Play and self-loathing for the 22nd century

Tag: Baking With Friends

Play Journal: November 2014

Ah, Novemeberr, the misspelled month. The cold carefully creeps closer and my alliterations are clearly cleverly cunning as ever. What does this have to do with the Play Journal? Nothing, of course. Should I actually be writing my term paper? Yes, but let’s just get this over with. If, for some reason, you want more once you’re done here, check out my BlackBox CPH post, which was originally part of this post. Blablablablabla! Aaaaand here’s stuff I’ve played in Novemibör 2014.


November means the teddy is back at one of the stops of my commute.

Prototype tests:
November saw our game design group move into full, actual production. In keeping with our sacred bible and guiding star, Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop, we went for an early playtest. We’ve also made sure to test a bit for the other groups, both for the goodwill (favors for favors etc.), but also because it’s exciting to test clunky shit and then watch as it grows (or slowly folds into a miserable little pile of secrets)

My words exactly! – I am so used to playtests being an exercise in civility/not crushing someone’s hopes all too much that I was pleasantly surprised by this prototype. Not only is it one of the few (if not the only) boardgame designs among all of the game design teams, it’s also really good and has been good from very early on. Second playthrough wasn’t as smooth as the first one, though. This was mainly the fault of feature creep probably brought on by the game being more or less finished at such an early stage. Idle hands and so on and so on.
My Words Exactly! is a word association game with a couple of clever twists. Not only do you try and get a player to guess what word is currently ”taboo”, you also try to predict what words other players will use to try and make the guesser get to the right word. If you predict well enough, you get the chance to basically steal the initiative and lead the guesser towards the taboo word, scoring points for both of you.
This is a game I’d really like to play with people (no, I don’t consider other game design students people, #sorrynotsorry). It has the tension of time-attack games, the deliberation and strategy of a tactical and competitive game, and the maniacal laughter of people (i.e. not game designers) I usually only meet in dreams.
KobraKitez – One thing I really appreciate in a design is when it’s clear that the people behind it have made an effort to use the platform’s affordances to their advantage. KobraKitez (apparently only a working title) does this in a couple of different ways. In this handheld touchscreen game, two players face off in a sort of “coopetition” where they try to gather as many points as possible by shooting creeps spawning all around the screen, shoot ’em up-style. The big twist is that if either of the spaceships are destroyed, the game is over for both players. A second, tinier twist is that at certain points, the game allows for the view of the game to be rotated by the two players actually rotating. This comes in handy in boss fights, where the main creep actually has to be avoided by rotating.
It’s been exciting to see this thing grow and become a game in its own right, rather than a 2P version of one of the most classic game types there is.


Concept art for You & Eye. You’ll get the pun if you disregard the upper pair of doodles.

You & Eye – This is my group’s game. It’s a local multiplayer game for 2-8 players, supposed to be played in a party setting or wherever local multiplayer nerds gather. The main version of the game pits you and a teammate against a team made up of two other players. You share a controller with your teammate and use one stick each to control an end of an elastic rope. Together, you swing, roll, jump and tumble around trying to kill the other team, get through their levels and make it all the way to the end with a McGuffin-thingy.
We brought christmas beer for the Alpha test, but our professor didn’t drink it. He did hold it, though, and we’ve made our other testers hold cans as well… as a proof of concept, I guess. Though we have a couple of technical issues, the core gameplay is solid, hectic and makes people scream. These are all good things.


The joys of playtesting

Nordic Game Day 2014:
As w00t Pop-Up‘s first official gig, we headed to Vallensbæk library to play games with people there as part of the Nordic Game Day. Apart from some technical setbacks, it went well.


Baking with Friends. Cake in the making.

Baking with Friends – I wrote about this game last month, and apart from me being a bit better at it (I actually made a cake instead of a hotdog this time!), not much has changed. That is to say: I still like it a lot.


The magnificent Babycade!

LAZA KNITEZ!! – We brought the trusty ol’ Babycade with us to Vallensbæk and I managed to play a couple of games before the whole thing crashed due to USB hub overload bullshit. I’ve mentioned before, and it’s still true, that I have a hard time giving n00bs a fair game in LAZA KNITEZ!!. I usually am OK at feigning incompetence (haha, yeah… I’m “feigning”), but I think that the fact that you always move forward in LK makes it harder to stay passive. This is of course part of the wonder of the game as you’re forced into tense situations all the time, but I’ve beaten people even when I didn’t use the controller AT ALL (!!).
JS Joust – I would probably skip saying much of anything if it hadn’t been for these guys taking jousting to the next level:


OK. ’nuff said about Joust. Moving on!

