Blog

Nordic Game Jam 2013

A year has passed since I attended my first Nordic Game Jam back in 2012, and suddenly, this year’s edition of the Nordic Game Jam has also come and gone. This year, the Nordic Game Jam was the biggest game jam in the world with over 470 participants. It also moved location to the Aalborg University’s Copenhagen campus. I took part as a volunteer as well as participating in the actual making of games.

NGJ 13 Keynote speakers Vlambeer and Dennaton
NGJ 13 keynote speakers Vlambeer and Dennaton. Thanks to Anchel for the photo.

Friday 18th started off with several different talks, which were separated into tech talks and indie talks. I decided not to jump between auditoriums, since I was more interested in the indie talks. I got to listen to Sybo Games speak about their journey from indie to iOS hit with their game Subway Surfers, Nifflas‘ very personal talk about his world view and how it related to Knytt Underground’s design, and BetaDwarf’s story from a small indie company to possibly one of Denmark’s heavyweights game companies. Lau Korsgaard also spoke about  folk games that inspired him when making Spin the Bottle for WiiU. After that, several people that were present took the opportunity to present some games that they were working on. Personal favourites included Mimics by Thomas Ryder, Rymdkapsel by Martin Jonasson, UFHO2 by Tiny Colossus, Environmental Station Alpha by Arvi Teikari and a point and click adventure called Shadow of Kharon amongst others. I also attended a talk about designing board games by Martin Neergaard Andersen which I found interesting.

After Vlambeer (Super Crate Box) and Dennaton (Hotline Miami) gave their keynote speech (where they told people to follow the 4:44 rule, 4 hours for making a game, and 44 hours for tweaking/polishing/playtesting/iterating/having beers/annoying people), we received the theme for this year’s game jam, which was grotesque. People then started going around and trying to form teams; either by looking for specific skill sets or by convincing people that their idea was awesome. Meanwhile, I headed to the board game room, since I wanted to make a board game again with my old team Sugarush.

Sugarush making games
Sugarush making games

By the end of Friday, we had come up with a couple of interesting ideas that we wanted to further develop. By Saturday morning, more concepts were presented and we settled on one game idea that we wanted to work on, which eventually turned into our final game Beast Builder. Anchel interviewed us in one of the Nordic Game Jam’s video blogs below!

Beast Builder is a family friend game where players play as Dr. Frankenstein’s would-be assistants in order to help the doctor build his latest creations. Torso parts are placed in the center of the table and form the basis of the creatures to be created, and players must find body parts that allow them to maximize their chances of claiming a point from the finished creature. Of course, some cards allow players to interfere with opponents!

Beast Builder
Beast Builder

The judges this year were Ole Steiness and Martin Neergaard Andersen, with additional input from Thomas Vigild and Kim Dorff. Beast Builder managed to score Best Sellable Board Game, and we even managed to play our game with a couple of young kids who liked our game! Other games that won awards were Made in China, which won Most Fun Game and Burlesque Grotesque which won Most Polished Game. There were some awesome board games being made this year, and I’m sorry that I didn’t have time to play all of them.

Sugarush with our prizes
Sugarush with our prizes

The winning board games were also nominated as finalists in the final round of judging. The top 11 games, in order of the amount of votes acquired, were:

  1. Spaceship with a Mace
  2. Press [X] To Give Up
  3. Stikbold
  4. Stalagflight
  5. Twisted
  6. Dragon Pussy
  7. 3:15 AM
  8. Shrouded Light
  9. Made in China
  10. Beast Builder
  11. Burlesque Grotesque

Out of the finalist games, here are my personal favourites:

Spaceship with a MaceSpaceship with a Mace, by Nifflas, won the Audience Award with his ambient multiplayer game. Players use Xbox controllers to maneuver their spaceship around in space, which also has a mace attached to it. Players must swing the mace at other spaceships in order to destroy them, but must avoid getting hit by other spaceships!

Stikbold, by Lars Bindslev, Jacob Herold, Martin Petersen, Anders Østergaard and Simon Vestergaard, won Most Fun game with their multiplayer mayhem game which takes a surprising twist as the game progresses!

Press X to Give Up

My personal favourite was Press [X] to Give Up, a game by Anders Børup, Bram Michielsen, Henrike Lode, Jonas Maaløe, Jonatan Van Hove and Mads Johansen. It’s experimental game where players play the role of a bullfighter that must stick spears into a bull. Each successful hit makes the bull grow larger and more menacing, while each hit that the bull lands on the player starts glitching the screen wildly, making impossible to see. Both the lose screen and the win screen contain haunting messages that hint at a larger message that underlies the game.

Overall, I’ve experienced another great game jam with friends, and had the pleasure of meeting new people and trying out other people’s games in a crazy and fun environment. If you want to try out some of the other games that appeared during NGJ13, feel free to check out the massive list over at Unicorn7. I look forward to attending Nordic Game Jam 2014 🙂

Team Sugarush!
Team Sugarush!

Exile Game Jam – Autumn 2012

Last week, I left Copenhagen to go to the Exile Game Jam – Autumn 2012 held at the Vallekilde Højskole in Hørve, Vestsjælland. The event started on Wednesday and finished on Sunday, and it was definitely one of the best game jam experiences I have ever had!

I arrived at Københavns Hovebanegård on Wednesday to catch the 15:30 train to Hørve together with 4 other people (Anchel, Karin, Tobias and Pernille). After a delicious dinner at the Højskole, the headmaster Torben Schmidt Hansen gave us a tour of the school which has a rich history and an interesting story behind its founding. It can also boast to have the oldest gym hall in Denmark!

After a brief introduction by the organizers of the game jam, Jesper Taxbøl and Tim Garbos, we had a 3 hour mini jam. The chosen theme was Ugly Games. Groups were formed by arranging people according to height, and then making games with the people around you. I teamed up with Anchel, Julian, Michael and Kasper to make an ugly drinking game which had a series of mini games around it. We took the definition of ugly quite literally, and had mini games made in Paint with lots of JPEG artifacts, a minesweeper clone made in Excel 97 and a main game document with lots of WordArt, clipart and jarring colour schemes.

