Final speakers and OH GOD IT’S ONLY TWO WEEKS AWAY


Here we are, then.

Two weeks to go. Massively sold out. A full speaker list of brilliant people. Badges somewhere on the way to our studio. A pub with money behind the bar (thanks, Sheridans). A bunch of nice volunteers signed up to help everyone have a good day.

We just need to find somewhere to lay our heads and decide which biscuits to spend Ogilvy’s dime on this year. Currently thinking about a mixture of under-rated classics, a sturdy old reliable and maybe one or two lavish ones from the new school. TBC.

Let’s get to know our latest additions that round out the day.


Simon is an artist, poet and all-round fascinating man who has been working in creative publishing since the ’60s. I recently saw a lot of his work, and works published by him under the Coracle banner, at a recent exhibition at Site Gallery (also, our new home). I was enthralled by his playful deconstruction of what a book is, and the processes that created new interpretations of the form. Simon will be talking about playing with form, which will be fantastic and illuminating.


Siobhan is the studio director for MediaMolecule, creators of two of the finest, most creative games ever made — LittleBigPlanet and LittleBigPlanet2. You may have noticed that MM recently announced  Tearaway, a brand new game that pushes the PSVita to its absolute edges and makes handheld gaming creative, essential and bloody mindblowing again. Siobhan will be telling us a bit about Tearaway, but also the creative processes that go into making MediaMolecule amazing.


A few years ago, we did a bad thing. We let the word gamification become a thing that people said. It was said, and it is now said A Lot. It’s short-hand for lazy tossers to try and get people to do things with the promise of a badge at the end of it. It’s the ugly sister of behavioural economics.

So, we’ve invited Tom Ewing from brilliant market research agency, Brainjuicer, to come and talk about Actual Decision Making. From coaxing people to confess cleaning shame with a boardgame, through surveys designed to stress you out, to playing Chinese whispers about new laundry products, Tom will showcase some of Brainjuicer’s game experiments, and put them in the wider context of human decision making and what games do to it.


Our friends at Mint Digital have run a project for the last couple of years giving recent graduates an opportunity to spend three months working on a creative brief to make a real thing. Last year’s intake created Olly — the web connected smelly robot. This year, the brief has been to Make A Toy With Purpose. To make it even more appealing, they’re making a sourdough-based toy. Seriously. So, we’re getting them up on stage to talk about the process and things that they’ve learnt.

We’ve also pulled in the wonderful Alice Taylor from Makie Labs to act as the Letterman to their collective Ollie Reed. Alice is currently doing exceptional things in the toy-space by helping people design their own 3D-printed dolls that are then actually made in the UK. Marvellous.

Tiny bit exciting, eh?

We are totally sold out, but there will be a late flurry of “oh-I-double-booked-myself-anyone-want-my-ticket?” activity, so follow us on Twitter as we will post any ticket opportunities up there.


A splashy speakers update.

Hello, there.

It’s been a lovely couple of weeks, with everyone celebrating all the sports and batshit crazy competitions (Omnium! Tron Fencing! Modern Pentathlon!) of an amazing Olympic games. We’re all sad to see it leave, back to arguing about hobnobs and whether Tom Hardy was doing a Victor Meldrew impression in T’Dark Knight Rises.

To keep our high of good-feeling going, we are excited to fanfare the entrance of a few new speakers waving tiny flags and snapping audience photos on a disposable Kodak camera:

Bennett is as close as you can get to the Two Face of indie games. By day, he is Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director at Oxford University (Ethics of the New Biosciences, since you ask); by night, he is the creator of brilliantly infuriating conceptual games such as QWOP, GIRP and new unicorn fun – CLOP. Games that make you question your ability to actually do anything at all, but laugh all the way through it. Bennett will be talking about how confusion and frustration are core parts of videogame design.

Holly designs games. Big games in big spaces, like parks and the city. Stuff that makes you run around and play daft. She will be talking about the long tradition of clapping games — from high-fives to playgrounds and even snazzy tech-enabled ones. You may even learn how to play one, too.

Anab Jain is founder and director of Superflux, a proper whizzing, forward-facing design practice. Anab will be bringing her thoughts from the interaction end of playfulness to the day, and we look forward to finding out exactly what.

Rob, Aron and Oli are a collection of technicians with mixed  backgrounds in photography, set design, sound engineering, projection and tea drinking. Based inside Derby’s QUAD Art & Film Centre they will be performing a spiel about “v.01″ – a combination of sound, animation, interaction, narrative and joysticks.

We are still cajoling and jostling  some more gems, whom we hope to be able to announce fairly soon too. There’s just a handful of tickets left, so it’s probably worth you putting your mouse on this URL and fulfilling your wishes.

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.