Towerfall: Ascension – One of the mainstays of the indie Local Multiplayer scene, Towerfall is basically required play for our game design group. This was the first time I tried the game with four people, but I don’t feel I have enough experience with it to say much of anything.

Speedrunners – Another LMP game we tried out for our game design. This was interesting, but like with Towerfall, I’d like to play it a bit more before saying much. It sounds like I need to throw a ITU LMP party.

Luftrausers – For procrastination time, make it Luftrausers time. That is all.

Paraversume – Tried it for potential use in my term paper, but it hadn’t stolen the stuff from its predecessor (The recently shut down Shadow Cities) I was hoping for, so I decided not to use it.

Arcana – Tried it for potential use in my term paper, but decided not to use it. Won’t play again.

Nidhogg – Our game is turning out to take quite some inspiration from Nidhogg, so some of the development time is spent playing and analysing it to better understand our own game.


Just had to put this somewhere. It has nothing to do with anything in this post. You’re welcome.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl – I finished a narrative analysis of S:SoC for school early in Novemibherrr and didn’t play it more after that, but I could probably lose myself in this game if I had the time. I could even forgive the use of the fucking amnesia trope.

Toca Boca stuff (4 games) – First off: a wonderful thing about the Toca Boca apps is that their designers call themselves play designers rather than game designers. It shows in the games. Second, these apps are a whole bag of fun. I spent a good part of an evening getting into all of them myself. The music band app is crazy, and it fits the age category very well.


Pictured: not a toca boca thingy

Malmö Play Club Session – I finally, finally, finally made it to another Play Club session. I seem to average on less than once a month, and that’s just too seldom. Here’s a list of games I remember us playing, but don’t feel like explaining:
Sound and Fury. Bleed tag; 1,2 looking for 3, 4 for 5,6; Chip Chipoing; Bleed Tag + ambulance; Sausages/Fläsk; Say Yes!; Wink Murder.

Mutant: År Noll – My one continuing RPG campaign continued with a session wherein we used our mutations a lot more than ever before. This pushes the system to a point where I wish it would push back, but the consequences seem a bit too weak. Every time you push a roll (rerolling), you run the “risk” of getting more mutation points, but once you reach the max (10) points, nothing really meaningful happens. Aaanyway, the system has a couple of strange holes that keeps bothering me, but I get to play with good people and that makes up for it.
This session was climactic in several ways. The first, and a bit less interesting, was that I finally changed character archetype from “mutant with dog” to… Zonstrykare (basically a STALKER) Which I reckon will be a bit more useful. The second big and amazing thing that happened was that one of my fellow players drove a PC-PC conflict pretty hard and it ended up in him retiring his character. My mutant and his came to blows (almost physical) on a lot of issues that we both feel has been the result of the system and color of the game basically encouraging PC psychopathy. This is a thing we reveled in throughout the first couple of sessions, but once it became clear that we weren’t getting stopped by NPCs, we realized that in order for our characters to become playable, we had to push for that ourselves. So, the result was bittersweet and satisfying in that things were resolved without actually reaching much of a conclusion.


Hit the Hat – This was probably the one of the first proper games for lil’ M. We play with cards and memory bricks all the time, but the focus is mostly on learning numbers and colors of cards or building farms (yes, for toy animals) out of the bricks. A funny and fun thing about playing more structured games with kids (this one being 3,5 yrs) is that it forces you to reevaluate what you think is most important about the game. It’s not always what it says in the manual. This time (and most times, I hope), it drew me towards finding the well-played game. Doing this is helpful for anybody exploring games and what makes people play them, but doing it with little kids doesn’t leave you any choice but to play along, as it were. If you don’t, they’ll adjust by either finding a strategy that works within the game or leaving.


Hit the Hat!

If you’ve read this far you’ve… read this far, I guess. The map is the territory and so on and so on, right?


Play Journal: Playpublik 2014

With this Play Journal entry, I’m aaaalmost up to date with the present. At least in terms of what I’ve played recently. Another post, summarizing October, is coming shortly.
I’m not sure I’ve caught up to the present in any other terms. In fact, I suspect I actually exist in an entirely different timeline, flickering in and out of existence without even knowing it. This may be true for anyone reading this as well.

It’s probably nothing to be worried about… Silly me. On to the journal!

