Image: (c) Rik Lomas
Image: (c) Rik Lomas

Playful conference by Jamie Wyld

23 October 2012

On Friday, Miriam, Roberta and I went along to Playful conference at Conway Hall in London. Playful is a fun conference - as you'd expect - looking at design, games and interactive work, with presentations from experts in the field of playfulness. Varying between 3D-printed sourdough-enhanced game controllers to hand-clapping games to the art of suffering within gaming, the conference offered a special view into the world of play with and without technology.

Image: (c) Melinda Seckington
Image: (c) Melinda Seckington

Superflux’s Anab Jain asked ‘What would it be like to weaponise playful engagement?’ to help us playfully escape from manufactured normalcy. Inspired by faerie stories, worlds of fantasy and escaping normalisation, Anab referenced a number of design futurescaping projects, designed to reimagine solutions to future threats/problems. One being OMA’s ‘Eneropa’, the re-defining of Europe into energy regions, where the natural energy resources are gathered and collected by each state, stored and shared (meaning that when one state cannot manufacture enough energy, another provides and vice versa) – a shared renewable energy economy. In the redrawing of Europe, E England and Scotland and NW coastal Europe become the Isles of Wind, and coastal Mediterranean becomes Solaria, obviously drawing on the geographies’ natural commodities. The project was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, and claims carbon emissions would be cut by 80% in Europe by 2050.

Alice Taylor of Makieworld introduced a young group of designers who have recently been incubated at Mint Digital, entitling themselves The Foundry. After being given the task of ‘Create a toy that has a reason to exist’, they went about producing a new game controller that also assisted you to make the best sourdough bread. Combining arduino, ethanol sensor and game interface technology, the four guys created Dough Globe. A 3D printed prototype globe, which has a clear base, for sourdough to ferment in before baking, and an upper level, with the game and sensor technology inside. A game was produced that both monitored the dough’s fermentation – ‘Doughy’ getting several degrees sicker looking if not looked after – and to be played, with tasks for Doughy to complete, that reminded you how to care for him. Simply inspiringly delicious. The game/globe can be seen at

We also heard about how ‘suffering in a game makes failure matter’ from Bennett Foddy. From the pain received when playing slapsies (playground hand slapping contest) to being humiliated in Street Fighter by having your spine pulled out, it seems we enjoy humiliation and suffering in games more than we’d like to admit. See a few of Bennett’s game examples of his own creation, which includes a game with a broken legged unicorn (CLOP)…

A playful and poignant day – I was pleased to take away with me many things, including assurances that we should ‘not be afraid of audiences’ and that we should make sure we ‘play with the player’.

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