Playful 2010 #2

September 27, 2010

Testing skype on tomJust a quick one then. Again, I’m sure I’ll return to some of the ideas I particularly enjoyed in more depth as there was plenty to think about on Friday. But for now a summary of highlights and lowlights by way of brief review and as a mechanism for organising thoughts.

Highlights:

  • Bertrand Duplat’s amazing, amazing, amazing electronic paper-folding games and augmented reality board game stuff. This is what I want. Just a whole day of this. He’s working on “The paper book as a new computer platform”. Fucking hell, I well fucking love the French. I don’t think they’ve ever invented a single thing I didn’t approve of.
  • All the wicked graphic design on display, in particular Tom Muller’s very beautiful comics slides. And I hate comics, as you know.
  • Music hackday round-up. A little bit rushed, suffered from going on late in the day, but so many really exciting projects. So creative.
  • Despite the obvious slip-up, Toby’s compere form was strong!
  • Lovely stuff from people I know: Naomi Alderman and James Wallis. Naomi made me understand some stuff about story and genuinely made me laugh; James invoked one of my favourite countercultural collectives, The Situationist International. I was very proud of them him and Naomi up there.
  • Our Skype interview bit of course, goes without saying!
  • Chatting to ace people in the breaks and afterwards.
  • Someone drew my shoes.
  • I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I actually enjoyed the FourSquare debate. It was fresh, creative and “playful” in the pure sense. More creative stuff like that would be good I reckon. Special props for Phil Gyford’s talk, which was astonishing.
  • The way that, between the friendly crowd and the colourful talks, it really felt like an event. I found the whole thing much more engaging than last year, but that might be do to my own frame of mind being much more positive this time round… e.g. this time, I didn’t just go up and slag off Madame Tussaud’s for 15 minutes.
  • It made me realise that the best talk I can imagine is the talk by someone who cares. I like listening to James Wallis talking about games, because he loves it. It’s just a bonus when he’s saying something I agree with. I know he loves Guy Debord because he loves him in that mad, slightly embarrassing way that I do. However you get there, you need to be persuaded to believe that the person on stage believes what they’re saying. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the argument, itself – and trust me, if they care, there WILL be an argument.
  • It’s not the Interesting conference, though it has much (and many people) in common with one. But it’s not one. It’s much more expensive, for one thing. Its audience is not the general family out for a fun day on a Saturday. But Playful maintains the Interesting mandate of ‘talk about something you’re passionate about that’s tangential to your work’. For most of the people I know in the games world, their work is their passion and in places that came across beautifully. I’d like to see Playful continue to develop its own strong, clear, identity – exclusively aimed at the industry and its creative, clever community (& I’d like to help if I can 😉 .) Whatever, it’s well on its way.

Not so highlights:

  • Speakers who were trying to be performers a bit too much in places, and often with whimsical contrived opinions on things rather than the COLD HARD FACTS and demonstrable personal experience in their area that I demand from my geeks. I am probably including myself in this although when it comes to showmanship, I don’t think I could do that if I tried.
  • Missing most of the fantastic-sounding game controllers guy Nicholas Nova because Roo had just arrived and we were busy testing Skype and generally planning stuff round the corner.
  • Although all entertaining in their way, some of the speakers felt a little like they were there on favours and some (like me) were return-bookings. I know these things are a ‘mare to plan, but I bet there’s fresh blood out there. Sponsors doing talks made me a bit uncomfortable, too.
  • Playful thanking DD on Twitter with: “Thanks for chatting to Roo today”, while the deputy editor of WIRED UK described it as “Leila’s interview with DD”. I know it’s not intentional, but this kind of thing keeps happening and can be misleading to those who don’t know what we’re about. So I have to say: “It’s a two-hander guys! No need to pick a team!”
  • Line-up somewhat short on females. I only count as one.
  • Fish wraps in the vegetarian lunch bags 😦
  • Running late. This snowballs over the course of a series of talks even if each runs just a few minutes over. Maybe not a problem for most, but it could’ve been for us, as we’d finely tuned everything and I later realised Dominik had been Skyping at us wondering where we were.
  • Heavy reliance on video in nearly all the talks. I started to find this a bit annoying after a while, and I wasn’t even a paying ticket-holder. Even apart from the technical irritation, it’s cheap and distances you from the audience you’re supposed to be taking in hand – one chap even spent upwards of 5 minutes looking for a specific, single line uttered by a character in a long clip he’d downloaded from Mad Men. Only to say the words again and show them on a slide. We can get short demo videos online for free… but what can you only do really well on stage? Maybe it’s a ‘you get what you pay for’ thing, and if one can’t pay speakers, speakers can’t afford to put the time in to do slides, etc.
  • Pitchy-pitchy pitch. The law was don’t mention your own game, but it was hard to get around this for many – especially as several people seemed to have been booked specifically to discuss their company/product. Having said that, on the whole it was interesting hearing about the different companies from the people who had started them (again, it’s about believing in something).

This is where I should point out I don’t have massive experience of conferences (speaking at or attending) so my critiques come from a position of wide-eyed, childlike ignorance of how these things are normally done. I am like the children in Outnumbered to the conference organiser’s Hugh Dennis.

Seriously, I have no idea how hard it is to put something like this on. I imagine: very. From looking around the room and through Twitter, I can honestly say that everyone seemed to have a really good day.

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3 Responses to “Playful 2010 #2”


  1. […] I’ve written up what I felt about the bits when I was on stage on my other blog, and what I felt about the bits when other people were on stage on my other […]

  2. nicolas Says:

    Thanks for your interest!

    I’ve put the slides on-line here: http://www.slideshare.net/nicolasnova/the-gamepad-continuum with somes notes

    Plus, I guess the Playful guys have also video-taped the talks.


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