Back to Trust in Play Homepage

Athens Experience

This was the greatest week I have ever had in my life, It was eyeopening, energy refilling and great source of knowledge. In knowledge I mean the things I learned during seminars and Unconference (this one was especially good) and Gamejam, as well as meeting all of you amazing people from around the world. The ritual was for me the most important part to make the experience wholesome. It brought all of us together and started off the week. (Personally for me the whole new journey)

Hope this is just the start of all the great we can do together and I am glad and grateful to be part of this.

Thank you to all the organizers and Nomadic Branch for giving me this opportunity to finally do what i have always loved and wanted to do.

I am taking all this love, energy, experience and knowledge to Rustavi, hoping to bring all of you together again in our city for another great experience. Fingers Crossed :smiley:

For the whole week I never felt like I left home, I felt like i was already home, where I belong.

6 Likes

I finally got to sit down and think about this…Here’s what I spent the day contemplating, it’s a doozey so feel free to flit about to what is interesting :smile::heart::orange_heart::green_heart::blue_heart::purple_heart:

Trust in Play School Athens…a time with people I never would have met otherwise, a place to push preconceptions and make connections

When asked to describe through the written word the days that were Trust in Play Training week in Athens…it’s hard to sort through the sheer amount of EXPERIENCE that happened. There were trials, there were tribulations, there was jubilation! I could write about it for a long while, so here are some key moments and takeaways that rise to the surface.

What are my preconceptions of a ‘school’ and how did the Trust in Play ‘school’ experience interact with that?

During the Site Specific game making workshop, Sebastien mentioned that certain game frames will bring with them certain expectations in players. If we use elements of a race game, then we know that navigating a balance between speed, time and bodily risk will rise, heightening the pace and tension. If we use a puzzle, the pace may be slower, or a narrative rpg style then a lot of power is placed in the hands of the guide and players follow along with designated moments of interaction. When the term ‘school’ was used for our Trust in Play training week, my preconceptions locked into place without my even realizing it.

I was expecting a structure and a guidance that wasn’t always present and this led to a lot of frustration, specifically during the initial lecture days and the forming of Game Jam groups. For me, a school is a place where a group gathers to learn from each other through the active guidance of a mentor(s). The first activities really fulfilled this expectation; a way to gauge who was in the room, start to know my fellow trainees, to form relationships ie: the lovely continuum line with questions ‘Are games art? Is trust a belief?’, our ‘learning group’ formation, the snake ritual.

But by the end of the first day, I still wasn’t sure who my fellow trainees were or how the different branches were structured and what our long term goals were. I felt popped into conference mode, where I relied a lot on my previous knowledge to carry me through, with most learning more on an individual level rather than through/with my peers. I spent two days trying to figure out why I was so frustrated and then…

The Unconference Day - what a fantastic way to share peer to peer learning! This is a structure that really capitalizes on the ambition to combine trainees and independent attendees. I was finally feeling that I knew who was in the room and achieving the potential to form ‘new relationships’ (which was why I responded to the initial Trust in Play brief). I kept thinking…’I wish we started with this…I wish we did some type of ‘speed dating’ to get to know what we all have to bring and what we want to take away from this week’.

Because there were minimal guidelines for the Game Jam (Trust is a HUGE topic), knowing who was around me was essential and the Unconference Day made me feel more prepared to find a group. Yet by the time the Game Jam came along, I was exhausted. I felt I was navigating the line between being a trainee in a school, being a conference attendee and the many roles that come in each, roles I expected would be taken by others in different moments. I needed just a few more simple rules or guidelines to build my sandbox so I could have a good play. Maybe a decision tree process to choose groups based on some key criteria? ie: Are you interested in a game that has Tech or is physical/mixed media? Once I locked into a group and the creative process started, I was soaring for the rest of the time. Don’t get me started on the dance party or how gratifying it was to see the snake hidden in the city via skype (rituals really are powerful!)

The way Trust in Play sought to stretch and bend what a ‘school’ can be is formidable. I really like the organic nature and level of choice that was offered to me and I’m still elevated and excited by what we experienced and shared. But I came to the school thinking the sandbox was already built. Don’t get me wrong, I love building sandboxes before I get to play in them! For future iterations of Trust in Play School, how can it be made clear that we are building the sandbox together? As the first Trust in Play school it was ambitious and riotous.