Minesweeper Clone that I made in Excel 97. Click to view full size.

After the mini jam, a couple of people decided to go down to the sauna, where I spent from midnight till 4am. This was my first time in an actual sauna, and I don’t regret it at all! It’s an awesome social experience as well as physically and mentally relaxing. I spent the rest of the Exile Game Jam frequently visiting the sauna with tons of other people. Definitely one of the highlights of the Exile Game Jam.

On Thursday, after breakfast and an inspiring morning session with Torben about space and the Curiosity rover on Mars, we had an unconference where different people could present different things, such as projects they were working on and their own areas of expertise. Amongst other talks, Mathias spoke about haptics and their use in games, Morten gave an introduction to shader programming and Dave and Alex gave a short presentation on Ludo Libre, a massive multiplayer online location based collectible card game for kids for health. By far my favourite talk was Nifflas’ talk on his upcoming game Knytt Underground and the story behind its design and his becoming a game developer, his struggle with his changing view of the world and how it is presented in the game, and how he handles being a jack of all trades. The talk was inspiring due to the awesome design philosophy of the game and its interesting take of narrative. I could also relate to him being a jack of all trades, since I also consider myself to be one.

After dinner, we nominated a couple of interesting main themes for the jam and then went to the gym hall, where the main game jam themes were announced to be Uncertainty and the Passage of Time. We were also given pieces of paper and told to write or draw stuff on them. These were then distributed randomly to people in order to further inspire people. Here, I teamed up with Anchel Labena and came up with the game we made for Exile, Coin Knights.

Coin Knights is a local multiplayer game for 4 players for the Crime City arcade machine made by Redgrim. The aim of the game is to pick up treasure chests that spawn randomly in the middle of the map and return them to your castle. You can carry up to 4 different chests, so sometimes it might more advantageous to pick up more chests instead of going back and forth. However, some chests contain bombs, which make you lose all the treasure you’re currently carrying. Furthermore, players can push each other around, either to push them away from treasure chests, or to push them ONTO treasure chests, potentially making them pick up a bomb. The gameplay was designing by Anchel and I, the graphics and sound were made by Anchel and the programming and music were made by me.

Coin Knights Title Screen

The game can be played here. We’d definitely like to finalize the game, as well as add more things to the game, such as different powerups. The yellow player is controlled using the arrow keys and Shift, the green player is controller using WASD and Q, the third player is controlled using TFGH and R, and the blue player is controlled using IJKL and U.

The game jam ended on Saturday at 3pm, where we then presented the games we made. We then moved to the gym hall to vote for the favourite games by placing beer bottles on the associated game (only in Denmark do people vote using beer bottles!) Here are some of the games that were made during Exile Game Jam – Autumn 2012:

The Shower Game was a game inspired by the showers at Vallekilde Højskole and features art by Pernille. Players are meant to anticipate when the water will stop flowing and press the right button in order to keep the shower going. Players also have a limited amount of times they can activate the shower. If the shower stops at any time, the player is out of the game.

Magnetise Me is an awesomely quirky game involving the use of a bunch of Sony Move controllers and magnets. One player is strapped to a bunch of Move controllers, while the other player is strapped to a couple of magnets. They must then dance to music and combine the controllers and magnets together. After some amount of time, all Move controllers turn white and players gain points.

Privatised Presidential Ambulance Racer is a game made by Jonathan van Hove and Bram Michielsen. Players drive around a city in ambulances to pick up the president, and the first player to 7 presidents wins. However, there are lots of pedestrians in the way which slow the ambulance down. Players can activate sirens to make the pedestrians move, or plough through pedestrians.

Robo Runner Cow Gunner is a game made by Karin Bruér and Tobias Kärrman. It was made for the Crime City arcade machine and is a 8 player game. Players can either be robots, controlled using the analog sticks, or turrets, controlled using the 2 buttons. I enjoyed the madness playing the game, with people shouting at each other to get out of the way to collect stuff, or complaining that they got shot.

Ludo Libre is a game currently being developed by FunRigger Productions, and as CEO David Mariner describes it, the game is “Endomondo meets Pokemon”. Dave, Alex and Lars attended the Exile Game Jam in order to look for inspiration on how to make the game experience meaningful and fun and developed a small prototype involving actresses.

Gee Ball is a game developed in Unity where you must move a ball over strange levels in order to get the end of the level. However, different terrain interacts differently with the ball, and so you may get into situations where you must go underneath your original platform in order to finish the level.

The Sculpting Adventure is game made in Unity by Julian Hansen and others. The object of the game is to model different objects by carving out small cubes from a large cube.

!Snake is a game made by Lau Korsgaard which involves people playing what looks like a regular game of Snake. However, if 2 snakes collide, the snake splits into 2, and the player must then control both snakes at the same time. This makes for wildly confusing and fun games!

Tim Garbos and Pernille Sihm worked on an atmospheric exploratory game in Unity. Players walk around a world and interact with objects such as towers, trees and flowers, distorting them wildly. The music also adds to the uncertainty in the game.

Jesper Taxbøl and Lasse Fuglsang made a game called Herlev, a crazy game which has the player trapped inside Herlev Hospital. Players can try to collect the blue pill but fail miserably as it jumps out of the way, but can watch the screen in front of them transform by taking the red pill.

Whose Penis Am I Holding Now? is an analog game where players must draw a picture of a penis on a piece of paper, then shuffle the cards together and distribute them randomly. Players then describe the penis they’re holding in one word, and must point to the person they think is holding their penis.

Tank Heaven is a 4 player game made in Unity which involves players controlling tanks that shoot at each other. However, the level beneath the players turns wildly, making the competitive experience even wilder.

