Reasons to be playful
Last week creative director Giles Brenard visited the Playful 12 conference and discovered that play isn't just for kids...
To paraphrase one of Tom Ewing’s slides on the day: ‘WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS GAMIFICATION’. But as the speakers at Playful 12 set out to prove, the rewards of play don’t have to be linked to badges, discounts or status – sometimes they can simply be an end in themselves.
After a generation of screen-dominated video games, new technologies and mash-ups have left us scrabbling for a whole new language around digital gaming. Mark Sorrell, development director at Hide & Seek, introduced us to what he calls "computer-mediated" games with some outlandish examples such as JS Joust and B.U.T.T.O.N – which must win the award for best game name ever, standing as it does for Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now.
The conference highlighted how, using technologies such as Microsoft Kinect, people have been empowered to create entirely new games, in which the audience can participate and a computer merely acts as enabler and scorer.
I found it particularly interesting that while play is, for many, simply replacing one screen with another one (and often two), this recapturing of the power of imagination and the primal urge to play might not just be desirable – it could be crucial.
It’s a theme taken up by Anab Jain with a passionate plea to bring back fairy stories and stop the endless normalisation process that we inflict on our (literally) fantastic planet and lives. Her project Farmland World is a playful take on where this disconnection from reality might lead us.
This plea emerged in all shapes and sizes throughout the day – from a fascinating exploration of clapping games by Holly Gramazio (Danish clapping being the best – learn to play here) to a talk by Simon Cutts of Coracle Press, whose projects have played with art, form and space since the 1970s.
And when gamification did rear its head, it was to add a little science to the proceedings. Tom Ewing showed that by gamifying and adding context to a survey, the results become a far more accurate reflection of people’s true intentions and beliefs.
As the day ended amid a flurry of paper aeroplanes, it was hard not to leave without the sense that – beyond the rigid confines of a single-player video game – play, in all its forms, is as fundamental to our humanity as our more celebrated cerebral skills.
A clear case of ludo, ergo sum: I play, therefore I am.