Don’t judge the book by the disciplinary cover

There were so many people, from so many fields, who all interact with play in some way shape or form. This is beautiful and our week together celebrated that in a rare way that we need more of in the world. It was acknowledged that there is no one right way to do things and there was an emphasis placed on process. For a theatre maker who lives with a feeling of scarcity and a human who feels a drive for product, this was a breath of fresh air for me and something I think we need more practice on. It was a safe space to critique, to be honest, to ask hard questions, and to revel when things felt right.

Game Jamming can be a lot like Devising Theatre

The game making process took me right back to my devising assignments at Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where 2 to 30 clowns in training, who often don’t speak the same language between them, try to make something a) within a time constraint b) where everyone feels heard/has an input. I was stunned at times with the different interpretations we could each have around one idea. Listening and signposting were extremely important as ideas flitted and flowed out of us like a flock of migrating birds. I loved how my group would take the time to check in and make sure we all felt like we were flying to the same destination.

Sebastien’s urging to test was super helpful, because when no one person is the lead, actually trying the darn idea can be a challenge. Often in theatre this turns into a prolonged discussion of the merit of an idea that gets bogged down in ego with an over reliance on the imagined outcome and not sufficient time given to prototyping. This is ironic to me. Given theatre’s physical nature, it is often easier to get up and try something, whereas games usually have time consuming mixed media or programming involved, in addition to the unpredictability of playing audience members.

Since we were working across disciplines, knowing people’s strengths and what they wanted to give to the project was extremely helpful in then allocating roles. There were natural clashes in what was priority and simplifying tests to the essentials was a challenge (there are always so many things to test!). But I feel that we negotiated really well, and I was so IMPRESSED that the creative technologists in my group (and others! way to go CAthens!) were able to do mock ups or ‘magic simulations’ of how they would expect the technological elements to work in future iterations given more time. Another key point that comes up is expectations - how do we build upon the expectations of a group, not only for the project but how we hope to work? Do you make a game brief? Or is it an organic process that leads from the theme? Similar to theatre, responding to physical objects/props, images, text, music, or in this case a bit of tech was a good concrete way to launch off creation and clarify expectations.

A personal note for me was the relationship between facilitation and game mechanics …this is the second time I’ve ‘slapped on’ facilitation, improvising from the rule set to communicate the game and enhance play a mere 30 minutes from the final play test. It raises a lot of questions for me about how the theatrics and/or facilitation by a human being relate to mechanics.What style serves the game and vice versa? How does the key information influence the style, length, pace, mood or type of facilitation? It also helped me clarify what my personal style and aesthetic is as a facilitator/game master and to think about where to dig deeper or challenge that in the future. I always viewed facilitation and mechanics as enmeshed in my process, but after this week I realize that testing them separately can reveal a lot. I’m now looking at this in a new light and am intrigued how it will affect my interactive devising process in the future.

Communal Dinner! a must. I am pilfering this model for other events I run and will credit the appropriate folks :wink: Enough said.

The time is still echoing in me…remnants of our celebration as we thrashed about to music in the very place we had poured our brains and hearts out in a flurry of creation. Ideas spiral and whirl and faces flushed in focus flash in my memory’s eye. We listened together, we made together, we ate together, we danced together, we tried to tap into why and how humans play. I still hear laughter, elevated on a warm Greek wind, that moves me forward with purpose. And cannot thank you all enough.

4 Likes

Hello, it took some time to digest the experience in Athens. Such a concentration of creative people with so many stories, passions, competences and interests. Coming home, I have already discussed it with my colleagues in Ouagadougou to share the TiP highlights with them. But immersing again deeper to Technopolis reminds me how powerful the meeting was !

Leaving Athens, my impressions were more or less mixed. I must admit that it was my first time experiencing such a collective meeting as INCLUSIVE as possible in terms of disciplines, experience levels, portfolios, practices, ambitions and energies. The program was packed, the courses were overlapping, the activities were in various visually intensive spaces and the atmosphere was very vivacious. One had to find a balance in between “taking in” and “giving out”, either during informal meetings and introductions, or official activities, especially those participatory ones such as the “unconference”. One had to find the balance in between learning and sharing . So when leaving Athens, my head resonated with “did I focused on relevant things?” and “did I share and give enough?”….