Ninja Painter is a game made by Asger, Holger, Malthe and William. It involves players sneaking around a level as invisible ninjas. Other players can throw paint at them, revealing their location, and if players step in paint, footsteps are left behind, making it easy to track the ninja.

The Fall is by far my favourite game from the Exile Game Jam and was made by Bram Michielsen, Thomas Ryder, Julian Stengaard and Morten Mygind. It is a point-and-click adventure game set in reverse. The main character commits suicide, and players go through her life backwards in order to find out why she did so. The graphics are amazing and reminiscent of the early point-and-click adventure games, and even the music and voiceovers are in reverse!

Toilet Company is a multiplayer running platform game where players must find toilets to relieve themselves before exploding.

Bearadise Hotel is a game by Roman Graebsch, Jens Lauridsen and Rune Hilbert. It is a continuation of the game they started making at the Nordic Game Jam 2012 together with Petr Papez, Enric Llagostera and Jacob Ringbo. Players play as bears and are assigned roles randomly and secretly. Players assigned the role of vampire must go around killing bears before they are noticed, and players assigned the role of hunters must find the vampire before innocent bears are killed.

After the voting was over, The Fall was awarded first place, Herlev was awarded second place and Bearadise Hotel was awarded third place. Coin Knights managed to get one vote, although we don’t know who voted for us.

It was then time for an awesome dinner sponsored by Kiloo and then a massive Saturday night party, where we had a LAZA KNITEZ! tournament (where Nifflas was crowned champion) and a crazy music jamming session in Vallekilde Højskole’s music room, as well as late night sauna sessions.

Sunday was the final day of the Exile Game Jam, an awesome experience had finally come to an end. We cleaned up and returned our keys and sat outside in the sun eating ice-cream, kicking a ball around and going on the swings. On the way home, we also encountered a Julemarked, where we bought æbleskiver. I also bought a knitted elephant, who I named Torben after the Højskole’s headmaster.

I’m definitely glad I went to the Exile Game Jam! Apart from making a game, I met loads of new people, went into a sauna for the first time (and thoroughly enjoyed it too, so much so that I went into the sauna nearly every day. Thanks to sauna buddies Nifflas, Karin, Tobias, Marín, Anchel and others who visited the sauna regularly), as well as not sleeping for nearly 48 hours straight. Thanks to everyone for an awesome game jam experience, and I look forward to seeing everyone again in 6 months time for the Exile Game Jam – Spring 2013.

JamIT 2012

Although I was meant to be busy this weekend programming a Ms. Pac-Man controller using artificial intelligence techniques for the Modern AI in Games course at ITU, I found some time to drop by at the first game jam organized by PlayIT, the student organization at ITU. The game jam was called JamIT 2012 and was an awesome game jam!

We first all went into Auditorium 1, where we had the opening ceremony by Jonathan van Hove and Tommy Rousse, followed by keynotes speeches on How to Win a Game Jam by Tim Garbos, Lau Korsgaard and Nicklas Nygren, among others. Afterwards, we split into teams to make games based on the theme, which was this picture over here accompanied by the words “Not Possible”.

I teamed up with Astrid Sønderby Lamhauge and Casper Nielsen Voigt, and we all agreed that even though we were all busy and didn’t really plan on spending the whole weekend on making a game, we were still interested in jamming. We started trying to come up with ideas that had a small scope and we eventually settled on a game that was educational/serious in nature. The goal of the game was to try and turn on the projector at ITU, since it was widely acknowledged to be extremely difficult, with none of the buttons making sense.

The game, I Think It’s On?, can be downloaded and installed from here. It’s an executable file that will install the game and any other necessary files. It was made in C# and XNA and needs an Xbox controller to be played. Casper was in charge of programming, Astrid was in charge of graphics and I did the sound design.

There were around 18 games made during the duration of JamIT 2012. These were presented at the very end of the jam on Sunday afternoon. Anchel Labena and I, along with some others, provided a running commentary on Twitter using the hashtag #JamITU. Here’s some of my opinions of the games that were created during this weekend! (all submissions can be found here)

First up, we have Bert Baker’s Cunnilingus, made by Bert Baker, Virgil Tanase and Samuel Walz, which as they describe it, is an “educational game about cunnilingus” made for the iPhone. It also involves licking the phone’s touch screen, and recorded female vocals. I think you get the idea.

One of my favourite games made during this weekend was Don’t Hose Me Bro by Enric Llangostera, Jonatan van Hove, Marín Björt Valtýsdóttir, Jan Flessel and Tommy Rousse. It’s a 2v2 co-op game where the objective of the game is to capture the other team’s diamond. Each team consists of a wizard that can shoot jets of water at other characters, reducing their life and pushing them backwards, and a skull that can lay various different traps. First to 3 diamonds wins. It’s a well made game, the sounds are addicting and the graphics are awesome!

We then have a game called Impossibl3 Pong by Giuseppe Enrico Franchi. Giuseppe arrived late and didn’t plan on attending the jam, but decided to start making a game on his own anyway on Saturday morning. It’s a different take on the classic game Pong in the sense that it’s played in the dark, points are scored on the opposing axis you’re playing on, and there’s a third player who can affect the puck’s movement.

Anders Lystad Brevik made a game called I Think. I AmIt’s a platformer made in Flash where the game comes to life and actively wants you to play the game, in a rather creepy and overbearing way, to such an extent that it will resort to disabling controls if you fail to follow its commands. I also made a short music track for Anders’ game.

Jackalope, by Daryl Leon Hornsby and Giulia Trincardi, is an interesting point-and-click adventure game of sorts which contains 2D graphics in a 3D world, which I found quite innovative. The game idea seems to be quite narrative heavy, and although only a short demo was made in 48 hours, they plan to continue working on it in the future.

Kiss Kiss Bam Bam was made by Andrew Borg Cardona, Ioana Marin, Hans Henrik Hvoslef and Wen Xiong. It’s a game set in the 60s where you control the faces of a girl and guy and try to align their lips together to get them to kiss. It’s an awesome idea, even though the game is slightly difficult, with ratios of kisses to failures being somewhere around 1: 200. Still, it was very entertaining to watch!

