As Nathalie and I sit in the Berlin airport waiting for our substantially delayed flight, it seems like a good time to put together this post on our visit.

I was invited to speak by Games Culture Circle, an event series organized by Thorsten Wiedemann and Julian Kucklich. The evening was talk-show style, with informal conversation, game competitions involving a Pac-Man-shaped cake, and an impromptu Ninja game I ran with volunteers from the audience. I also screened PLAY, the short film I created with director David Kaplan.

One of the other onstage guests was Iepe Rubingh, the founder of Chessboxing, and after the talk he invited me to train in his gym. The photos below showcase both sides of the sport, which alternates between rounds of speed Chess and Boxing. The boxing training was intense – I have studied martial arts but never boxing – but I was completely slaughtered in the Chess matches. It was a pleasure to be so expertly brutalized. Chessboxing is an amazing act of game design – not just the game itself, but the way that Iepe has had to create an international business, establish legal guidelines and rulebooks, and engender a culture of Chessboxing clubs around the world. What makes a sport a sport is not the game itself but the culture around the game, and from Circle Rules Football to Chessboxing, the creation of a new sport is truly an amazing accomplishment. Now that I have trained in the club, Iepe has promised me an official member’s t-shirt. I definitely plan on training again next time I am in Berlin.

The following day, Nathalie and I conducted a half-day game design workshop with Invisible Playground. Sebastian Quack organized the event, which involved playing and analyzing Ninja and a tabletop version of Sixteen Tons, as well as a game Sebastian is designing called Spyland, which is a real-world version of Chris Hecker’s Spy Party. The final portion of the workshop involved the participants creating site-specific games at a large outdoor park.

We did tourist things as well (primarily Nathalie-driven tours of contemporary architecture and trendy shoe stores) and overall thoroughly enjoyed our days and nights in Berlin. Thanks to our hosts, students, and everyone that we met. We’ll be back.