Coming with an objective to extend my horizons, the training week definitely hit this goal. My own long-term reflections on urban space, trust, safety, democracy, participation and society in Europe / Africa have been raising doubts about certain efforts. The relative disillusion about the problematics of cities / communities / societies suffering from various malignant problems caused by divers reasons got intensified with the irrational priorities these societies set. During my immersion into the urban game world, discovering game installation, serious games, and art participatory interventions, I have discovered not only the social therapeutically aspect, but also the aim to addresses various topics to tackle them directly.

But be attributed to my perceptual supersaturation, the only conclusion is … building trust in societies / communities / cities is important ! I have learned so much in an extremely short time, I’m glad to have participated, looking forward to more focused and less hectic development of our ideas to extend them in our environments.

I would like to express my appreciation to all initiators and organizers for building trust in our TiP community in such a short time, for building confidence in every single participating person. I have really admired the facility of certain courses particularly accessible for all levels. Matteo´s intro to the game design is such a constructive and relaxing experience, Sebastian has a gift to maintain the professional but friendly approach while addressing the very concrete situations in design process, moreover Maria has a tireless presence and a velvet voice, Natalia an iron will and focus on a detail (and on an individuality), and Yorgos, Martijn, Gabriele, Jason! Thank you!

And the participants ! I picked up so much from so many people! With no systematic approach, and with the fear that I will forget someone, I would like to mention anyway, that I got influenced by Mark´s analytic reflections and careful approach, Balloon´s energy, laugh and facilitation, Marina´s peaceful resolution and determination, the Allison´s, Jenna´s and Lea´s complicity, Elisabeth´s prudency, Sarah´s discernment and focus on process, Gavin´s ethics and passion for technology gadgets, Rob´s input into unconference and Ioana´s involvement into a collaboration process.

At the very end, I am looking forward to playing together to develop ideas for common activities in various settings…

Greetings from Ouagadougou

5 Likes

Hey all! This semester at MICA is coming to a close so I finally found the time to sit down and reflect on Athens.

A lot of the time leading up to the training week was spent in a frustrating, self-deprecating limbo. When I got the acceptance email in June, the first thought that popped into my head was “did they send this to the wrong person?” This thought continued to bounce around my brain for months. I don’t think it ever really went away until I stepped outside the Athens airport and took my first lungful of Mediterranean air in over a decade.

The conference itself was simultaneously more and less rigid than I expected. I resonate with a lot of what Francine said-- I felt some frustration at the lack of the “schooling” that I had anticipated, and the lack of structure frightened and confused me. At times, the amount of content that relied on us/the conference attendees stressed me out, as in my mind it was the place of experts to provide the schooling. I’m only 20; I don’t think there’s a single 20 year old in the world that can really be considered an expert in anything. It seemed as though I was being expected to already provide the knowledge that I had expected to gain from the school. Francine described it as being expected to “construct the sandbox,” but I think the sandbox was already there. We already had the freedom, and I think that scared me. I don’t know if I thought I was ready to play in the sandbox, or if I did if I was capable of doing it right.

But that’s the beauty of sandboxes, I guess. There’s no wrong way to build, as long as you build.

I should probably move on from the metaphor, or else I’m going to be up trying to perfect it. Moving on-- in an attempt to succinctly summarize what I can remember this late in the year, I’m going to list thoughts out as best I can:

  • My game design knowledge hasn’t changed much, but my philosophy has.
    I didn’t realize the breadth in experience with game design that the school would have; I think I anticipated more emphasis on game design than interdisciplinary practice, so I was relatively comfortable with my design knowledge with both system design and facilitation. Additionally, the dangers of having had Matteo as a professor means that a lot of the content presented was familiar to me. As a result, I did my best to go to as many different workshops as I could. I think I personally benefitted the most from discussion-oriented workshops, specifically the one that Yorgos ran on urban ethnography and Lilly’s ethics discussion during the unconference.
    A lot of the workshops that were lecture-oriented felt as though they raised good questions without answering them. Discussions let us at least raise the questions ourselves, as well as give us more time to dissect them and let them permeate. And I think I’m ok without having all the answers…as long as I have all the questions.

