Game Design From Outer Space

In June Marina and I went to the Netherlands to be inspired by all the stuff Playful Arts Festival proposed. We knew it would be fun, but then it was great.

Playful Arts Festival 2014

The Playful Arts Festival at a Glance

Playful Arts Festival took place in ’s-Hertogenbosch just the week before we were going to hold Game Happens!. Me and Marina have booked our flights to the Netherlands way before picking the date of our little event in Genova, so we decided that the Festival would have been our three-days-chillout just before the final organisation rush.

The evening before leaving we faced a crisis about Game Happens!. Luckily we solved it right before deciding to give up and don’t leave. Not going to Playful Art Festival would have been quite a mistake, in fact.

Getting to Den Bosch from Genova can be quite a challenge (there are no direct flights for the Netherlands) but we did manage. Plus, we were excited to be back in town after the super awesome experience we had with the Bosch Art Game competition. Zuraida Buter and Iris Peters were the organising team, so we were kinda sure the thing would have been great.

So, we stayed there the whole Friday and the whole Saturday, then got back on Sunday. We’ve seen a lot of the Festival, though and enjoyed the whole of it.

On Friday we’ve played a lot. We looked for heroes in disguise standing in the market square of town, and I caught one of the other players trying to get a photo of Wonder Woman, so I tagged him. I totally lost the game, but that one moment of aha! I got you! was well worth an unimpressive final score. Then I’ve built a crazy roller controller with Bojan and Rumena (from Game Oven!) and watched in awe while Nifflas and Jonatan van Hove were speedcoding games (heck, Joon made our game in like FIVE MINUTES, that’s crazy!). Meanwhile Marina was running around the city drawing hearths with chalks, doing parkour, hacking street furniture and trying not to get arrested with the super cool people of the Urban Hacking Workshop. Then we’ve met Pat Ashe, Paul McGee and Sherida Halatoe, they’re super cool people and we had kebabs and talked about games, waiting for the evening session. Play in the dark it was. I played a match of Edgar Rice Soirée, carefully avoiding to have Nifflas among the players. Because Nifflas plays really hard those kind of games. At the end of the evening we moved to a super awesome skate park for a match of Weeping Angels. I was too scared playing in the dark in that place, so I just watched it from a terrace. And it was really cool.

Anyway, day 2 (Saturday) was mostly listening to incredible talks (like Bernie DeKoven’s, and the silly Frog Oracle, which was a laugh) and peeking the various games in the exhibition. I was marveled by the diversity of ways to look at a game. The curators did a remarkable job in choosing those games. It has been an incredibly inspiring experience. Then we watched a match of Know Your Place by The Larks, an ironic urban game where you think about social stratification while listening to Monty Python’s music. Neat!

It’s like exploring grade zero of games. That wonderful place where technology doesn’t really matter. That wonderful place of negotiated rules and spaces. The magic circle, both physical and of the mind. I think every people interested in games should explore events like that. We know so much about the established rules and ways of making games, yet so little about the frontier, which extends in front of a vast and fascinating uncharted territory. And being a so inclusive and friendly and interesting event I think this should be also attended by people with little or no interest in games. Just to see how the ludic century is growing.

Bottom line, as game designers and game enthusiasts we strongly believe that we need more events like this one. Best of luck to Iris and Zuraida, and let’s be more playful!