Thursday, November 13, 2003

"IN pâ piren": A meeting place for the creative industries

Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlshamn, Sweden

I'm not entirely sure how to describe this event. Thirty years ago, I'm sorry to say, I probably would have called it a "happening." The title means "IN on the pier" in Swedish. It seemed to be a three-day-long cocktail party, conference, dance and game design competition all rolled into one, with no set schedule: a great big anarchic collection of technology and game-related activity. I gave a lecture and participated in a round table discussion on the future of the game industry in Sweden, but the main reason I was there was to help organize and judge the game design competition, a 24-hour race for teams of students. The whole thing was held to celebrate the construction of a new building for the Blekinge Institute of Technology on the pier at Karlshamn, and it all took place in the 3-story atrium... complete with bands, acrobats, and a woman who performed a mildly erotic dance with a vacuum cleaner. (You had to be there.)

Anyway, the game design race went very well and the winning entries were suitably imaginative -- some of the contestants showed real promise. I had a great (if somewhat confused) time and hope to go back. I also made a lot of new acquaintances in the nascent Swedish game academy.

Lecture at Liverpool John Moores University

School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, LJMU, Liverpool, UK

I was originally invited to give a single lecture to the students of Dr. Abdennour El-Rhalibi, but he decided to turn the event into a one-day symposium with several other speakers as well. It was very well-attended, a single large lecture theater packed with students and faculty. I gave "Fundamental Principles of Game Design," and Chris Bateman, who is one of my comrades-in-arms at International Hobo, treated us to an excellent lecture on audience demographics. ihobo is doing considerable research on demographics using the Myers-Briggs personality assessment.

I had never been to Liverpool before, and I wish I had had a better chance to look around, but I had to leave immediately afterwards for an event in Sweden.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Keynote Lecture at the Flux Mini-Symposium

Utrecht School of the Arts, Hilversum, the Netherlands

The day after Level Up I went to the Utrecht School of the Arts in Hilversum, nearby, for a half-day mini-symposium dedicated to the issue of transitions in the game industry. There were just a few speakers, but they were good'uns: Jason Della Rocca of the IGDA, Eric Zimmerman of GameLabs (another maniac on the dance floor, by all accounts), and Martin de Ronde of Guerilla Games (formerly Lost Boys), developers of the highly-anticipated Killzone. Oh, and me. Our discussions concentrated on the near future of the game industry, which some particular thoughts on how it might evolve in the Netherlands -- I gave the game designer's perspective. After the hurly-burly of Level Up, it was a relaxing change.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Lecture at the Level Up (DiGRA) Conference

University of Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Level Up was a curious cross between a dry academic conference and a full-scale game industry party at E3. Held in classrooms at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, many (too many) of the sessions were delivered in the obscure language of academe, and to make matters worse, some speakers just read their printed papers aloud -- an insomnia cure if there ever was one. I hope next year the selection committee puts a little more emphasis on academic research of practical value: graphics, artificial intelligence, simulation techniques, interactive storytelling, gameplay, art, animation, and music. I did get to some interesting sessions and met some people I had long wanted to meet, though, and the conference attracted a very good crowd, over 500 attendees.

The other aspect of the conference took the form of loads of machines around to play on (a whole bank of Nokia N-Gages, as well as all three major consoles), some interactive art, and pretty serious partying. Professors don't have much of a rep as party animals, but there was a genteel dinner that turned into a prolonged drinking bout, and a techno-party that went on until at least 4 A.M. I didn't stay that long, but I gather from reports that Frans Mäyrä, the current President of the Digital Games Research Association, is something of a maniac on the dance floor.

My own lecture, "The Construction of Ludic Space," went over quite well although owing to some confusion it had be delivered at warp speed. Fortunately, the PowerPoint slides are on the Lectures page of my website.

I'll definitely go back to Level Up if the next one is held someplace I can afford to get to. Utrecht is a very pretty town and conveniently located for those of us based in Europe.