Week 238

Blit Alper

Another piece on an interesting game published in nrc.next. This week a critical review of the selective enforcement of the App Store guidelines in the case of Phone Story a game that is itself a critique of the iPhones it runs on. An indictment of Apple makes for an easy piece to write.

Geodata hero, Simeon Nedkov at the Open Data Bazaar with a very appropriate t-shirt:
Innovate or die - Hack de overheid

Tuesday saw the Hack de Overheid event called the Open Data Bazaar. It was a massive success with well over a hundred people from all over the Netherlands. Lots of students were present and lots of hacking went on throughout the day. There was also a brimful workshop program where birds of a feather discussed the current state of open data in the Netherlands.

Hacked together a display of transit information with @dvbosch and data from @openov

During the bazaar I worked together with Dirk van Oosterbosch to make an Arduino driven matrix display that shows the departure time of the next bus from the venue. It doesn’t get more situated than that and I’m glad we can whip something like that up in a couple of hours. It shows that we have come quite a way since first we started with this stuff.

Megapolis Underground - Research institute for the built environment

Wednesday I visited OTB at Delft, University of Technology. OTB is the research institute for the built environment, the theoretical backing for the faculty of Engineering, Policy and Management (at which I got a minor in Management of Technology during my studies). I will be consulting with geodata experts in the Netherlands on developer relations so the data and standards they are working on are such that they will be easy to develop with.

I also visited my old faculty which has been taken over by architecture students after their building burnt down. I must say I have never seen our buildings in better order.

I hardly recognize my old faculty.

In the afternoon we paid a site visit to what is to be the location of the next Hack de Overheid event “Code Camping Amsterdam”. Some of you may already have surmised where it is going to be. Announcements are due next week but suffice it to say that it is going to be massive. We are going to be coinciding with a massive Eddie the Eagle Museum party on the same venue after our event. Something of a departure from previous years but one which should prove to be very fun.

Auditorium from above

Thursday I spent all day at Bits of Freedom to help them with the #doyourbit fundraiser. Being an independent organization BoF are more dependent on private donations. We love them to death and Hack de Overheid is more than a bit complementary so I try to help them out whenever I can. That Thursday I spent all day at their offices and tweeted like wildfire with a bunch of other volunteers to reach the Dutch internet and get them to donate.

Spending the day helping Bits of Freedom fight for an open and free internet.

That same night there was an event about games in the Stedelijk Museum. It was somewhat problematic testified to by these pieces written by Arjen and Niels. Arjen’s piece quite precisely mirrors my qualms about the evening (see also my comment).

Hoogerbrugge going into awkward pervert mode

Friday was something of a write-off due to the volume of activities that had happened during the week. Fortunately the symposium of the STT. The day was a nice get-together with most people in the Netherlands active in the field of gaming.

The thickest section is about serious games for the elderly.

Gamification interlude

What was disappointing though not very surprising was the fact that all of the critical reflection on the day’s topic —opportunities in serious games and gamification— came from philosopher-hero Jos de Mul. Which solid as it was, coming from a philosopher, may be too easy to dismiss. The rest was profiteering. The Dutch remain a merchant nation at heart and anything that generates income will be applauded however morally dubious it may be.

The issues that we have with both of these concepts are real and they need a considered and nuanced approach. In our practice we make serious games and we seem to be doing quite ok if I may say so myself. When it comes to gamification, I am one of the principal instigators of Foursquare in the Netherlands so I am intimately aware with both the methods and their shortcomings.

Given that, I would urge people and organizations who want to do something in this field to seek professional help. That means get in touch with us or with other organizations that employ bona fide game designers. We are not exactly shy for more things to do but there is a clear need for guidance in this field. In any case make sure to work with people who have a track record in designing playful experiences that cater both to the wishes of the humans playing them and to the goals of the businesses commissioning them.

Agencies are currently including gamification as a slide in their strategy deck, paying lip service to the concept to make a quick buck. If you want to enable them doing that, you are free to do so. But if you want to create real value, why take the long way round?

Interlude over. That Saturday I went to the movie night at Filmhuis Cavia organized by the guys from Popup City. I wrote about that on this blog at: Stop Kicking the Creative Class.

And I also procured a Huawei X5 to play around with. This seems to be the first Chinese manufacturer that has found a low price point for a device that is still highly capable. The Kenyan market has been flooded with the €99 little brother of this phone, the X3.

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