Playpublik 2014 – I missed the 2012 Playpublik and last year no Playpublik happened, so I was excited to attend this year’s edition of the public play festival. This time, Invisible Playground (who you might remember from my Roskilde adventures last year) collaborated with the Goethe Institute to bring Playpublik to Kraków. I submitted A Drift and was invited to come play, speak and be part of the festival. It was truly a pleasure and an honor.

I arrived a day early (Thursday) and had a chance to check out Kraków as well as the No Pain No Game exhibition at the same venue as the festival HQ (more about that exhibition later). Being used to Swedish/Danish prices, I treated myself to some local food and was much pleased indeed. Caramelized onion; why is it not part of every meal?

On Friday (Oct 3), I participated in a walking talk about landscapes/cities and bodies. What’s a walking talk, you say? Well, a walking talk is a ambulant panel discussion using silent disco technology to broadcast the speakers’ voices to everyone tuned to the right channel. So, we basically walked through Kraków while talking about bodies and cities, spaces and play. It was great. I’m happy so many people showed up and took part, and I’m happy the other panelists were so well-spoken. I was going to follow the panel with some night session games, but ended up going for a lovely meal with great conversations. Je ne regrette rien!

Saturday was showtime and I ran A Drift twice: once at 10 am and once at 7 pm (i.e. after dark, a first for A Drift).
The first run went well. We started out exploring the area around festival HQ, but quickly drifted farther away. We visited a store and stared at hot dogs turning and turning and turning. We ran around on benches and through a park. Towards the end of the session, we ended up drifting into town and across two squares. At the first, a sort of safety demonstration/family day was held by emergency services. We walked backwards through the crowd, waving at them as we left the square. The second square was Kraków’s main square, which meant there were a lot of people (tourists) around. The group became much more focused on performing when more people were around. I don’t think this was entirely negative, it just hasn’t happened before. We became part of wedding photos, sat down in an arched passage, and held hands in the middle of the one of Europe’s oldest marketplaces.

The second run of A Drift was the first ever to take place after dark and I think this changed the mood a little bit. More stores and buildings were closed and the people moving in or through town were doing it for other reasons than the ones we had encountered earlier in the day. The most spectacular thing that happened was probably one player led the group on board one of the trams that travel through town. None of us had tickets and there was some hesitation, but everyone got on and luckily no ticket inspector was in sight. Instead, we used the bars usually reserved for holding on to in sharp turns as monkeybars and swung and climbed on them until the next stop, where we got off.

All in all, I didn’t play much else at Playpublik. I was too busy just organizing my own game and preparing (cleaning earbuds between games) to have the time or energy to get involved. At the Saturday night party, however, I did get the chance to play a game heartily recommended to me by a friend: Baking With Friends. It’s a crazy game using the constraints of the Kinect and Oculus Rift beautifully. You stand in a kitchen. You try to bake a cake. Your arms are basically sticks. You end up with a hotdog (at least I did).

The last thing I want to do before leaving the topic of Playpublik is to give a shoutout to Invisible Playground for the amazing job of putting together a festival that really tried to open up spaces and invite the general public to play. Augustina Woodgate, who brought her Mega Hopscotch to Playpublik, also deserves recognition. The hopscotch is a collaborative street painting project and goes on for as long as people keep painting. I think the Kraków one ended up at 1100 squares, disappearing and reappearing around the city centre. It was probably the most visible presence Playpublik had in Kraków and helped communicate the festival’s good-natured intentions.

No Pain, No Game exhibition – As I mentioned above, the venue hosting the Playpublik festival also exhibited a collection of truly strange and interesting games. All of them were interesting but two stand out.

The first game that left a mark (literally) was the dreaded, the legendary Painstation. I had read about this and heard about it. It’s studied as a fringe example of game design and whispered about in underground government research labs (maybe). And there it was. I was lucky to meet someone who was up for the challenge and I completely wussed out sooner than I would have wanted to. I blame the first electrical shock, which caught me off guard and had me retracting my hand before realizing I was about to lose. But, seriously, the whip. The whip is pure pain.

The second game I was utterly fascinated by was a pinball machine. Now, a pinball machine may not sound like such a big deal (though some machines are), but this was no ordinary pinball machine. No, this was an elevated pinball machine that you stuck your head up into to play. Your view is from right behind the bumpers, so you’re actually looking up and across the machine, trying to time your shots as the ball comes at you. Also, the buttons controlling the bumpers are actual triggers attached to something that looks like a weaponized spacecraft’s steering handles. I could have played that all day.