Tag Archives: Speakers

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.


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.


Playful 2010 report:

1. It’s happening on Friday 24 September at Conway Hall, London.
2. We really enjoyed reading through this today, it arrived in my inbox just as I started e-mailing speakers. Perfect timing:

What Happened? [Part 3]

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21. Nicholas ‘Feltron’ Felton sent us a message in the early hours of Friday morning with the terrible news that his place had been grounded (he was flying in from New York especially, you see). There was a resounding “bugger” from all of us as he’d been on our list since before Playful ’08. His Feltron Annual Report get more incredible every year, and we were looking forward to ‘getting off’ on graphs, and laughing. As a consolation prize, Nicholas has been kind enough to upload his presentation for us all to enjoy. Enjoy (zip). Enjoy (PDF).

22. So we moved Rex up to where Nicholas was supposed to be. He didn’t mind. And we presented him with a cake, which made him very happy. Rex did all the drawing for this year’s Playful ’09 and we wanted to show him how much we love him for it. We also got him an OHP so he could draw his presentation, live. Probably the most original and funny I’ve seen, Rex talked about his love of drawing, and how it doesn’t matter if your drawings look weird. He also talked of selling his flock of sheep to buy an Amiga and getting into game design. If ther was ever one talk I wish I’d got a video of, it was this one. For an inkling of what it all looked like, look at the top of this blog post or go here for more pictures.

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23. “Indie game creators live in a world of love,” says Simon Oliver – a man with a smile on his face, and the man behind one of the loveliest, simplest and addictive iPhone games: Rolando. Simon delivered a really refreshing take on game development, about not worrying about GAME DESIGN too much, but mucking around and experimenting and prototyping until you find THE FUN in the idea, and develop that.

24. Tim Wright went on a big adventure, and made me want to go on one myself. He picked out parts of his journey following the route of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book Kidnapped, mapping his journey on the web with GPS, a flip camera, and an iPhone. My favourite bits were the random bits – like the guy who turned up to follow the journey, and ended up riding across a lake in a boat owned by the landlord of a pub, the same pub where, in the book, the protagonist rides across the lake in a boat owned by the landlord. At least, that’s how I remembered it. Tim showed a picture of the guy looking so unbelievably chuffed in a way you don’t see everyday. Marvellous.

25. This is Chris O’Shea‘s project called Out Of Bounds. Chris showed us some of his interactive digital art projects, which were duly wowed at by everyone who’d ever wanted e-ray specs. There’s a link here between Russell’s Power Of Pretending and Out Of Bounds. You know it’s not really real, but how big is the part of you that wishes it was?

26. A queue of people wanting to take balloons to the pub with them, and one person wanting a bunch for her Hallowe’en party. Cutting them off and handing them out, I felt like a clown at a party.

27. Going to the pub is always good at the end of a long day where your limbs hurt and your brain is full. Especially when you can talk to the people you only had chance to say a quick “Hello” to while running around a conference. I discovered Budvar ‘Half & Half’, which helps me skip over the inevitable “Oooh, shall I go for Premium or Dark Czech lager?” part of my evening.

And that’s it, I think. My Playful in 27 points. Here are some more folks talking about what they got from the day:

Libby Davy
Suw Charman-Anderson
Roo Reynolds
Leila Johnston
Lawrence Chiles

Also, it’s just occured to me that it would be impossible to recount EVERYTHING that was good that people said on stage, so instead I’m gathering up all the presentations and will find a way to present them on here very nicely…

What Happened? [Part 2]

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11. Robin Burkinshaw & Matt Locke. Blimey. I heard a lot of gasps and little OMGs from the crowd behind me during this one, as Matt Locke read excerts (beautifully) from key points in the Alice & Kev story, asking Robin to give his personal reflections on the project, the process, the meaning, and the future. It turns out that Robin wants to work on more ways to explore homelessness through games, and that Matt (who commissions for Channel 4 Education) is after a project on the subject. Big win for both, and big applause from the crowd. Massive applause, with a couple of “whoops”.

