The Pickle That Holds It All Together

Afternoon all and congratulations to every single one of you.

This is a small post to introduce some BIG NEWS that we are pretty excited about, and one or two of you may be bit excited about it too.

Our compere for Playful 2012 will be the most excellent, mirthful and giddy JOSIE LONG.

You may recognise Josie from off of the telly in such things as Charlie Brooker’s You Have Been Watching, and Never Mind The Buzzcocks, or heard her on the wireless on Radio 1, Resonance FM or Absolute Radio. Maybe you’ve even seen her on stage doing what’s she’s best at: telling jokes and making lols appear.

The compere’s job is one of the most under-rated and hard to do. A mixture of good humour, getting names correct and gently hauling people off stage when they’re yammering on about something or other 5 minutes too long — and we think we’ve come up trumps with such an excellent host.

Give Josie a warm welcome, and see you again soon.

2012, then.


We have decided to do it again.

We like you all so much and it’s great fun. We’ll be at the same spot, on the same stage, with the same Very Good For Your Posture chairs, and we’ll be out at the same time, so that the same tango dancers can exercise their joints. If we’re lucky, us Mudlarkers may get to have our morning bacon butties before they go cold.

Playful 2012 will be different though. There will be new faces and new voices, new thoughts and new whims. We’ve put the future to bed, and we’re getting on with the now and the nearly now. There will be genius imparted from good folks, smiles laid upon the faces of all who come, and maybe – just maybe – one or two REALLY good words that lodge in your brain and tickle you into creating something completely brilliant.

We are excited to be back, full of piss and vinegar, ready to put on the best show yet.

To get you in the mood for BUYING SOME OF THE TICKETS WE HAVE FOR SALE, let us introduce you to the first batch of our most excellent speakers:

Hello there, Hannah Donovan.

Han is roundly welcomed by all at Playful, as she is part of the team behind one our favourite things of the past six months: This Is My Jam. Without giving too much away, and because it’s only April, Han may talk about digital craft, but she may not. It doesn’t really matter, because it will be great.

Oh, hi, Einar Sneve Martinussen.

We are delighted to be bringing Einar over from Oslo and the excellent design studio Voy and Oslo School of Architecture and Design. Einar, and Jørn, make lovely things with their hands, actual machinery and consumer electronics. Things like the beautiful Ugle or the drone-wonderful Wind Speaker. A good chance of tales from the forefront of new craft.

Hallo, Annette Mees.

Annette is no stranger to the stage, being co-director of the marvellous experimental theatre bunch at Coney. At Coney, Annette mucks about in a constructive way, creating interactive experiences for theatre-goers and laptop-lovers alike. We are very much looking forward to her doing whatever it is she chooses to do with twenty minutes, a stage and a roomful of open minds.

Finally, for now: Good Afternoon, Mark Sorrell.

Sorrell is that rarest of things: a very tall man. He is VERY tall. And loud. VERY loud. He is hard to ignore, so we decided to put him on stage to have a proper listen to the things he says in his new role as Games Guy at Somethin’ Else. We’re not certain what he’ll be talking about just yet, but if it’s anything like this, then we’ll be properly made up.

That’s it for now, more soon. Get real time updates on the live internet for all the happenings as they’re going on. Use the hashtag of #playful12 (if you’re into that sort of thing) and tell Lanyrd that you’re attending Playful this year.

See you soon.

TL; DR: great speakers, buy tickets, get excited!


Playful is a one-day event all about games and play. The hashtag is #playful11.

The liveblog was looked after by Chris Unitt from Made Media.

* Sami Niemela – We’re All Cyborgs Now
* Georgina Voss – Your game is not my game but your game is ok
* Paul Rissen – Making the Web more Playful
* Chris O’Shea

Blog posts:
* Eva-Lotta Lamm – sketched notes
* Hugh Garry – notes on Storify
* Hubbub – Occupy the future at Playful 2011
* Wired – Playing with reality, the middle-aged future and sadomasochism at Playful 2011
* Dan Williams – notes
* Nicolas Nova – notes
* Dentsu London – notes and sketches
* Mary Hamilton – you don’t need a flying car

Are You ‘Appy Now?

Instead of loads of printed material to hand out on the day (that’s usually out of date by the first Tea Break), we’ve made a little mobile web app for you all.

In it you’ll find the running order, speaker profiles and more.

It means we can change things round on the day and make sure everyone knows what’s going on.

