Archives for category: Sixteen Tons


I know it was a few months ago, but I’m just getting around to cataloging all of my sessions from the Game Developers Conference 2013. Below are links to videos and coverage of some of the panels and lectures with which I was involved. If you weren’t at the conference, this piece from the NY Times helps convey the vibe of the gathering, and includes a quote from me about how the industry is changing.

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I recently keynoted two game studies conferences – Think Design Play, the Digital Games Research Association conference in Hilversum, Netherlands, and F.R.O.G., the Future and Reality of Games conference in Vienna.

At DiGRA, I gave a talk called “In Defense of Beauty” which made an argument to consider games from an aesthetic standpoint. The FROG talk, which I delivered together with Nathalie Pozzi, was called “Spaces of Possibility” and explored the mechanisms by which games create meaning, leveraging architecture as a model for thinking about game design.

One common theme in both talks was the idea of a “Ludic Century” – a recent turn in our culture that gives games a special relevance to literacy. I also want to challenge game scholars to stop instrumenalizing games and instead use research approaches that foreground their role as educators of the public, while also doing justice to the ineffable spirit of play.

I also presented games at both of the conferences. DiGRA featured a conference-long Metagame, in which each of the attendees were given a starter deck and a tournament was held at the closing ceremonies. At FROG, Nathalie and I premiered a “tabletop” version of Sixteen Tons that groups could play at the conference dinner. Nathalie’s graphic design was quite stunning, and perfectly color-matched the wooden game pieces – perhaps we should sell some of them onlne as a limited edition of the game.

I also enjoyed the culture of boardgame bars in Vienna. “Spiel Bar” and “Brot & Spiel” were right around the corner from my hotel.

Another Castle, the game design podcast hosted by Charles Pratt, has just posted a series of interviews with the creators of the games  from the No Quarter exhibition this past spring at the NYU Game Center.

Listen in for witty banter between Charles Pratt and designers including Mark Essen, Matt Parker, and Robin Arnot – as well as Nathalie Pozzi and myself.  You can always hear my full interview with Another Castle as well.

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.

I have returned to NYC from Indiecade, and I am happy to report that Nathalie Pozzi and I won the Developers Choice Award for our physical game Sixteen Tons. The endearingly dorky robot pictured above is the actual trophy.

The Developers Choice Award is given at the end of the festival, and is voted on by all of the creators of the games that were exhibited as finalists. Being chosen by such a select set of indie game dev peers is an excellent feeling. At the awards ceremony two nights earlier, we had received honorable mentions for Aesthetics and Gameplay Innovation, as well as a “special” honorary mention for the Jury Award – so it is something of a relief that in the end we finally received an actual award.

The festival as a whole was excellent. More than any other game event, Indiecade feels less like a conference and more like a film festival, full of chance encounters and improvised play. The conference content (organized by John Sharp and Richard LeMarchand) was fantastic, and the games themselves get better each year. And I’m not just saying that as self-serving commentary. Days were full of California tacos and evenings featured huge, spontaneous games of Ninja – a real-world turn-based fake fighting game that may be my new favorite game.

The session I organized – Iron Game Designer –  came off well, as three teams of three designers created real-world games on a brainstormed theme (Birth) using the secret ingredient (band-aids). Special thanks to my sidekick co-host Jane Pincard and the winning Team California – Tracy Fullerton, Catherine Herdlick, and Jenova Chen.

Congrats to Indiecade organizers Stephanie Barish, Celia Pearce, and Sam Roberts. And to me and Nathalie for our award!

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