Two weekends ago I attended this year’s Playful at Conway Hall. I’ve been attending the Playful events since they started in 2008 and they’ve always been a lot of fun. It’s a one-day conference all about games, play, interaction, behaviour and everything that comes with looking at the world through fun eyes. Each time they bring a cool group of speakers together to talk about games and play from unique perspectives.
I said “I attended” this year, what I actually mean is volunteered. That meant arriving at the venue at 8:30 and helping out with setting various things up. As usual I also headed registration, trying to make it as quick and easy as possible. I’m not really sure why, but I really love doing registration at events. Here we had about 300 people all arriving within the first hour, but I think we dealt with them all quickly and nobody had to queue for too long.
Because I was volunteering though I didn’t get to see all the talks. I ended up seeing 9 out of the 12, only missing 3 talks, which isn’t too bad a ratio. I should have planned it a bit better though, cause looking back two of those talks seemed to be quite interesting to me (Mark Sorrell’s talk on Computer Games (Not Video Games) and Siobhan Reddy from Media Molecule presentation on Learnings from New Ideas). The other 9 talks were great though too; here are the ones that stood out most to me:
Mint Foundry — Toys With Purpose
The Mint Foundry is Mint Digital’s graduate scheme and this year it had tasked four designers to “Make a toy that has a reason to exist”. They came up with Dough Globe: a sourdough game controller. It’s a hollow ball in which you can “grow” your sourdough and then uses an accelerometer and ethanol level to control a custom built game. The game features Doug, the little guy that lives in your Dough Globe and by playing the games with Doug you can unlock recipes for your sourdough.
Holly Gramazio — Clapping Games
I used to love clapping games as a kid; there were so many different ones that I sort of remember playing. Holly Gramazio from Hide & Seek talked about clapping games, their origin and how we should be playing clapping games more. “They’re Guitar Hero without the technology”. At the end of the presentation she explained the rules of the Danish Clapping game, which I now really want to try out.
Bennett Foddy — Confusion & Frustration in game design
Bennett Foddy is an Oxford University professor and the creator of iOS games QWOP and GIRP. Foddy talked about how games need a certain amount of suffering in them to fully enjoy them. He gave an example of a friend buying an iPhone game and being disappointed in it when he finished it in one go. It’s the suffering in the game that makes failure matter and makes you want to play on and master the game. Games need different dimensions of suffering to be fulfilling: pain, frustration, confusion, humiliation.
I really enjoyed Playful this year and definitely look forward to next year’s one! Did you go to Playful? What was your favourite talk?