1st PLAYTEST 14/03/20
I finally found the energy to document my first playtest of _:a meeting: _ that I did on the 14th of March. It happened a couple of days after Denmark implemented more restrictive meausures on social contact but everyone still was trying to figure out what it meant practically. I could sense a lack of motivation back then already, and it just went worse over the course of the next days. Designing an experience that is about meeting someone in an urban landscape when the maxim of the time says “Don’t see anyone! Stay home!” feels a bit irrelevant. It still does, to be honest…
Preparation and Designing the Meeting
I invited two people, Daphné and Anna, to meet for this playtest. The meeting point was Superkilen – which is a rich and diverse urban park in the middle of Copenhagen. Beforehand I had adjusted my cards a bit to reflect the social distancing measures (which meant to have less touch in the cards).
Additionally I packed all the material that were needed to play all the cards. As you can see on the picture that included a pair of headphones, a timer, blank notes, and two pens.
I introduced my players to the rules, and then we tried to set up the design-part of the meeting. Unfortunately, it was very windy and my cards were not made for that (even though I had glued them to stronger paper). This resulted in the first conclusion:
[1: preferably conduct the design-part indoors]
We found a bit of shelter but still needed to place heavier objects on the cards. It was a bit chaotic. Otherwise designing went on relatively smoothly. At some point Daphné wanted to place another activity-card onto a spot that had already an activity-card. Anna corrected her. During the debrief Daphné came back to that moment, introducing a design-option:
[2: should it be possible to combine different activities for one part?]
The three parts were the following ones:
- On Spot Sculpting, 30 minutes, traffic island
- Blindfold Walk, Meaningful Ending, playground
- Silent Walk, 30 minutes, cosy place + Reflection part afterwards
I will not write about each of the parts individually but more reflect the following actions as a whole. The acticities themselves worked pretty well, and both players seem to enjoy the room for interpretation that the design for each part left them. [3: As a matter of fact, cards that invited interpretation worked better!] The “cosy place” place-card offered more playroom than the “traffic island”, especially since they weren’t sure what that card meant. Also, once I told them they weren’t sure if they would find it in the area (they didn’t). For an experience that is meant to be created spontaneously, this wiggle-room is important. Otherwise the players will get stuck on “doing it right”.
It was a sunny day, but a very cold one. Neither of the players dressed accordingly. In their reasoning, this lead them to ignore the “30 minutes” cards. I actually enjoyed much more that they were not sticking to a time but felt more into when they wanted to end an activity and then move on towards the next one. Again, this feeds into insight N°3.
The moments that I felt most nervous about while observing the playtest, were the moments right at the beginning of a new part. It made me nervous that they were still discussing what to do, how to do it, finding the right spot. In my head I was looking for options how to avoid that. During the debrief, however, we came to another conclusiong: [4: adjusting the design of a part in the beginning of a part, figuring out where and how to do it, is a significant experience of _:a meeting: _ ]. Thinking of it, it also makes sense: it helps me filter my perception of the environment: how does this landscape accomodate what I want to do? It immediately reflects my position inside the world, puts me into relation with it, and therefore achieve one original goal of this game.
Here are some impressions of the actual run:
Outside of doing more playtests in general to gather more experiences, there are some things I want to turn to in a more concentrated fashion. I would like to organize the following sessions (if the current situation would let me):
- Have an afternoon of just testing all activity cards. Which one work really well? Which one are instructing in a confusing way? Which one are hard to pull off? etc.
- Print out manual and have people read the manual and play only according to what they get from that (without me explaining anything).
In general I feel that the game is developing in a good direction.