  • Ethics needs to be a bigger part of the design conversation. We are designing for communities, but that does not inherently make us right. We can use as many pretty progressive buzzwords as we’d like, but the fact of the matter is that when we insert ourselves into a community to make a playful experience, we are attempting to alter it. We are inserting ourselves into the hierarchy of a community that we may or may not belong to, and the impact varies in severity depending on the demographics of that community.
    And this is something we must consider every. time.

  • Community is the most powerful thing we have. This may seem like I’m preaching to the choir, but I can’t help it. The most impactful thing I experienced during the week in Athens was the overwhelming sense of belonging, of community. It was an incredibly gathering of likeminded people who were ready to learn from each other. Not to get existential, but it’s pretty doom & gloom all the time, everywhere. It made my heart light to be able to meet so many people interested in making the world a more trusting place. The communal dinner & the end of conference party are some of my fondest memories from the week, if not the year. I hope to reach that level of contentment and trust again.

On the topic of the communal dinner, I think it exemplifies what I found most successful about the training week. The joy of working hard with a room full of people, with no purpose other than that of making a meal for each other, to enjoy with each other, is untouchable. Working together for the sake of bettering each other and improving our lives together is something I think this school-- and community-- will do very, very well.

I am so very grateful I got the chance to meet with you all. I can’t wait to see what we make together.
Sending love from the mid-Atlantic :heart:

1 Like

Resting after the MICA winter semester, I have the chance to reflect on what a wild few months this has been at last. Thank you all for a wonderful Training Week back in October! It was lovely to meet you all and I look forward to hearing more from all of you.

My expectations of the week were all over the place before I arrived. A mix of excitement and nervousness, I did not know what to expect! I came with a lot of questions. I knew this was a conference of sorts, but what did “training week” entail? What sort of training would we do? How will I stand comfortably with experts of various practices from various places and walks of life? What can I offer as someone just about to finish my bachelor’s degree and has very little experience outside of that track? These and so many more questions rattled about in my brain.

Then I arrived. The first day of the week and I had already met an almost overwhelming amount of fascinating people. I remember sitting on the rooftop of the Bios Bar and looking out to the lit Acropolis and wondering: “What am I doing here?” Everyone had wonderful stories to tell. The next few days would be partly about listening to as many of those stories as I could.

The week’s activities started more like classes I was used to, only shorter. I continued to try to absorb as much information as people would tell me. The Unconference stayed in the back of my mind. I knew I wanted to contribute something, but again the question of “what could I offer to these people?” stayed. Then more collaborative activities began, like the communal dinner, which blended my interest in cooking with my love for collaborative experiences. It already felt like a tight-knit community, even though most of you I had never met until a few days prior. It’s interesting how quickly connections can form.

Then the Unconference came! I had spoken to a few people, testing the waters to see if my desire to share the SWORDDREAM philosophy would suit this crowd as much as I thought it would. After getting multiple people encouraging me to run a session, I signed up and immediately scrounged up a presentation and hoped for the best. I thank everyone that showed up! It was my first time presenting as a teacher of sorts, and I had a lot of fun. Perhaps I’ll try to do it again somewhere else.

To answer one of the questions, I found out I have a lot to offer! I was under the impression people would come from a game design background, but quickly found that was not the case. As I continued to speak to people, I realized that I have years of study behind my belt and talking about games and interactive experiences showed that. This experience has done so much, boosting my confidence in my thoughts and abilities as a designer only scratching the surface.

Lastly, something that excited me about the future is exactly the fact that we are not all from game design backgrounds. The beauty of people new to any task is that they do not have patterns to fall into. There is only experimentation and imagination to say what can or cannot be done. When you are practiced in something, it’s easier to stay in line and continue to create with what you know is possible, instead of saying “I want to do this, so let’s figure out how! I’ll worry if it’s possible later.” That’s the beauty of this rag tag bunch of people: We can educate each other on how things are done, but can also learn how to think from different angles.

I’ll stop my rambling here. Thank you all for a wonderful time and I look forward to the future!
Sending well-wishes from the east coast of the US :two_hearts:

1 Like

HEY HEY!!! :star_struck:
It took me sometime to post about my experience during the Training Week in Athens, thus I am only able to recall the things that really played a significant role in my overall participation throughout the week.