12. James Bridle makes books and the internet into friends. He was going to talk about that, but then realised that James Wallis did so at Playful ’08. So instead he took us on a journey into ‘Awesomeness’. And the journey was awesome, in which we learned that it is possible to make a computer that plays Noughts & Crosses out of 304 matchboxes, but that to make the same machine play Go would end up rather large. Explore for yourself at the wonderfully rendered A New Theory of AWESOMENESS and MIRACLES (Being NOTES and SLIDES on a talk given at PLAYFUL 09, concerning CHARLES BABBAGE, HEATH ROBINSON, MENACE and MAGE). Here’s a photo of James with MENACE (Matchbox Educable Noughts And Crosses Engine) taken by Roo Reynolds:


13. Katy Lindemann hit the spot while talking about changing behaviour using play as a catalyst. Lots of fine examples from the artistic (little robots lost in New York) to the big brand stuff like Fiat’s driving data interface or VW’s recent FunTheory experiments. Katy admirably resisted talking for the entire 20 minutes solely about robots, but robots played a big part in everything, which isn’t a bad thing.

14. Tassos Stevens is a veritable magnet of a man, and without the aid of visuals, talked to us all about cricket being a very ambient, punctuated game unlike any other sport. I don’t like cricket, but I know for a fact I’m not the only one who’ll be tuning into The Ashes whenever it’s next on. The theory is, that it’s a very long game…played over days, so you can’t watch the whole thing anyway. Once you’re over that hurdle, you can dip in and out. You can listen to it on the radio, or tune into a live blog of the action and engage with the audience. Also, the way that cricket is scored means that the end reult can be unpredictable. If a game of footie is 82 minutes in and one side is 3-0 up, they’re generally going to win. But in cricket a good bowler could be a crap batsman, so it could be up to him to save the entire game. It was clearer than that when Tassos said it, honest.

15. Lunch – I was starving by the time lunch came around. There was a bit of jiggling to be done on the laptop to get the Playgroup showreel working properly with the projector versus screensaver, but we got there. There were raffle tickets in each lunch bag, and the winner has been picked here. It wasn’t my number. It never is. Also, apologies to the people on the balcony who got blasted with the new Do Make Say Think album – I didn’t realise how loud the speakers were up there compared to downstairs. Sorry.

16. Russell Davies is known far and wide in the land as a very very interesting chap. His talk was more like stand-up, with the biggest laugh of the day coming from his observation about the Bourne films being only very little about Fighting & Killing, but being mostly about Moody Commuting. Similarly, this is the pie chart representing what you do when you buy a really expensive pilot’s watch:

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The key phrase that hit me from Russell’s slot was “High Pretending Value”, because you can’t go to work dressed as an astronaut, but you can wear lots of velcro and nobody notices you pretending.

17. Molly Ränge came all the way from Stockholm to talk about the Scandinavian serious games scene. This is something I knew nothing about, but it seems that there are groups over there doing great social and political things using playful experiences as the catalyst for public engagement with issues.

18. I really really like old TV. I find most modern TV utterly crap but with high production values. Old tele (and by old, I mean late eighties/early nineties for me) had just the opposite. Low production values, but great and immersive stories. So, when Duncan Gough started talking about how game narratives and game worlds could benefit from being more like Press Gang or Kes, I was hooked. As Leila has since said, “Gough talked about how to render and realise a fictive world so perfectly absorbing that it feels like it’s carrying on around you, even if you stop playing.” See also: Archer’s Goon, Moondial, Watt On Earth.

19. Above is what 40 or so bus stops around London will look like in 2012 when Alfie Dennen & Paula Le Dieu have had their way with them. They’ve just got the go ahead from the Artists Taking The Lead project to turn 40 bus stops around London into a networked LED display system for social art and gaming experiments. They told us about their plans, and made a call out for interested parties to get in touch.

20. Afternoon tea. Can’t beat it. I’m having one right now.

Coming up in Part 3: What happened between Part 2 and the end of the day.