The next game is called Major Lack, made by Nikolaj, Magnus, Emil, Niels & Alexander. It’s an interesting take on platformers, since in this game, you control 3 characters simultaneously that navigate through 3 different obstacle courses.

Photo Shooter was a game made by Valentin Mihalache, Alex Savu; Federica Orlati, Marta la Mendola and Jesper Taxbøl. It’s a real world spin off of first person shooters, but in this case, players take pictures of people that are tagged with QR codes.

Up next is another erotic game called Sex Roulette, made by Jannick and Adonis. The mouse is used to pleasure women seen on screen, and the player can make use of voice control in certain parts of the game.

Space Monkeys! was made by Andrea Distler, Jan Flessel, Lasse Knudsen and Peter Ølsted. It’s a multiplayer platformer / runner similar to Canabalt, but each player’s controls keeps changing over the course of the game, forcing players to scramble to find their appropriate keys as they struggle to stay alive.

Stuf was made by Martin Fasterholdt and Julian Hansen. It’s an interesting take on real time strategy games in the sense that one player’s land is another player’s void, and vice-versa of course. Players must try and take as much terrain as possible, and the aim of the game is destroy all opposing bases.

Super Battle Combat Fighter Pre-Pre-Pre-Alpha 0.0.0.3.6.36b revision 3691726316 (iteration 36, sub-iteration 872) was a game made by a massive team of 7 people: Anita Simonsen, Nis Bjørn, Marco Scirea, Aleksander Nikulin, Morten Frederiksen, Nicklas Nygren, Federica Orlati and Frederik Klovborg. It’s a top-down shooter of sorts with a really interesting twist: it’s turn based. Basically, you have the option of shooting at objects or simply moving. The game then executes your action while the environment responds, and after some time, everything freezes and you get to take another action. Something that I found novel in the game was the fact that when you died, you were allowed to save your gameplay and replay it at normal speed without time stopping, allowing yourself to watch the ship blaze desperately through the level.

Super Original was a game made in 2 hours during the actual presentation of the JamIT games by Casper Friis Farsøe. For something made in 2 hours, it’s really fun to play; you’re being chased by a horde of stained glass alien things that slowly speed up while you slowly start to slow down. In the mean time, more enemies are being spawned, and you must do your best to avoid them!

Up next is another one of my favourite games made at the game jam: SWEDISH GARDEN by Tim Garbos and Niklas Aberen. It’s a quirky and artsy platformer that starts adding different layers of music as you progress through the level. The environment is also reacting to the music, making it a very immersive experience!

ThrowIT was made by Mattia Fiorio, Cristinel Patrascu and Leif Bjørn Rasmussen. It’s a top down game that allows players to fight against each other by throwing pictures. The interesting thing is that players can upload pictures to be thrown, and everybody can use any of the uploaded pictures.

T-RAGE was a game made by Achim Wache, Nikolaj Settnes and Oliver about why dinosaurs really went extinct. It’s a two player game that could be co-op or not depending on the players. Players must fight against dinosaurs on an asteroid, and the game features orbital physics which I was impressed by since it was made during a game jam.

T-REX HIGHFIVE was made by Tim Garbos, and is a two-player game where each player controls 4 different limbs of their T-Rex, and must run towards the other T-Rex and high-five them. It’s fun to watch the game being played, and it reminds me a little of Sumotori Dreams and QWOP.

Last but not least is the game When Pigs Fly by Nina Croitoru and Andrei Livadariu. It’s a 2D puzzle/platformer where the object of the game is to roll a pig to a cloud shaped platform, where it can grow wings and fly. I really like the way the pig rolls throughout the level, and the graphics are very well done!

Winners haven’t been announced yet, but they should be up soon. This game jam was small and comfortable, and I’m happy to have taken part and watched cool games being made!

TEDxCopenhagen

I attended the TEDxCopenhagen event held on the 18th of September expecting to be amazed and inspired, and I was! For people unfamiliar with TED talks, they’re a series of inspiring talks that are held every year at TED conferences. TEDx events are similar in scope and feel, but are independently organized events, usually centred around some form of theme. TEDxCopenhagen’s theme for 2012 was Movement, which was interpreted in many different ways.

As the last of the 650 participants were trying to find decent places in the theatre, the TEDx presenters Lærke Ullerup & Mikael Colville Andersen kicked off TEDx by getting the audience to sing Jeg er så glad for min cykel, a traditional Danish children’s song. After everybody sat down, an introduction was given and we started the conference with the first topic to be discussed: Love & Leadership. The first talk was given by Soulaima Gourani about “How to ignite and empower children”. She described the need for people to have emotional intelligence, allowing people to interact with others and communicate effectively. She also described her childhood and trying to cope with being half Moroccan and half Danish.

The next talk was given by Jakob Silas Lund about “Using football to reconcile people torn apart by war”. He described African villages that had lost their sense of community after being torn apart by civil war and power-hungry warlords, and the effort he and his team made to try and restore that sense of community by using football. He also described a tale of a woman who was raped by a man in the village, and they eventually confronted each other on the football field, and later on, underneath the local peace tree, where he broke down and begged for forgiveness.

We then watched a TED talk on the big screens. This particular talk was by Ric Elias entitled “3 things I learned while my plane crashed“, in which he recounted the thoughts, wishes and regrets that went through his head while his plane was about to crash into the Hudson River. There were two quotes that particularly inspired me from this talk:

“I regretted the time I wasted on things that did not matter with people that [do] matter.” – Ric Elias

and:

“I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy.” – Ric Elias

TED is actually an acronym from the topics that are usually discussed at the conference: Technology, Entertainment and Design, and the next talk was actually not a talk at all, but entertainment. Tuk & Sofie came up on stage and provided some very entertaining pair acrobatics.