  • Before arriving in Greece I had mixed feelings of excitement and curiosity because Game Design was an unknown field for me. I was actually very surprised that I was accepted to be part of the nomadic branch! I have attempted to design some games and playful experiences during my studies and my practice but I never had particular knowledge on the matter.
  • I must also admit that before and during the week I reflected a lot on my experience with games and figured out that I personally have a strange relationship with games; I am quite demanding and have some specific criteria on what I think is an enjoyable, playful and fun experience and process. This is linked to the fact that I hate antagonistic behavior while playing and prefer collaborative games.
  • The first evening we gathered for drinks and I started to meet the different participants of the TiP week (trainees and independent) and I was happy to be part of such an international and diverse group of people! The only thing I can say that was missing is a short introduction of who is actually in the 3 branches so we know who are the trainees. I guess this is mainly essential for the Nomadic branch since it was the first time that we were physically together. Maybe an online meeting prior to the Training week for the introduction of the Nomads would have resolved this frustration I had.
  • The School Opening Ritual was a fun collective experience and it raised my expectations for the rest of the week!
  • The 2 days of workshops were important for our initiation in the program and there was a diversity of topics proposed. On the one hand this was amazing because everyone could really personalize their learning by choosing the workshops they wanted. On the other hand, being someone who did not have previous experience in game design, I believe that it would have been good to have some of the basic workshops available to everyone, especially the trainees. In my opinion there were workshops happening simultaneously that were equally important for all the participants and it was somehow frustrating to choose. So, I got the “fear of missing out”!!!
  • I loved the communal dinner and the whole collaborative spirit while cooking…The food tasted good and it was great to just casually spend time together beyond the training sessions.
  • The Unconference was an exciting moment of the training week! It was fantastic that we were given the opportunity to propose our activities/pIay sessions/discussions and share with each other what we know and what are our concerns! The group is very talented and skillful so the learning experience was expanded!! I again got the f.o.m.o. but I guess it is my problem of constantly wanting to learn new things!
  • Last but not least, my first Game Jam ever was, as expected, a unique experience! The process felt more like a roller coaster journey, since there were ups and downs in finding the team and brainstorming on game ideas and tools. I realized that the process of designing a game is quite similar to the initial process of drafting an architectural project (which is my background)! I am very proud of the game Oh Oh we presented and I want to thank my team for accepting my ideas and suggestions! Despite my frustrations at times, I can say that i had to Trust in Play!
2 Likes

Hello everyone,

I am very late to respond to this threat. There are different reasons for this, but first and foremost because I simply cannot go through my Athens’ experience without becoming very very personal. I wasn’t sure if that is appropriate or not, whether I have the courage to do it – so here I go.

Not even a month before the training week in Athens my sister decided to take her life. She was my little sister, a year younger than myself, and we had a close relationship. As you can certainly imagine, it has left me with a lof of confusing, contradicting feelings, making a lot of things in my life suddenly unimportant whilst narrowing my focus on very few questions. One of them is quite simple: Why do I decide to live? In the reasoning of my sister, how she felt towards the end, there is a lot of in it that I can agree with (even though I don’t think her ultimate decision was based on rational thought), and there had been moments where I thought it could have easily been myself who is in psychiatry. But clearly I don’t feel the urge to comit suicide. But I also don’t find enough satisfaction in some purposes anymore that were meaningful before.

My days in Athens were mostly pleasant. There were a lot of people to connect with, a lot of program, ideas to follow, thoughts to test, I also felt there was a good vibe amongst all participants and organizers alike. But I also know from other conference experiences that these sort of events tend to perform a certain vibe that one finds themselves also to play along just to be able to be part of the group (I call that social cohesion). It doesn’t mean that this vibe is in any case untrue, it just means that with some there might be other things happening that don’t fit in that social space and are therefore ignored, pushed aside, worst case even penalized. And I could detect that very clearly in myself once all the excitement died down and I had to go to sleep.

I slept badly most of the time if I slept at all. There was a constant background vibration of stress in myself that I could not let go of. During my whole time in Athens I did not cry once (the only exception was the final party) – which was outright the opposite of my days before that. One night was especially bad where I felt I had a stone on my heart and it was suffocating me. I couldn’t find a real outlet for what was going on with me, and during the days I was happy to step back into the exciting vibe of the training week.

