Weeknotes: 22.2016 – Gamecamp, our games workshop, the Continue games conference. Games, basically

On June 3rd, 2016, posted in: weeknotes by

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Whilst my colleagues were deeply entrenched in our projects with AMNH, Bloomberg grantees, the National Gallery, the Science Museum and Battle Abbey (phew!) it was a very gamey week for me last week (one of the best sorts of week). From a fantastically fun Gamecamp on Saturday, through our first UK Getting to Grips with Games workshop on Monday and then two days at the Continue conference on games and culture.

Gamecamp is really one of those events where you just have to be there. As an unconference, anything can happen. There is a storify of the event here, to give you a flavour. I highly recommend signing up to their mailing list for the next one.

I spent much of the day running playtests or playing boardgames, so I don’t have many talks to report back on, apart from one by Rob Davis of Playniac about designing by conversation. By this he means testing out game ideas on paper almost as soon as he has them to start trying them out and discussing them with people, whether this be down the pub, on a plane, or in the office.

This really resonated with me. It’s a great way to bring in interesting voices to your design process, iron out obvious flaws early and start refining certain aspects before the need to code anything or fully work it up. A sort of pre playtest test? There was also the traditional round of Rob’s brilliant Cat On Yer Head game (a physical game about game design), which I also ran at our workshop and Continue. If you’re at We Are Museums next week, I’m hoping to run it again during my talk.

On to Derby Silk Mill (what a brilliant venue! Inspiring and spacious) for our games workshop. I had a great day sharing some of the best digital and tabletop games I know, breaking them down with the group to help them understand how they work, and then watching them develop their own ideas into three genuinely fantastic games. I was particularly gratified to hear participants say that they’d learnt the importance of simplicity in game design, stripping away layers to leave a clear and elegant mechanic that delivered both fun and a message. Some pics from the day below.

I hope we can run more. If you’re interested in being notified about future workshops, please drop me a line on martha at franklygreenwebb dot com.

A day back in London before heading up to Nottingham to the National Videogame Arcade, to which I’d shamefully never been before. It’s fantastic, I highly recommend a visit, and will be heading back there for the GameCity festival in the Autumn, I hope. I was there for the Continue Conference, part funded by the Arts Council, which aimed to bring together people from the games industry, funders, cultural organisations and academia to discuss the role of videogames in culture and how to deal with the challenges faced by this sector (a lack of literacy and recognition, for example).

There were some great talks, and some good discussion. It’s definitely one to keep an eye on in terms of what they do next. It was clear that there was appetite for making further connections between the various groups involved, and they are putting out a publication at some point. I would get in touch with them if you’re interested in being involved.

A lot of it was live streamed, but only the audio. There is a full recording of day one on their channel https://www.twitch.tv/nationalvideogamearcade/profile but it also includes some dead air, so you have to skip around to hear it all. The schedule is at http://gamecity.org/continue/schedule/ which should help. I gave a talk at the end of day one which is in there about how to make better games in the cultural orgs (being honest about the challenges and but also looking at some possible solutions), Holly Gramazio talking about 10 inspiring games is well worth a listen (I wish I’d had the chance to play all her examples), as are Hannah Nicklin and Ed Key talking about collaboration.

They also streamed this Guardian Culture Pros panel which you can still listen to on that link. Yes, it’s me again, sorry, but also five others from different areas of games and culture. There was some, ah, slightly heated discussion about diversity in games but also much talk about their importance and what cultural organisations could be doing in this area. It’s very good to hear Peter Bazalgette talking about how important games are to culture.

What we’ve been reading this week:

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