We moved on to another talk by Ole Qvist-Sørensen, entitled “”Draw more, together”. He highlighted the idea that while people were visual thinkers, most claimed they couldn’t draw. He claimed that drawing together was a personal way of bringing ideas together, as it aided visual thinking (since you could see the drawings), it provided clarification and allowed for multiple perspectives. He emphasized the fact that drawing together was co-creation, and drawing also helped to practice important leadership skills.

Up next was Eman Osman’s talk on “Building cultural bridges”. Here, she described her experience as a Somali-Danish woman and her efforts in trying to get immigrants in Copenhagen to interact with the locals.

The final talk from the first topic was Lars AP’s talk on “The Fucking Friendly movement”. Lars stated that Denmark consistently ranked as one of the highest as one of the happiest places on Earth. However, he claims, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is one of the friendliest places on Earth. He described his experience of having different personalities depending on which language he used to speak, especially since he was half-American. He highlighted the focus that most people have on first impressions, and suggested that we pay more attention to last impressions instead. He also described several ways he tried to encourage friendliness, such as by dressing us as a parking attendant and giving out prizes for good parking, and by holding a Friday bar in the middle of the street with his neighbourhood. His impression was that generosity bred more generosity.

After a brief break, we were back with our second topic of discussion: Food, nature & health. Claus Meyer, co-founder of the restaurant Noma, started us off with his fiery talk on” Unfolding the potential of indigenous food cultures”. He stated that religion has always tried to prevent the enjoyment of food, considering it a sin. For ages, he claimed, people’s attitude to food was that eating should be a matter of efficiency, must be cheap and must be eaten quickly, which he said was not the right attitude. His father’s attitude to happiness, as a businessman, could be summed up in this sentence: “Happiness is doing everything you did yesterday, but more efficiently.” Meyer vehemently disagreed with his statement, and recounted the story of the time he spent living in France with an old man and chef, where he learnt what happiness really was:

“Happiness is about knowing what you want to do in your life and having the guts to do it.” – Claus Meyer

He then related this to bread-making, stating that:

“Haste is the worst thing, both for gastronomy and for life.” – Claus Meyer

He highlighted his example by pulling out a loaf of bread, the type that you would find in the supermarket, and furiously stated that it was not real bread, while throwing parts of it to the audience. He then told us his method of making bread:

  • There must be more water in the dough.
  • The bread should be kneaded like mad.
  • The amount of yeast used in the bread should be decreased.
  • The bread should be left to sit for longer (he recommended 8 hours)
  • The bread should be baked in a piping hot oven.

Next, we had an inspiring talk by Kirsten Ejlskov Jensen’s talk on “Running strong”. A runner at heart, she was struck by cancer and considered stopping running. However, she always felt that running gave her energy and revitalized her, and so she she continued running anyway, stating that physical activity is indispensable for the body.

Before the next performance, we watched a TED video by Pam Warhurst entitled “How we can eat our landscapes“. Here, she described the concept of propaganda gardening and the “Incredible Edible” initiative started in Todmorden, England, which grew vegetables, fruits and herbs in unused plots of land in the village. This also led to the introduction of local courses in agriculture, as well as people becoming more aware of how to grow produce and how to tell whether it was ripe for picking or not, since as she stated:

“There’s so many people that don’t really recognize a vegetable unless it’s in a bit of plastic with an instruction packet on the top.” – Pam Warhurst

Moonhound Theatre provided the next performance, titled “The Tale of Lunarville”. The performance was a drama that spoke about the relationship between the creatures called the Moonhounds, a local village and the mayor, with interesting results.

We then had a talk by Klaus Phanareth on “Moving healthcare to your fingertips”. He dreamt of a healthcare system that allowed patients instant access 24/7 to the system, high quality health data, a system that empowered patients and allowed them access to their health data. The ideal healthcare system would also be coordinated and coherent, allow for one point of contact and ultimately move health care to the patient. In reality, Phanareth claims, the current system is exactly the opposite; it acts as a gatekeeper for the patient’s data, it is controlling, budget driven and moreover, health data easily gets lost in the system.

Phanareth states that the healthcare system has not changed in a 100 years, with the concept of hospitalization as being system centred. His dream was a complete redesign of the healthcare system (where he demonstrated Epital.org as an example), and he stated that it was something that everyone should be concerned about since eventually we all become patients.

Up next was Bente Klarlund’s talk on “Making more minds up to move”. She opened her talk by stating that she personally hated sport, which seemed a little odd considering the title of her topic. Klarlund claimed that this generation might be the first where children do not outlive their parents. She highlighted the important of exercise and physical, stating:

“Those who think they do not have time for exercise will soon have to find time for illness.” – Bente Klarlund

She also stated that no matter what one’s body mass was, it was important to exercise; not only to keep fit, but also to stay healthy. Here, she gave an example of two men; one who was thin and skinny but led a sedentary lifestyle, and the other who was not thin but led an active lifestyle. She also claimed that fat on the hips was the good type of fat, while abdominal fat was the bad type of fat.

Klarlund described an experiment that she tried on her children. Instead of using their bikes or walking and generally being active, they had use a car to get around and lead a generally more sedentary lifestyle. Klarlund claimed that 2 weeks of inactivity had an effect on their concentration and focus.

Finally, if one was not up to sports, she mentioned several different methods that one could use in order to still remain somewhat active. Biking and walking were the most obvious options, but Klarlund also mentioned skipping the elevator for 12 weeks (where she also mentioned that architects should place stairs in a more visible position in the building to encourage people to use them.)

The final talk from this topic was Selina Juul on “How can a consumer movement change the future?”. Juul claimed that on average, individuals waste 25% of the food they buy. Moreover, global food waste is able to solve world hunger 3 times over. Juul claimed that a possible solution to food waste would be to stop quantity discounts at supermarkets.

With the end of the second topic, it was time for lunch! The picture below shows the lunch that we were given by the TEDx organizers, all wrapped up in a red chequered piece of cloth.