I guess this experience led me to change my priorities during the unconference. Initially, I wanted to create a session on “Cultural/Social Hacking” but then went for “Emotional Reflection”. I wanted to offer a space in which anybody could share how they felt during this training week, where the pressure of being in the mainstream vibe is lifted. I know personally that I sometimes just need to express “I feel exhausted by XYZ” and that this expression being heard in order to recover. There is no problem to be fixed, no solution needed, sometimes it is more about realizing where I am, how I feel, and that this space is also open for other emotions than the ones displayed for the majority of time.

And I realized that creating space for awareness, for a sensitivity for the multifacetted experience of different people, a space in which ideas of right and wrong are being discarded, is something that I value a lot and that I will continue to pursue in whatever I do. I don’t care so much if that is inside of theatre, social experiments, urban games – or training weeks. This became quite clear to me by the end of my time in Athens.

I know I haven’t said a lot about Trust in Play so far, and have taken the incentive to write about “my experience” very literally. That’s why I want to end on some thoughts that are more directed at the event itself.

In general, I liked the mix of people, the mix of backgrounds and that the different degrees of experiences were seen more as a chance to learn from each other (having less experience in one field simply means that you know more in another). My personal highlight therefore was the unfonference and the long game jam. I also felt welcomed by the organizers and could see their efforts to make all participants feel comfortable.

In terms of “school” I am still left a bit confused of what the vision is. Is it about creating a curriculum for what an urban game designer should know? Something that is acknowledged by institutions? Is it more a virtual space for people with a shared interest to share their expertise and experience? It is about launching an online-platform? I guess some of these things will become clear of the course of the next months, and might be different from branch to branch.

Lastly, there is one major topic that I was really missing. It was not my first time in Athens, and I have been following the political situation both on a governmental level and on a local level from the distance as good as I can. Especially the situation in and around Exarchia was always something that I was interested in. To me the question of being an urban game designer is tightly connected to the question of how I approach the urban space that I want to play in. How do I situate myself towards the struggles that are going on? How do I affect them? Why? And before I can answer even those questions, I need to learn about the urban space, learn how to read it. I think there a very basic things to do that can improve my understanding of any urban space even if I am not local. (Observing people’s moving pattern, looking for re-occurring graffiti, presence of police forces or other officals, interactions between people etc.) My feeling is that Athens is a highly interesting places for that, having seen such a turbulent time since the financial crisis, and could have offered a good place to learn about how to approach a city. I feel that this was a bit of a missed chance. At the same time, I felt sometimes a bit trapped inside the (artificial) area of Innovathens. The sleek surfaces resembled nothing like the urban landscape of Greece’s capital.

My biggest nightmare for this school would be this one: a trained elite that feels entitled to just go from one city to another and run their games without feeling into the multidimensional grooves of a place. My dream would be: curious people that enjoy playing, and use this playfulness to stay open about other people’s qualities and feel into the various layers of urban enviroments.

4 Likes

@KyrAvram thank you so much for this.

Reading your account made me think in a lot of different levels, and the depth and pain of what you are sharing it’s invaluable. I’m happy that you discovered something during the week about your focus although because of feeling of alienation or exhaustion, your session was really appreciated and more than one participant talked about it in the following days.

Social cohesion as you called it, can become social pressure really easily and this is something that sometimes we forget to check.

Your final reflections are crucial for defining our role as artist and designers, especially because we work with public space and sometimes social structures.
The colonialist approach of someone (the designer/artist) landing in a city and consider it like a vacuum (or something that can be read), design a game and then leave is something that scares me as well.

What I loved about Athens was that the Athens branch was there and bring an international crew and jam together created something that can stay in the place, take different shapes and evolve in the future, but I agree that we were pretty isolated from the context we were in.

@KyrAvram thanks for taking the time and courage to share. <3

And thanks to everyone for the thoughts on this thread so far… the several pages of scribbled notes I’ve had in my sketchbook since training week have been reproaching me for the last 2 months for not writing them up into something coherent to share, but it’s been great to see the overlaps and insights between people’s reflections come in over this time.