We made it using JQTouch so it should work on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. It looks and works well on the iPhone, but not on Charles’ HTC thingy.

Go to on your smartphone and add it to your Home Screen and BAM you’ve got a Playful Programme App on your phone.

We’ll put up that address on the projector at Conway Hall. Maybe with a QR Code. Crikey.

Store It Up

Since last year’s Playful, our obsession with stationery has reached another level. Since Greg’s arrival, we’ve seen more specialist pencils and sharpeners than we’ve had hot dinners. And since Playful is all about sharing the things we find fascinating with a room full of people, we’ve ordered a shed load of pencils and notebooks should you need to stock up that desktidy.

Here are some of the things that will be on offer:

Ladies and Gentleman, the Palamino BlackWing-602 & The ForestChoice, for architects and carpenters, respectively:

For your carpenter’s pencil, you may require this fine Flat Point Pencil Sharpener, and a note book to jot down those measurements:

After Playful, we’re going to The Square Pig opposite Conway Hall for a few celebratory beverages and some nattering about what we’ve all learned. You’ll be able to buy some wine and beer, a perfect chance to make a start on these ’33 Wines’ and ’33 Beers’ volumes:


Speaker additions, a subtraction and running order.

As the sun finally sets on an Indian Summer and the cold wind starts to whisper on our whiskers, Playful is only a couple of weeks away.  Now is a good time to warm you with the finalised line-up for this years talking and pointing extravaganza.

Our newest and last additions to an already wonderful line-up are Louise Downe, Emil Ovemar and Pat Cadigan. Some more about them, then:

Louise Downe

Louise Downe is a service designer at Seren, previously at the Tate where she made some pretty playful things including games and interactive installations. From her experiences making mobile and interactive things, she’ll be looking at the role lies and lying have in UX design.

Emil Ovemar

Emil is co-founder and producer at Toca Boca. Coming from an old media world, Emil now makes the finest interactive kids toys going, based on pretending and playful interactions. Emil will be talking about developing Toca Boca and a new approach to Making Things.

Pat Cadigan

Pat Cadigan doesn’t need much of an introduction. She is the ‘Queen of Cyberpunk’, sci-fi author and a leading high-scorer in Chromaroma. We think Pat will be talking about distributed identity, but we’ll wait and see.

Get down to Conway Hall for 9:30ish, bring your favourite mug and then sit back for a line-up that goes a bit like this:

9:50 Toby Barnes — Hello
10:00 Al Robertson — Sci fi as a genre of play
10:20 Matt Sheret — Time Lords, frothing and Dungeon Master
10:40 Georgina Voss — Consent and negotiation in playful and interactive events
11:10 Break
11:30 Sami Niëmela — Cyborgs & superpowers
11:50 Louise Downe — Lies in UX design
12:10 Paul Rissen — MMORPG & linked data
12:30 Brendan Dawes — Playing properly: Interactive design and physical product.
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Marcus Brown — Stories & the middle-age future
14:20 Pat Cadigan — Identity
14:40 Emil Overmar — Designing toys
15:20 Break
15:40 Richard LeMarchand
15:50 Chris O’Shea — The near future of play on screens and portable devices
16:10 Mills™ Wonka & Neil “Paris Hair” McFarland — Whale Trail™ & game design

Sadly, but completely understandably, Anna Pickard will be over in Vancouver launching a game, so won’t be able to take the stage this year.

Scribbling Tennis.

We’re big fans of Coudal’s Layer Tennis in the Playful Mill. We thought we’d pay them a tribute this year, in our own special, lo-fi way. The Playful Scribbling Tennis live draw-off will be a doodle to the death, using a few pens, some acetate paper and a true historical artefact — the Overhead Projector of Doom.

We’re dead excited to pit four of our favourite illustrators against each other in this inky battle: Mr Bingo, Gemma Correll, Ian Stevenson and Playful veteran Rex Crowle.

Each illustrator will have four chances to out-fox their opponent with the might of their pens, before victory is decided by the crowd barking their approvals. One of these fine combatants will walk away with the smug sense of victory (possibly a limited value prize), whilst the vanquished scribblers will slink off into that cold night.

Commentary for these battles will come from everybody’s favourite Terrett, Ben.


Wait! Come back!

This isn’t a post about leveraging key influencers to develop deep linkages across multiple media platforms by inserting games meaningfully into your life.

It’s about badges. Real, physical badges with sharp pins on them.

