Jun 10

Designing for Play – reboot7

Ben Cerverny is now up talking about designing for play. Here’s my interpretation of what he is saying.

In many species, play is being used to drive the ‘grammar’ of interactions, to set boundaries for interactions, put some order around the chaos that is out there. We use play to make sense of the world when growing up.

But humans carry on playing after the time other species would stop and get on with surviving. We take games develop them for their own sake. We continue to use games as metaphors for life, continue to explore the world – back to Doc Searls reference to language and despcription is all about something else – we rarely create a brand new language, but look for metaphors and usages from things we’ve used or experienced before.

So games can potentially allow us to explore a new way of thinking by driving out different metaphors.

“There are multiple states of play” – there can be many modes and many stages in the game. there are challenges in learning the game, learning the metaphors, so designers can put in a learning space, where you can set the parameters, set up characters, and think before you enter the game. you move between composition and performance.

Interactive games reflect the need for ‘state machines’, where humans run through a series of rules, usually subconcious, that are developed to allow sense to be made of the world. In games, the state machines are designed, controlling the rules of the game. And players get immersed in the rules, internalise them, and then recognise the rules of the world they are playing in. Increasing metadata, increasing sources of date mean that more rules need to be recognised. Playing with the inputs increases the speed of creating the rules, creating new world views, allows the player and the viewers to quicker grasp the complexity.

Simlutions, like the Sims, are different from many games; they don’t have a winner at the end. The game is in the playing, not the winning. The state machine here can be the result of thousands of interactions and we can;t predict the result. Humans need occasional chaos to drive the thought (back to Open Sauce marketing, the previous talk). Chaos can surprise you and produce something new.

Jun 09


Thought about putting wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen as a title but as it’s so much of a cliche that it’s even the theme of the official welcome notice at the airport, I decided not to. I finally got here after a slightly delayed flight to find a city that really reminds me of Amsterdam, enough so that I want to answer with questions with the small amount of Dutch that I know.

First port of call (after the hotel) was thePre-conference Meetup for drinks (following a wee bite to eat). I caught up with some people from Tuesday nights Geek Dinner and met some more, inckuding Nicole Simon, who I recognised from her voice, having listened to her podcasts. There was free wireless at the venue which was used by many, including this lot in the picture below. Nicole, Maryam and I decided on the appropriate caption “Bloggers finally discover European late night TV broadcasts over the web”


Take a look at this use of dynamic mapping in Switzerland, which was actually the item being blogged at the time

Meanwhile, I’ve found me another use for Flickr. I’ve not yet loaded any graphical/imaging software on the new laptop, so had no way to reduce the size of the image above. So, upload to Flickr and then download a smaller size gives me an image that won’t kill the load times. Not that amazing discovery, but it’s the small things that help.

Jun 08

Archive Footage

IS the BBC getting lazy? Yesterday a TV report in to bullying by mobile by children was accompanied by footage of children texting on phones that are so out of date that the children have probably left school by now. Today we get a story about an extradition of a man for alledgedly hacking into US military and NASA computers partnered by footage of NASA people working on computers that probably sent Neil Armstrong to the moon.

Jun 08

Note to self

Note 1: next time you leave the office in a hurry, check you have your house keys.
Note 2: Notice this fact before you’ve reached the house and have to take the cab back into town

Jun 05

Racing life

A quietish weekend. Friday I went go-karting and then took a trip to Silverstone to watch some cars going round and round a track. Surprisingly, considering I have never watched a Formula 1 race, the behind the scenes bit was fun. One of my company’s brand is sponsoring the Mercedes McLaren team come August and we went to have lunch and take a very close look in the pits at the team in action during one of the test days for the cars at Silverstone. Take a look at my photos if you are interested in fast cars. We got really close to the cars and must have spent a good few hours watching them come and go from the pits. A never realised how LOUD the cars are, or how small they are. The cars are tiny and it appears the race drivers are, taking a look at both Juan Pablo Montoya or Kimi Riakkonen who looked very small compared to some of the pits team. And then, as I was half way there, went up to see the parents to fix a computer problem and have a restful weekend doing nothing.


May 31

Life’s Clean Up

My parent’s left earlier than expected, so I spent most of yesterday doing spring cleaning. The rubbish is easy – boxes and stuff that just add clutter. Clothes are a little harder, but I’m trying to set a rule – if I have not worn in a year, out it goes. But the most difficult are the books. I’m quite comfortable geting rid of the ‘holiday reads’, the random books, often thrillers, I buy in airports to keep me amused whilst travelling. But for some reason, it’s difficult to get rid of the really old stuff. I had a box of books I bought as a child (prices starting at 40p, 50p or 75p) which for some reason my mother had kept and then presented back to me when I moved somewhere (here or Amsterdam, I can’t remember. They are all childrens stores, mainly horse stories; today I could read them in about 40 minutes. But it’s funny, I picked then up and I remembered these stories, most of which I probably have not read for over 20 years. I can also recall more of who I was at that time; so getting rid of them is a wrench from childhood. But they’re going, next trip to the recyclers. And I’ll carry filling up the gaps with more books and more toys.

