Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Visit with Michael Stenmark

Enhörna, Sweden

Michael Stenmark was one of my very first clients when I started consulting, and brought me up to Stockholm to visit his company, Hidden Dinosaur. A lot has changed for both of us since then, but we're still in touch. He's one of the most creative people I've ever met.

After I got done on Gotland I had a day free, so I went to spend the night at his amazing house in the country. I don't know if Michael is a big hit with women or not, but he ought to be: this is his guest bedroom, a wildly romantic confection of an antique Indian bedstead, cloth-of-gold pillows, draperies galore, and a big fuzzy tiger. The house is full of plants and candles everywhere, and he leaves the latter burning when he goes out for dinner, which suggests that he either has nerves of steel or just doesn't think about burning the whole place down.

Photo of Michael Stenmark's guest bedroom.

We went out for a great Greek meal in the middle of nowhere, Sweden (!) and talked about all kinds of computerized creative stuff. Michael is the creative director of a funky persistent world called Spineworld. It's isometric, looking a little like Habbo Hotel, only way more weird. It's also very low-bandwidth.

On the way back from dinner I slipped on some black ice and banged the back of my head very hard on the pavement. We put ice on it right away, and although it developed a goodly bump, I don't think I suffered any permanent damage.

The next morning I was off to my next gig, a week teaching at the University of Skövde. Many thanks, Michael!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A quick trip to the University of Gotland

Visby, Sweden

University of Gotland logoLast summer I went to Visby to serve as a juror at the Gotland Game Awards, hosted by the University of Gotland. We've been talking about setting up a more permanent arrangement, in which I'll formally become part of the faculty. Because I was in Sweden anyway to visit another of my favorite universities, I flew out to Gotland for a couple of days. I gave the students my Fundamentals of Game Design workshop and another lecture, and had some meetings with folks to discuss plans for the future.

Photo of students at workshopWhen there are too many teams in my workshop to do a detailed presentation, I have each team make a sales poster instead, and show it to the group along with a short pitch. Here one of the teams is working on a game about saving whales. The approach they took was to let the player be a mermaid -- more of a siren, really -- who lures the whaling ships to their doom. I had in mind something more like Greenpeace and their zodiacs, but you can never tell what novice game designers are going to do.