Monday, February 23, 2004

Swedish Game Design Workshop Tour!

Skövde - Norrköping - Visby, Sweden

Another big trip to Sweden, this time giving my game design workshop at three different universities. I flew from London to Gothenberg, where it was bright, cold and snowy -- I haven't seen a genuine snowy winter in many years. From there I took the train to Skövde, looking out the window at the glistening landscape and the frozen lakes. There I was met by Jenny Brusk, a lecturer at Skövde University. The following morning was less pretty -- it was snowing hard and an icy wind blew it into my face on the way to the campus. After some difficulties with a balky video projector, I gave the workshop to a big group of students, and had the pleasure of dinner with many of them at a nearby student hangout.

The next day it was on to the University of Linköping campus at Norrköping, again by train. I had already visited Norrköping late last year for the MUM2003 conference. Another workshop, another dinner with my hosts Peter Blom and Henric Joanson. This was a particularly small group, but we had a good time. Immediately after it was over I had to take the train to Stockholm airport and fly to Visby on a little propellor-driven plane, the first I've been on in some years. Even though they bounce around a bit, I still like them; it takes me back to my childhood.

Visby is the largest town on Gotland, and that's not saying much. Gotland is an island in the Baltic between Sweden and Finland, and a very popular summer resort for the Swedes, but still and quiet in the winter. The whole island has about 50,000 people, of which Visby is maybe 20,000. But it hosts the Interactive Institute, which despite its remote location, has the fastest 'Net access I've ever experienced. It also has an imaginative group of students who did a great job on their workshop. In addition to the students, some of the staff participated, and their game about being a Viking is one of my all-time favorites.

Craig Lindley was my host, and he treated me to a marvelous dinner after the workshop: all native Norse foods like reindeer steak. The next day I got a chance to walk around the walls of the old medieval city. Visby was once the largest town in northern Europe, when the sea-trade of the Hanseatic League was in full swing, and its medieval walls and churches are still standing, largely unspoiled by time and war. I've seen the walls at Chester and York in England, but Visby leaves them in the shade.