May 29

Parental Tales

My mother has an interestng job sometimes. Starting off a nurse, she’s moved slowly more towards the social aspects of that role. She usually has some funny or scary tales to tell and today there was one that can be shared. It started off with her team lead deciding that the place needs a tidy and all the paperwork around the office needed to be tidied and filed, so that in no way could it construed as a Health and Safety risk. So he personally started to remove things, put them in boxes and take them to the archives. In the process, he lost the box of condoms which normally sits in the drawers. They’ll find them again; eventually. So as part of the clean up, Mom decided she would get some shelves put up in a cupboard next to her desk. Off she went to measure up (or at least to look, I think a tape measure would be going to far) and opened the door, to find, of all things, a full size coffin standing upright in the cupboard. Luckily, it was empty, otherwise I think there could have been some questions asked. On emailing the whole team, it turned out that the coffin belonged to policemen who were running a road safety campaign – it’s a prop for their roadshows. The reason for it being in the cupboard – “there was nowhere else to put it”. The shelves are organised and the police are looking for somewhere else to put the coffin when they arrivce. Meanwhile, it’s being used as a coat stand!

May 29

lack of time

Lots of things to write about, just little time. My parents are visting and don’t quite get blogs or anything like that. So need to wait until they are gone. Meanwhile wander over to the photostream and take a look at some photos from a wedding I was at yesterday.

May 27

Hot, hot, hot

It’s going to be the hottest day of the year in the south today, with predicted temperature reaching 28-30 C. So I’m guessing that in the usual British tradition of failing to predict autumn leaves on the line or the impact of snow and ice on the roads we’ll be completely unprepared. The Tube lines and trains will have their heaters on and the buildings will not have the air conditioning set up correctly. It’s going to be an uncomfortable day.

May 25

London life

I finally got a photo of the London2012 liveried tube train that runs on the Julbille Line. Hideous, billious yellow. To think, we could have these for 7 years.


May 24


The BBC reports that the US has decided that the Medicare system there does not have to pay for Viagra for registered sex offenders

May 21

Water Sports

In a change from the normal weekend routine, I spent today out in the open air, acting as regatta control for the Army regatta. Teh Army hold rowing camps and regattas every year and for about the last 10 years I’ve gone along, coaching the groups of squaddies who get ‘volunteered’ by their officers and helping organising the competitions. This year, I could only make the regatta, but turning up this morning was like I had nver been away. It’s the same team every year so we just got down to it and handled everything that the day could throw at us. Unlike open regattas, many of the people who compete have only been in a boat for 2 weeks – so it can get intersting in poor weather. The idea is to get everyone having fun and joining in, in fact 1 guy raced 7 times in the day. The weather did its usual – wet all day until the racing stops and then brightening up to be very sunny. And it’s strange being addressed as ma’am all day – just look official and the squaddies assume you’re an officer…or at least they are not willing to take the chance that you’re not!

So now I’m home and feeling very tired. However, unlike during the week, where it is mental tiredness, today it’s physical. Far better feeling, but where’s the footbath!

May 19

Musical chairs

There’s a planned announcement about the re-organisation tomorrow at work, covering the level above me, including the person my role reports into. Three people, including my current boss, have warned me that what I will hear may not be to my liking and to think about my reaction. Which means, in all likelihood, that my new team lead could be someone I once said to whom I would not report. Things could get interesting.

May 15

Store Wars Geeks

Go take a look at Store Wars, from the Organic Trade Organisation. A short parody (or should that be piss-take) of Star Wars with all the characters played by puppet vegetables, so we have Obi Wan Cannoli, a cucumber as Cuke Skywalker, Lord Tader and, my personal favourite, Chewbroccoli. There does appear to be a purpose to this (sort of) in trying to advise people the advantages of organic food, but just ignore the message adn enjoy the fun! I’m not a fan of flash websites when they are trying to provide information, but for this kind of fun, it’s pretty useful.

May 14

Buying kettles

Looks like I may have o go and buy me a new kettle. I may only need a new power cord, but not sure if I can but one on its own. Never having bought a kettle, I’m not sure what to look for. The one I own was a present when I left for university 17 years ago. It’s had a good life.

May 11

Airplane Announcements

On my recent plane trips, tbere were a couple of nice comments made by the stewards/hosts (or whatever I’m supposed to call them); one by accident, one on purpose.

On the way out, the announcer made an unfortunate anatomical mixup. Instead of asking us to tighten our seatbelts over out hips, we were supposed to contort ourselves and fasten them over our lips.

On the way back, the announcer was French, with a pronounced accent. In the regular plea to get the plane to actually listen to the safety announcement, he’d developed a tactic. “listen carefully, I shall say this only once”. The British onboard laughed… the rest of the plane looked at hte British and wondered what they were on, never having being subject to the cultural phenomenom that was ‘Allo ‘Allo