As you may have noticed when buying a ticket for Playful this year (sold out now, but do join the waiting list, there is always hope),  we got rid of the old Early Bird/Late Great ticket tranches. Instead, we used some of our favourite sci-fi authors as labels. People fought to get an Isaac Asimov ticket, others waited to get into the Philip K. Dick batch.

To reward this favourable behaviour (that’s what it’s all about, right?), we went and made some badges. We asked our dear pal Rex Crowle (from off of drawing, LittleBigPlanet and EpicWin) to doodle the faces of the authors in his own way.

What we have now is a set of badges featuring high-class portraits of sci-fi genius.

The lads, from L-R: Asimov, Ballard, Dick, Wells, Clarke, Gibson (by Richard on Instagram).

Toby provides some annotation on what they bring to the party:

Here is a close up of my personal favourite, Mr H. G. Wells:

Be sure to get yours on the day, and we will have a few full-sets for sale to boot.

More speakers for the fire.

Completing another round of speaker acquisitions, we are pretty stoked to announce that the following excellence will be performing a talk at Playful this year:

Richard Lemarchand.

Richard is a Lead Game Designer at Naughty Dog over in sun-drenched California. He is currently up all night and wired all day working on one of the most eagerly-awaited console games of the year — Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Richard is particularly interested in storytelling action games and how narrative, aesthetics and gameplay can keep a player’s attention, whilst making them feel in control. We’re not sure what he’ll be talking about yet, but it will be awesome and you’ll just have to trust us.

Mills™ – CHIEF WONKA™.

Mills™ is King of Succailure™ and CHIEF WONKA™ of the rather brilliant digital design studio ustwo™. Ustwo are responsible for all sorts of mobile app goodies including the .™ series of games, Mouth Off,  Nursery Rhyme Story Time, Granimator and shedloads more. Mills™ will be talking about making Whale Trail™ – a wonderfully designed, playable and heart warming iOS game – from the ground-up. ‘Ground-up’ being the operative phrase because, in theory, ustwo™ have never actually made a game before.

Anna Pickard.

Anna is a writer. Anna may also be seen as a full-time LARPer: she pretends to be other things for a living. Her current main roles are as the voice of Bertrum Thumbcat on twitter – star of Cravendale’s “cat with thumbs” – and objects like rocks and trees and peat bogs in the MMORPG Glitch. Anna will be talking about what it’s like to write as these playful characters, but also the ways in which people are so happy to engage with things they know aren’t real.

Paul Rissen.

Paul works at the BBC as an Information Architect. This is as a result of a life-long obsession with a time-travelling Doctor and his various companions. Paul’s current work focusses around the Semantic Web, and particularly the development of the BBC’s Mythology Engine. During his talk at Playful, Paul will be applying his thinking about the Semantic Web and linked data to the world of games, in particular Mario, MMORPGs and making it all a bit more fun.

We are down to the final pool of tickets, so don’t be sad on October 21st, get one.

Introducing… (part 2)

Time to announce some more splendid speakers for this year’s event. They’re all solid gold eggs, so give them a warm welcome:

Brendan Dawes.

You know Brendan Dawes, he’s the man with opinions, a good shirt and excellent stationery.  He also happens to be a bloody marvellous designer, both in digital form as ECD at magneticNorth and of real physical things as co-founder of Beep Industries. Brendan’s been making things since forever, from the ZX81 in the ’80s, through the Flash heyday and now pushing the edges of processing and HTML5. His work has been shown as far and wide as MOMA and the internet, and we’re delighted to present him at Conway Hall.

Brendan is bringing his wonderful take on ‘playing properly’, from romantic electronics to useful 3D printed objects.

Al Robertson.

Al is a sci-fi, fantasy and horror writer whose stories have been published alongside Bruce Sterling and Ray Bradbury. Right now, he’s busy completing his second novel. He also works in helping people like Sony and the British Council work out what stories to tell, and how to do it. He’ll be opening up his rather large brain to explore why and how Science Fiction is a genre built on play, how it allows us to bend the rules of reality, and somehow predict the future.

Sami Niemelä.

Sami is Creative Director at Nordkapp, a Finnish agency of designers, strategists and technologists. Sami wants to make the future happen. His vision for doing this is to make things that make the world a bit better, through smart design and new technologies. At Playful, Sami will be talking about cyborgs and superpowers, unintentionally dramatic surfaces and the objects we surround ourselves with.

Shaping up rather nicely, isn’t it?

There are still a handful of tickets left — grab one.