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Playful Conference

Playful Conference

4th November, 2013

Playful Conference - London

Friday morning. Not bright, but definitely early. Two mNers, Julien and myself, set off to attend Playful Conference for a day of inspiring talks in London. 

Emerging from Holborn tube station we double checked our map and naturally headed in the wrong direction for a good 20 minutes before realising. No problem, we eventually arrived at Conway Hall with seconds to spare. The first port of call - find ourselves some coffee. We made our way upstairs to find arguably the best pew in the house as the first speaker of the day started.

Duncan Fitzsimmons from Vitamins Design was first up and showcased their process of prototyping their way through tough projects like The Folding Wheel. Also demonstrating how mundane office admin can be made fun with a Lego Calendar,something every studio should check out.

Anne Holiday had a beautiful presentation including looped videos - must find out how she did that. "Custard, being a non-Newtonian fluid, is the perfect ingredient to take stress out on”. Game designer, George Buckenham spoke of the games he's played in the past such as 'Punch The Custard'. He suggested terms to describe how something feels when interacted with. Words like "meaty, tight, sloppy and floaty". As a side note, he briefly diverged into the physical pleasures of response curves in button pressing which I couldn't agree more on.

John V Willshire was obsessed with boxes and his experience in seeing more people click on a blank box than an advert. "The media is just a series of boxes that are filled with content and constrained".

Ben Read discussed the research and development he does at the Nordic Food Lab, and how he made some mould taste like foie gras. For Ben, food is his toy. The Danish have different words for 'play' depending on the type. The word "spille" to mean 'play with rules' and "lege" to mean without rules. He told the story of three different experiments that didn't work on their own eventually came together to create new, interesting outcomes.

Pippin Barr is a game maker who specialises in ultra simple pixel-style games with strange content such as an art gallery game where the user has to play snake on a canvas, when they lose the snake creates a piece of art. He pointed out how interesting it was to see that users were attempting to 'fail beautifully' within the game.

In between talks Julien and I met a few new friends. Fleur and Marcus were a duo of journalists turned game developers. Fluer from Paris, Marcus from Berlin. Both of whom travelled that very same day and to our surprise had shorter journey's than ours. I bumped into a friend, Andrew Williams from TMW. At first he didn't recognise me. Probably because the last time we met I was dressed as a cat, but that's another story.

Dan Catt is halfway through a project where he's attempting to find the perfect Snakes and Ladders game. The process is said to eventually take 7.5 years to complete using algorithms to work out the perfect layout out of billions of potential layouts. He stated his manifestations are basically "mass orgy snakes and ladders boards". Top points for turning a mundane subject into a project everyone found entertaining.

Last year Stefanie Posavec worked at Facebook on infographics and mural material around the campus. She created a 'Facebook dance' by studying the relationships of couples who use it. She ended with the great point, "Know the rules so you can see how much you can bend them".

Rob Lowe, not the actor, creates complex patterns by starting off with a simple illustrations and multiplying them over time. He demonstrated taking something simple, changing it slightly and developing into much more complex outcomes.

There were even more talks to note, but the above were my favourites.

Julien and I continued the mingling at The Square Pig pub where we spoke to fellow Northerner Abid about the work he's been doing since the move to London last year, nice guy.

"Build what it is you want to build and learn as you go” A quote by Mike Crisp shared by more than one of the speakers at Playful seemed to be the overarching pattern here. To some this may be news, others just the reassurance they needed to free themselves up creatively.