It’s a bit cheesy, but I think using the original title of the training week/school might bring enough order to my very fragmented notes to make them more readable for you guys, so here goes…

Trust

This felt like a timely subject to be considering and an interesting focus for essentially a large group of strangers. As a subjective feeling that can only be experienced in relation to something external from ourselves (other people, systems, etc.) it’s an important abstract concept (/dynamic?) to be thinking of in terms of both urban encounters and games. During the intro session there were some good points made about trust and games, and there were some lovely moments during the final game jam that addressed trust in a way that I found really profound, but I must admit that for a lot of the training week the idea of trust felt quite distant, sort of at the edge of our awareness rather than a central feature (but maybe it wasn’t meant to be central?). Personally, nervousness, excitement and exhaustion were more common feelings during the week than trust(!)

Play

The best bit! The inventiveness, curiosity, depth and creativity that everyone brought was inspiring and infectious. Whether on street corners at midnight, or beanbags in the afternoon, or the dancefloor on the final evening, the energy thrown into play is something I never want to lose. I have a tendency to overthink stuff and this was the perfect antidote.

European

I’m so glad TiP managed to make the boundaries of Europe a little elastic, here’s hoping we can continue to stretch them :wink: I found myself thinking about Pascal Gielen’s book ‘No Culture, No Europe’ during the week in terms of reclaiming educational institutions/structures, what a shared frame of reference (or lack of it) can mean, nomadic identities and meaning making in social contexts.

School

Fran already said some great stuff on this. The organisers and teachers did a great job with the programmed sessions, through which I learned a lot and had a lot of fun, but the unconference was a highlight for me … however I’ve been dabbling with peer learning for a while, so I’m a bit biased! I’m not sure if anyone has come across A School Called Home, but they have some really interesting reflections on the idea of what a school can be, so thought I’d share a few lines they wrote a while back: “… the pressure it puts on a group of people who have only just met, to tell them: ‘By coming here, you’ve made this school a reality.’ … the pressure it puts on a friend and fellow teacher who finds himself playing the role of a workshop leader, trying to summon an experience intense enough to live up to the powerful language with which we’ve called this group together. I think of some wise words from Anthony McCann, years ago: the greater the emotional intensity of a situation, the wider the gap will tend to be between the experiences that the people present are having. So my hunch is that an invitation which doesn’t place the weight of being the school on those who turn up will give us all more breathing space, the chance to make some fresh mistakes, to take ourselves more lightly and take care of each other.” They describe the idea of an interdisciplinary, intergenerational school as “an extension of the conversations that come together around our kitchen table”, which I really love as a mission statement.

Urban

I’m very grateful to Innovathens for all their amazing support, but I feel like Technopolis as a whole wasn’t the ideal location to explore urban space (except perhaps from the angle of gentrification). It felt a little hypocritical and myopic of us to talk about and play with urban game design within the walls of Technopolis considering the particular political situation in Greece at the moment. This was especially noticable on a day that we spent entirely inside whilst in the city there were huge protests being controlled by riot police.

Game

It was really interesting to see the contexts people with different areas and backgrounds create games in. Playing the games at the end of the jam was a total joy, which really left me on a high.

Design

I don’t come from a design background, so learning tools for improving games was useful on a practical level. My only slight reservation is the potential for design processes to over-professionalise or instrumentalise game making.

Thanks for sticking through this mammoth post! And thanks everyone for a week that managed to be both powerful and fun. Looking forward to seeing what comes next! xx

3 Likes

Took me a while to get around to posting this, Athens was a really flashpoint moment in more ways than one. My immediate impressions are about Athens itself. I’ve spent a great deal of my life indulging in Greek myth, from reading Homeric legends to playing the adventures of the Spartan warrior Kratos in the God of War game franchise. Needless to say, modern Greece is not my Hellenistic fantasy. I was surprised to see the many colliding realities in the city of Athens. The landscape around it reminded me of home, dry and lived. The city had many different inhabitants, my first encounter was with an old lady on the train. She was kind enough to warn me about carrying my backpack the right way around, which made it easy pickings for would-be thieves. I felt really good that people were looking out for me. My second encounter was with a severe barrister at a small cafe, severe because she was very straight-to-the-point but still warm in a headmistress sort of way. Other patrons in the cafe were friendly but regarded me with a curious eye, I sat there for what felt like two hours, reading Neuromancer. The rest of my time in Athens was experienced within the comfort of groups of fellow participants but I couldn’t shake this feeling that Athens was the epicentre of colliding realities, it made me feel class conscious, the haves stuck with the haves and the have-nots with their counterparts. I later heard more about the riots, the anarchist movements and its infiltration by right-wing groups, austerity, the flight of progressive young people to other European states. The undercurrent apprehension that seemed to pervade Athens made sense somehow.