After lunch, we went back inside Bremen theatre to continue the second half of the conference. The third topic of discussion was titled Science & discoveries, and Birger Lindberg Møller kickstarted the discussion with his talk on “Plant power – the ultimate way to ‘go green’”. His initial statement was that without plants, none of us would exist since they provide humans with food and biofuel and they are simply powered by solar energy. Møller claimed that plants also had their own language, albeit one which was made up of complex chemistry and chemicals. Taxol for example, which is a compound that can be extracted from the Pacific Yew Tree, is an anticancer agent. However, one problem is most plants that contain useful compounds like this make the compounds in small amounts, or are rare. The compounds cannot also be made in the laboratory since the method is not sustainable and too much waste is produced.

One interesting that Møller mentioned is the advent of synthetic biology and the concept of biohacking. He also emphasized the concept of combining systems and knowledge in new ways that weren’t thought about before.

Up next, we had Signe Bjørg Jensen with her talk titled “Watch out for the scouts”. As a scout leader, Jensen mentioned that her mission and of every scout leader was to turn children into awesome adults. In everyday life, children are expected to have certain abilities or talents; things they are especially good at.  The only requirement to join the scouts is that children behave and be nice.

Kasper Guldager was next with his talk titled “Material world”. As an architect, Guldager believes in experimenting with different materials used in buildings, and not just stick to concrete. He mentioned examples such as spidersilk (which can’t be mass produced since the spiders attack each other, but due to recent developments, mountain goats can now grow silk), as well as carbon nanotubes.

One project that he mentioned was The Cube, a building with all of its façades made out of glass. But how do you insulate glass? Aerogel, he said, could be one example. Dubbed “the world’s lightest material”, most of it is air and it is one of the best insulating material available. Furthermore, it lets sunlight through. Guldager also mentioned the use of self-cleaning glass and a plaster ceiling with small small plastic capsules with paraffin inside added to the mixture to catch the heat. The use of algae in the façade for solar shading struck me as particularly ingenious.

Guldager stated that half of the global waste being produced came from the building industry. However, nature does not have waste, and he mentioned the possibility of integrating buildings into the local biotrope.

Up next was a TED talk. This particular one was by Juan Enriquez titled “Will our kids be a different species?“. He spoke about the fact that technology was moving quickly, and that the rest of society had to keep up. Quoting Vladimir Lenin:

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Enriquez has several hypotheses as to the future of human beings. One hypothesis was the “fast food fetish” and the effect obesity had. Another was the “sexy geek” hypothesis, a mating hypothesis involving like-minded and intelligent people clustering in several different places. Yet another hypothesis was the possibility of “too much information” being fed to people, and resulting in hypersensitivity. Finally, another hypothesis was the involvement of chemicals.

We then had a surreal and weird digital performance entitled “Time, space and light” by a group called Dark Matters. The performance seemed to move through mathematical dimensions, first starting out as a simple white point on the black screen, and then transitioning into a line. Eventually, it seemed like we were walking through a forest of lines. During the whole performance, a strange and guttural voice asked us to follow him to his room.

Moving on, we had Lasse Birk Olesen’s talk on “How technology moves society – not politics”. It was a talk that could possibly be deemed as “controversial” by some, Olesen opened his talk with the following quote:

“Our time is better spent on technological innovation than political agitation.” – Lasse Birk Olesen

Olesen questioned who truly were the individuals that moved the world, and gave examples from global politics and global technological innovators. Was it Julian AssangeSean Parker and Steve Jobs, or was it George W. BushTony Blair and Barack Obama? Olesen stated that the former 3 had a global impact using technology, and gave another example by mentioning the introduction of the The Pill which had the effect of a population decrease. He also stated that technology did not need a majority consent in order to act, unlike politics.

Olesen claimed that the last major innovation in political systems happened 300 years ago with the joining of the United States of America, and that therefore we needed space to experiment with new political systems. He then went on to mention 3 technologies that he believed would change the world dramatically. The first technology was seasteading, the concept of moving living on the ocean. Using seasteads, he claimed, would allow people to experiment with different political models and systems. The second technology was the Bitcoin, an open-source cash currency. It is decentralized and no fees are required to be paid when sending or receiving money. This would allow people to instantly access a global market without having to open a bank account. The third technology was 3D printing, the printing of physical objects. This would allow the democratization of production, as well as allow companies and individuals to work for innovation.

Olesen boldly claimed that if all money currently going to political lobbies and campaigns went to science and technology, Democracy 2 could have been discovered. He then ended his talk by slightly modifying Otto von Bismarck’s quote:

“Politics is the art of the possible. Technology makes the impossible possible.” – Lasse Birk Olesen

To end this topic of discussion, we had Troels Petersen’s talk on “Moving at the speed of light”. As a researcher at CERN, Petersen felt that his work felt like a marriage between cosmology and particle physics. He briefly walked us through the ever-decreasing scale of matter, from atoms, to electrons, to protons and neutrons, and finally to quarks. He also described the search for Higg’s boson and why it mattered, since according to their model, no particle should have any mass and all move at the speed of light. He reminded people that although the research that occurred at CERN (which he referred to as the “cathedral of science“) might seem esoteric and useless to some people, the World Wide Web emerged from CERN. He admitted that the knowledge of the existence of Higg’s boson might not have any practical knowledge, and ended the talk with a quote by Richard Feynman:

“Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.” – Richard Feynman

We were then treated to a short break. I decided to grab that moment to exchange the book I had brought with me (namely, Miguel Sicart’s “The Ethics of Computer Games“) and placed it in the book hammock in order to exchange it with another book. There were a few books in Danish, and some which were simply reading books, and I admit that I was expecting books similar in scope to research books or reference books. However, finding nothing in that area, I decided to grab a book by Banksy called “Wall and Piece“. Before returning to my seat, I was then asked a couple of questions (and recorded) by one of the volunteers for TEDx (a Polish girl) about my background and which topics I had found the most inspiring so far.