What Happened? [Part 1]

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I’ve now been sent more than a handful of accounts of what happened last Friday…so I’m going to do my own version with some links in it here…

1. Unwrapping the newspapers, as I’ve already said, was brill.

2. A line of people out of the building and up the road. Rather than the usual drifting in and finding coffee, there was a massive line of people. It was like being at HMV at midnight when some hyped up rubbish is about to come out and let everyone down (but not rubbish, or a let down, obviously).

3. Roo Reynolds. There he is in the picture at the top of this blog post. Roo talked about films and games, and games and films, and why the transition one way or the other is never quite as good as you’d think. Highlights from this talk were:

a) Being reminded how awful that game sequence in the film version of The Beach is, compared to how good it is in the book.
b) Mocked up covers of Withnail & I (XBox Live) and The Big Lebowski DS (subtitled: Somebody pissed on my rug man)
c) “Tetris: It was a time of WARRRRRR”
c) Minesweeper: The Movie (see below)

True to form, Roo was the first to clock in with his version of events which you can read here. He also announced his new games podcast with Leila Johnston entitiled Shift, Run, Stop. We’re going to check it out right now.

4. “One thing I’ve realised is that the web doesn’t smell.” New technology wisdom from Toby.

5. Leila Johnston. Leila read from her book Enemy Of Chaos and focused on the aspects of “entropy, disorder, and cryogenics, and therefore death.” Leila’s book sounds very funny. I don’t think Waterstones of Derby will be cool enough to stock it, so I’m going on the internet for it when I get me pay through this week. Leila also takes away the Shrewd Observation Award for looking out at the crowd and noting that “there is such a thing as an ageing nerd market”. Leila’s thoughts, and further inspired musings on some of the other talks can be enjoyed here.

6. “There are no funny games.” Controversial, I know. Toby said this after Leila’s talk. I’m not so sure. I thought the first two Monkey Island games were funny for a start. Discuss.

7. Kareem Ettouney. No slides, and no script, Kareem’s talk was a bare bones, honest, and mainly improvised exploration into why it’s really important to step back from a project, do your own thing for a while, consider the low points as a necessary part of the journey of creating something big and new and brilliant, and give other people ownership. Kareem is the Art Director for Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet – one of the most cuddly, customizable and collaborative games (in both development methodology and end product) ever, so hearing him speak about his emotions in this role was really interesting and made me feel okay about having personal-creativity-low-points from time to time.

8. Daniel Soltis. From tinker.it, Daniel showed us some of the playful things his tinkered with and made fun. The highlight was a wedding gift he’d made. The gift was inside a beautiful wooden box with a silver push button on it to open it. Push the button, open the box – but only if you’re in the correct place in the world. If you’re not, the LCD display tells you how many miles you are away from the correct position. The correct place in the world was a place of emotional significance for the married couple, thereby taking them on a journey to rediscover a part of their relationship together. Magical.

9. That first tea break, and realising that our volunteers were so damn good that there was literally nothing for me to organise apart from myself. The wi-fi was really bad, so we couldn’t get Wordr on screen like we’d planned…but hey ho.

10. Lucy Wurstlin talked about 4ip, and the things they’re doing. There’s a new game on the way that is supposed to be the most terrifying and immersive text-based experience yet created in the world. Lucy also said “thankyou” using a picture of a tank and a yew. Nice.

Coming up in Part Two, other things that happend parts 11-20.

A Million Times Dank Jij


Seriously, thankyou so much to all the speakers, sponsors, volunteers, attendees, groupies and roadies that were involved in this year’s Playful. It was a grand old day, and we’re now wading through the tweets and blog posts and generally walking around with a “pat on the back” kind of glowy feeling. To quote Katy Lindemann:


Things on the to-do list this week include gathering up all the presentations that our speakers are uploading to their blogs and Slideshare, emptying our cameras of photos, uploading the photos to Flickr, talking about what we’re going to do with Playful in 2010, and resisting the fresh packet of Milk Chocolate Digestives currently sitting opposite me on Toby’s desk…

There is also an imminence of blog posts. Is that a word? Imminence? Do blog posts have a collective noun to describe a group of them? If not, from now on a group of blog posts shall be referred to as an ‘imminence’…