Reeling off the emotional pangs of a fresh break-up my plan for Athens was simple, keep my head down and absorb as much as I could from the lectures and my peers. It was over a month since I earned my PhD on designing prosocial games and I was looking forward to expanding my ideas of the “public” as source of play/game requirements. Martijn’s session on “Digital Technologies in Public Spaces” was very inspiring. The theoretical references he gave were insightful. With all the play and game theories swimming around fresh in my head I immediately I felt an air of confidence on the subjects of game and play in public space, many of the sessions felt like reminders of things I had read, I was happy to hear about all the exciting projects and methodologies that existed in the greater European games landscape. Before Athens, during a Physical Computing summer school, someone had reminded me, no, demanded that I interrogate the topics of technology from an African perspective. In the class of 10 other students, many of them European, the instructors wanted me to develop something that showed my background, my blackness and my poorness. I refused upfront and told them that I love hiphop and cyberpunk and would instead make something related to that. I was reminded of this experience in sessions in Athens but this time I didn’t feel like anyone was demanding this from me. I felt liberated from the responsibility of speaking out of blackness or Africanness but I was reminded of the European-ness of it all. As I heard about previous game projects of the instructors, I was reminded about how novel and temporary many of the projects were. The projects were made to transform spaces for a short while and for no other sake than to impart the experience of fun and games. I wondered whether this was the dominant European perspective in public games and whether instead of how unsustainable they were, the projects showed the gross lack of alternative cultural perspectives in urban games. I thought “what would urban games in Africa look like where the citizens are not thought to be as progressive and the infrastructure is ragged?”. I was taken back to how the public, or the many notions of a public can be the source of requirements for a game. I couldn’t imagine that designing a game to be played in Berlin where I lived would be the same as designing a game for Windhoek, I had never tried. I posed a few questions in the sessions to invoke the subject of class, mostly it fell on deaf ears, this was after all the European school of game design where I suppose games were meant to be designed in the European way around European sensibilities.

I loved the session on art and games, I loved Sebastian’s direct way of exploring the topic. I was equally impressed that he admitted that things weren’t always so clear cut and that art and games sometimes suffered from an elitist intellectualisation that threatened cultural hegemony of some sort. Art was subjective yes, but there were also rules for designing for experiences that borrowed on universal human perceptions. Super fast game design was also inspiring, it made me aware of the fact that we sometimes take “explaining games” for granted. Steps of 1. When does the game start 2. Goals of different actors 3. End state 4. Extra rules. These rules would later guide the design of a game we would design. Another topic I previously took for granted was game facilitation. The difference between public games and for instance, mobile games which I had designed before, is that public games required a considerable level of human mediation. The facilitation of games was as equally important as the design of the game experience. The posture of the facilitator, props, recruiters and play testing were all integral parts of facilitating a play session.

The sessions of “Developing projects with cultural institutions” and “Audience development and pitching your game” peaked my interests. I always imagined that games would become part of my professional practices after my PhD so I made sure I learned as much as I could from the instructors, particularly Sebastian and Matteo who had done urban games as a business. We explored topics of trust and professional integrity. Matteo’s experience with Codice Indigo provided a beautiful example how how to sell a playful experience but more importantly, how to handle failure in the event that things didn’t go as planned. In between these sessions I had an idea to contact the Goethe centre in Southern Africa for future game projects in African cities.

I have to say that the Unconference was my best experience as far as the planned sessions go. I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse backgrounds and skills of the participants. The sessions of the Unconference were quite productive because it allowed us to locate each other’s interests. I believe that this inspired the compositions of the game jam teams that followed. The game jam was another close favourite, I had a really great team. Each team member brought a specific skill to the group, often however, we found that three of us had overlapping interests and skills. This was primarily because we all had a some kind of background in computer science, although our exposure to this were sometimes varied. The progression of our game went well, even when we suffered some hiccups, members of the groups were able to leverage their own skills to find alternative solutions. My most profound revelation, if I had one, is that often it is easy to forget that making games can be fun. I suppose if you’re from the computer science fraternity like me, it can be easy to forget the importance of having fun while designing something fun. This is something that I will keep in mind for the future of my practice, the importance of fun game design.

2 Likes