The fourth and final topic of the conference was Alternative societies. The first talk in the topic was by Risenga Manghezi entitled “Sharing your freedom”. Manghezi spoke about Christiania, which was an abandoned military base that was taken over by squatters and turned into a free state. Christiania’s identity has always been one where the people living there do not own the land; however, the Danish government issued an ultimatum which forced them to take a difficult decision. Either they had to buy the land, or the Danish government would sell it off to other interested parties.

Manghezi explained that in Christiania, important decisions were taken in consensus, therefore all 650 inhabitants must agree to the final outcome of the decision. As they held a meeting in the Great Hall, people started suggesting different possible solutions to the problem. Here, Manghezi stated that he felt that living in Christiania operated on 3 important principles:

  • the freedom to express yourself
  • the freedom to be who you are
  • the freedom to take your time

Allowing people these freedoms, he claimed, introduced the idea of “hurrying up slowly”, and allowed people to come up with creative and unexpected solutions to the challenges they faced. In fact, they approached the problem using 2 unique solutions that might not have intended to be serious in the first place. First, they closed down Christiania, buying them time. Although it meant turning away tourists and the homeless at the gates, it allowed them to come eye to eye with their purpose and realize that they should share their freedom with everyone. Secondly, they reached the consensus decision of buying the land together, but not owning the deeds to the land, thus keeping their values intact.

Manghezi stated that this ordeal made him realize 2 important things. If they had never listened to all suggestions in the audience, including suggestions that might not have been serious, they would never had reached the decision that they came to reach. He observed:

“Society has a tendency to kick out people that come up with creative solutions.” – Risenga Manghezi

Finally, he stated:

“Sometimes, we have to close down to open up.” – Risenga Manghezi

Next, we had Emil Wilk’s talk on “The future of advertising is – good”. Wilk started the “Free Bikes” movement, an ad-supported  advertising movement. This allowed Danish students to get free bikes that were supported by advertisements, and then send the bike to Ghana to support the local population.

We were then treated to a video from the TED archives. This time, it was by Michael Norton entitled “How to buy happiness“, where he examined the relationship between money and happiness. He disagreed with the common quote “Money can’t buy happiness”, stating:

“If you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right.” – Michael Norton

Norton stated that lottery winners didn’t lead the glamorous lifestyles that people thought they would lead. In fact, winning the lottery often led to ruined lives. Norton backed up his claim with experiments involving telling a group of students to spend money on themselves and another group of students to spend money on others, and measuring their state of happiness after some amount of time. He found that more often than not, the group of people that were told to spend money on other people experienced elevation and were happy, while the others experienced nothing. Norton stated that spending money on other people had a bigger return of investment and encouraged people to visit DonorsChoose.org.

The final performance was by IKI, entitled “Anything can happen”. This was an improvised vocal performance by 6 talented Scandinavian girls. The result was a chilling soundscape that was an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Moving on, we had Mary Embry’s talk on “The Copenhagenize project”. This was the idea of taking the best elements from Copenhagen and transplanting them into different cities. Elements such as safe streets, safe bike routes for kids, a quiet city with less car horns and more bicycle bells, all leading to the importance of Copenhagen’s bicycle culture. It has suddenly become important for a city to brand itself as being bicycle friendly. She made reference to a quote by Lewis Carroll:

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” – Lewis Carroll

Embry stated that there were two things that could help introduce a more bicycle friendly culture to cities. The first was to prioritize cyclists over automobiles. She made an example with Amsterdam, where cars entered the city as guests and they entered at their own risk. The second was to only take the car when it made sense.

We then had Joseph Hamoud’s talk on “Syria, road to freedom”. Referencing the recent Syrian uprising, Hamoud told chilling tales that were happening in Syria. He urged people not to be politically apathetic and to take action, referencing Martin Niemöller:

“First they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemöller

The final talk of the conference was by Jerry Michalski, titled “What if we trusted you?” He stated that in schools, there was one hidden lesson that was being taught to children, the fact that the clock was much more valuable than the student’s passion, flow and inspiration. Michalski claimed that the current education system didn’t trust the students to learn without having them present, relying on obedience, compliance and dependence.

Michalski also highlighted the problems that teachers faced. Teaching is not a well paid job, and he claims that only individuals who are truly dedicated to the cause of teaching enter the profession. It takes time to settle the children down and correct the previous lesson’s homework, leaving very little time for the actual lesson. Moreover, the teacher usually has very little budget to aid teaching.

He also claimed that a zero-tolerance policy had crept into the system, where students were being over-medicated, learning under the influence of security cameras and responding with gun shootings. The actual educational content had been reduced to “teaching simply to pass tests” (which he claimed was made worse with the USA’s No Child Left Behind policy, and students had less and less free time.

Michalski then asked what would happen if the system trusted students? What sort of system could be built? He made reference to unschooling, edupunks and free range kids. He claimed that while school was a compulsory educational system, unschooling would be child led and curiosity led learning. He also made reference to deschooling, where a child who has been to school switches to being unschooled. This, he claimed, was a process of healing the child’s natural curiosity.

Michalski stated that it was impossible for schools to force everyone to learn things at the same time, since not everybody learnt at the same rate and countless hours were therefore wasted. He also suggested the idea of having school be voluntary, where children could drop in voluntarily.

We were then treated to a improvised rap in Danish by Per Vers, who walked us through the talks in the TEDx conference.

And with that, the TEDx conference came to an end. It was an intensely inspiring session that I would readily recommend to anyone interested!

News Games: Yay or Nay?

On Wednesday, 12th September, I attended the first Game Talk Mini event held and promoted by Vallekilde Højskole. The event’s theme was news games, what they are and how they work; an interesting combination of journalism and games development.

The keynote was given by Gonzalo Frasca, who started off his talk by discussing how games were relevant to education since people could learn through play, giving experiences of how they were used in the space industry, the medical industry and the military. Here, any form of error would be critical, so new users are guided through the system and taught through games. Frasca stated that “Learning through mistakes is one of the most effective ways to learn stuff“, and games seem to be the perfect medium to allow people to make mistakes.

