without to stuff you had never thought about but will make your life so much better.

Screenshot from Instructables.com

Games that drew my attention at the Indigo showcase 2010:

Proun – racing a tight rope
The concept of racing on a cable while avoiding the geometrical shapes that are attached to it had an unsettling effect on my conception of space in racing games.

Am I racing through the game world? Or am I standing still and is the environment revolving around me? Flashback memories to an old Need for Speed game in which my car never seemed to move much on the screen, except from swivelling in the direction of the turns.

Proun developed by Joost van Dongen

Avoiding geometrical blocks in Proun

Website of the game by Joost van Dongen

XYZ – music visualiser
Even after numerous tips from developer Robert Hein Hooijmans, I did not manage to play the game correctly. Rather, I was becoming worse as I did not nearly reach the high score I set earlier. Then playing without understanding what I was doing.

But did this really matter when experiencing the interaction? No. Whether successfully gathering music blobs to the dread figure or not, interacting with the music visualisations was delightful, as was the selection of available songs.

Read more on the game’s website (in Dutch)

Project Amygdala – take a listen in someone else’s head
Blindfolded, I could explore the memories of a fictional person. They were grouped in three emotions: joy, anger and fear. The experience in the dark was not as frightful as I anticipated, as I was too engaged in navigating to let some of the more eerie sounds get to me.

It was intriguing how the shape of the environment that I formed in my mind (quite visual, including narrow alleys, busy squares lined with trees) completely did not match with the actual spatial setup of the game. Especially strange since this spacious layout was explained to me prior to playing. Nevertheless, I was not disoriented as the interaction with the spaced sounds worked very intuitive.

Project Amygdala

Specially designed chair The Explorer

Go to the portfolio of designer Raoul Matheron to hear the demo (spoken in Dutch, English website)

A great tool to create storyboards:

Comic Life by plasq.

Comic Life by plasq.

This Cultural Sunday, themed “free play” (vrij spel), I played two of the urban games made by HKU students. They were presented after an explanatory lecture by Marinka Copier which featured amongst others the example of the urban screen project “Hand from above” (by Chris O’Shea) that I had seen earlier. See the video below (one of my colleagues at Waag Society was right to remark that the footage sadly does not show the symbioses of screen and people – i.e. both in one shot – what the project is in fact all about):

The first game I played after the lecture, Snatch Ball, started right in front of the Drift university building. A risky place with the canal on one side, because the game included a ball that had to be thrown around. We played the game with two teams of three players. Each had to move to the other end of the street with the ball. The game would be won by the team holding the ball while standing passed the drawn chalk line.

Challenge: you are not allowed to throw the ball directly to your team mates, but only via a non-playing bystander. And nobody was allowed to move with the ball in hand. This resulted in a lobby with whoever was close if they would help us, disturbed by the other team who tried to convince the willing victim to give the ball back to them.

The result was a very social game which was very dependent on outside factors: the location (this time a narrow street next to a canal), time of day and weather, passersby (pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers forcing us to pause to let them drive through), their mood and our convinction talents. Me and my team weren’t skilled enough to win, but of course we blamed this on the traffic going mainly in the other teams direction.

See the video of the game here.

The other game I tried out was Loons, which was set at the Oudegracht near the Winkel van Sinkel. Again two teams, red and blue, of about seven players with one team captain. The team captain was the one blowing up the balloons and tying them to a rope. The other players, like me (me closing balloons would not be a good idea), had to run along the canal with a balloon at a time. Team balloons had to be tied to yellow balloons that were placed in the area. A majority of balloons at the spot after twelve minutes was good for one point. Winner was the team that won most places. Nice details: one mobile balloon attached to a girl walking around, and hidden balloons in alleys (advantageous when the other team had not found them).

According to this review on Kennislink (in Dutch), the expected shake-up of the rule system of the game (the city in this urban game) did not really take place. Marinka Copier had indicated in her lecture that playing games involves the engaging and reordering of its systemic rules. In an urban game, the city can be seen as providing quite static rules with its unmovable architecture, but can nevertheless be interacted with.

I cannot really agree with the conclusion that the city elements were not engaged with in this game. While in Snatch Ball, interaction with passersby could be clearly seen, Loons’ bystanders were mainly positioned at the sunny terraces and occasionally noticing people with balloons running passed like maniacs on such a hot day. Nevertheless, I did experience an input of this public myself as it influenced the places where I would look for balloons. I hesitated to descend the stairs to the wharf feeling slightly discomfited to nose about tables looking for the odd yellow balloon.

Video of Loons played in winter when the HKU students originally designed their urban games.

Best Scene in Town is a contest organised by Waag Society’s 7Scenes platform which allows users to create mobile routes. In three workshops, professionals are invited to cooperate with craftsmen in other fields in the creation of novel concepts for routes through Amsterdam. Winning submissions can be played at the Nuit Blanche Festival of 19 June.

Architects and game designers were the first to create GPS routes. Remarkable was that despite their professional experience in designing with the help of computer programmes, all participants grabbed paper and colour pens to elaborate their ideas. Maps were drawn in, post-its with notes were shifted to construct storylines and even 3D paper doodles were folded and decorated to enrich the brainstorm process.

The resulting collection of concepts included lively ideas to make chill zones out of grim nightlife areas, to spread stories by placing them in virtual bottles, and to show the multicultural aspects of the city by visiting its inhabitants. The spatial flower and insect structures out of paper sheets that were mentioned above, gave inspiration for a mysterious game in which red buttons and sound and light effects would be hidden throughout the city. Creating suspense over which city tumults would be daily business as usual and which would be part of the game.

How 7Scenes places route points in the landscape.

This workshop was kicked off with introductions by Martijn de Waal (The Mobile City) and Kars Alfrink (Hubbub)

Assisting at this workshop resulted in a blog article at blog.waag.org (in Dutch).

Tweets (Dutch and English)