Frasca gave examples of tutorials that teach the player how to play games, stating that if the player could not learn how to play the game within the first few minutes, then the player was lost. In particular, two examples of good tutorials were given: the Angry Birds tutorial and the Cut the Rope tutorial. This was because the first provided a short and intuitive animation of how to play the game, while the second placed the tutorial directly in the first level of the game.

This concept of understanding through play was then introduced with respect to news. Frasca claimed that people could understand events through action, stating Augusto Boal’s Legislative Theatre as an example. He also made reference to JFK Reloaded, which was a interesting experimental game, but a commercial failure. This “documentary game” allowed you to recreate the events of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, allowing players to come to their own conclusions as to whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald committed the crime or not.

Likewise, games could be made in addition to current news stories. Frasca stated that the concept of news games has been around since 2003, and most news games tend to be very quickly made with a short life span. He also stated that there were several challenges involved in creating news games, such as the fact that they had to be done in a few days in order to remain relevant, and the game had to make sense and be fun to play.

The second discussion that presented the counter argument to Frasca’s was Espen Aarseth’s talk, entitled “Good News is Not News: Dispelling the Newsgaming Myth“. Aarseth stated that although the “genre” of newsgames was 10 years old, news corporations did not seem to be interested in it, since it would have been picked up by now. He also stated several disadvantages to using games in news: the cost/benefit ratio seemed to be too low, making a good game is hard, and if the game doesn’t come out in time, is it still news?

Aarseth also made reference to a problem that could arise between the skinning of the game and its mechanics. Good games could only be made if the mechanics matched the thematics, so while war and violence made good games, Aarseth claims that everyday politics would be difficult to convey effectively in a game. He also claims that if the game developer does not care deeply about the topic, then the game itself will not be good. Reference was also made to The Landlord’s Game and Monopoly, which were meant to be political commentary against private monopolies but ended up being interpreted in a completely different fashion.

The talk ended with Aarseth concluding that the only people talking about newsgames seem to be the people making them, and that they don’t seem to be viable to news organizations.

Several examples of news games were presented through the discussion, such as September 12 by Frasca, Darfur is Dying and Phone Story by Molleindustria. Ultimately, I think that while both parties raised some interesting points about news gaming, the public is still largely unaware of news gaming. However, I’m definitely interested in trying to make some news games in the near future!

Second Year at ITU

The summer is over, and it’s time to go back to school!

Looking back over the past 3-4 months made me aware of how busy I’ve kept myself, and how time flies as a result.

After the end of the second semester at ITU, I decided to find a student job for the summer, and after much trials and tribulations, I landed a student developer position at Mingoville A/S, a Danish e-learning company that focuses on teaching English and Maths to young students. I spent most of my time fixing bugs in the MMO using ActionScript 3, and I was also introduced to new tools such as ANT and Git, which were never really introduced at University. I was also introduced to applications made in Lua for Android and iPhone, as well as working on an admin tool in Javascript and jQuery.

I also started a teaching assistant position at ITU, where I will be helping out with the exercises and lab sessions for the Masters course called Introductory Programming. The course is taught using Java. Today was the first day and it went really well indeed!

Sometimes, things don’t go well though. I decided to take part in the Ludum Dare 24, a game jam whose theme was Evolution. After having no inspiration whatsoever, I decided to make a game around the evolution through mathematical dimensions, using Flixel as my weapon of choice. The game would similar in style to WarioWare, in the sense that it would be made up of a series of small, short games. By the end of the first day, I had finished the 0th dimension level, and was nearly finished with the 1st dimension level (as seen below). However, I ran into problems while working on the 2nd dimension level, and I realized that the 3rd dimension level that I had in mind (which I wanted to implement in 3D), was going to be impossible to complete in a 2D framework in the time constraints of a game jam.

Along with Danish lessons, my regular coursework and the thesis preparation that I must do, this looks like it’s going to be a very busy semester!

No More Sweden 2012

Mindwreck at No More Sweden 2012

I recently attended No More Sweden 2012, a game jam held in Malmö, Sweden. The game took place over a weekend and apart from the game jam itself, where people had to make games in 48 hours, the event also featured talks by indie developers as well as massive barbeque. Unfortunately, I missed the talks due to work, and also managed to arrive late at the game jam itself, and therefore ended up without a team. I decided to participate alone and create a game on my own. With the help of an online game idea generator, I settled on the concept of a black and white shooter in somebody’s imagination, which quickly changed into a cyberpunk styled arcade shooter as development progressed.

Continue reading

Molydeux Game Jam 2012

Amidst all the university related work I have to do, I also participated in a worldwide event called the Molydeux Game Jam. This event is similar to a game jam, in the sense that participants must create a game in 48 hours. However, this particular game jam had a special twist, since the game idea had to be based on one of the tweets by @petermolydeux, an account on Twitter parodying the famous game designer Peter Molydeux. The parody account is known for posting outrageous game ideas. A few examples are given on the Tumblr that Molydeux himself set up.

I decided to create a game called Zâmbesti. The word is Romanian, and it means smile. The game was based around this particular tweet from Molydeux:

“Imagine living in a world where all anyone can do is hurt each other. You on the other hand, your only ability is to hug those around you.”

Continue reading

Colours and Sound

Upon hearing about an exhibition about Generative Design at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, and knowing that I want to take my Master’s thesis in the direction of sound generation, I became interested to see what the exhibition had to offer.

The exhibition was very small and informal, and this allowed us to speak to the people who were behind the project itself. One project that I found interesting was Momo‘s project, which allowed people to use a dropper to put colours on a slide. A camera above the slide picked up the size and position of the colour droplets and the computer interpreted this input as sound. This allowed people to create music by spacing out the coloured drops appropriately. The other interesting project was Andrew‘s project, which allowed the user to record a sound and then interpret the sound wave as different shaped circles.  The circles could then be printed out and one could physically build the sound wave.

Continue reading