A lack of continuity?

The first edition of CounterPlay is over, and while there’s definitely lots to change & improve, I’m generally extremely happy about the way it turned out (read more about it here).

Now it feels like I’m in a big hole.

A part of this is surely just me being really, really tired.

Exhausted, to be honest.

That’s to be expected, as organising the festival was pretty intense. I should take some days off, and with Easter coming up, that’s happening soon.

Another part is probably just a completely natural void in the wake of a big project.

Even so, there’s this gnawing feeling that I should make a full stop and think about the way I work & live. I’m constantly thinking about these things, but for some reason, now feels like a particularly good time to do so.

What am I concerned about?

There’s a lot of dilemmas in this.

I’m doing so many things all the time (and constantly  tweeting about it), that, to any bystander, it probably seems like I’m doing absolutely fine.

In a way, everything IS just perfect. I love the freedom, the chaos, I love the things I do and the people I’m involved with, and I like to think, that I am actually moving perceptions and people.

I’m, plain and simple, happy with what I do.

I’m not exactly a person who cares much about money or business’y things in general. This is obviously a huge disadvantage, when you’re self-employed. My priority is always to A) do something that’s fun & challenging while B) hopefully making the world just a tiny bit better, more humane and playful. Money is not a part of this equation – except that they are, of course.

Ever since I started, 5-6 years ago, I’ve been involved in a broad range of activities. A lot of it has been related to games and digital media in education, but I’ve also been working with “games as culture”, and I’ve been doing a few projects on games & playfulness in companies & organisations. I’ve been doing many consulting jobs, a lot of talks at conferences and seminars, a lot of workshops, courses for teachers, a huge pile of writing and experimental projects. I have been part of creating multiple initiatives & events for knowledge sharing and networking (#skolechat, EdCamp Denmark, Spil i skolen).

Oh, and of course CounterPlay, that got me thinking about the importance of meaningful events in bringing people together.

CounterPlay opening - by Zuraida Buter
CounterPlay opening – shot by Zuraida Buter

All of it has been revolving around changing the perception of when & how playing can be meaningful and valuable.

Moving forward, I hope to follow my own lead from CounterPlay, exploring playfulness & games in projects and events across domains (e.g. culture, learning, business) as well as playing with and without purpose. I want to create more meaningful learning experiences for people in education, but I also want to encourage simply playing (also see this post on “my playful dreams with games“)

So my immediate challenge is this:

The perfect situation would probably be one, where I have 1-2 steady projects, while still leaving enough time and space to launch new initiatives as I see fit.

As with everything I do, I’d love to have conversations about these things. I’ve only been able to be working on so many amazing things because of the people I’ve met over the years, and I’ll only keep moving forward because of people.

A cup of coffee, a beer, a phone call, a hangout.

Anything goes.

A festival of play & games

I like to play (no shit, Sherlock).

I like to explore play.

I like to talk about play, and I like to bring people together, who play, talk about play and make other people play.

In the past, I have been responsible for a few minor conferences on games and learning (more here & here), both extremely inspiring endeavours (though also very demanding and slightly intimidating). For a while, I’ve been wanting to do something more, building on these past experiences. I wanted to broaden my scope on games & play, and to create an event, that is embedded locally here in Aarhus, but embracing inputs and people from around the world. It’s about learning, of course, but it’s also about all the other ways games & playful activities can improve our lives – whether play is the purpose, or we have our aims set at goals external to playing. I want to create a place, where all kinds of people meet and talk; people who are usually not likely to stumble upon each other (e.g. game devs, educators, librarians, health care professionals, private companies etc.).

I’ve written a fairly long description of my plans, and used the term “CounterPlay” as a (working, perhaps) title:

“Referring to ludic or playful vitality in its most transformative expressions, counterplay speaks directly to the disruptive creation of the new through the reiterations of gaming” (Apperley & Dieter)

My goal is two-fold:

  1. To expand our understanding of games & play

  2. To contribute to a wider awareness of the potential impact of games & play

And here’s a bit more:

CounterPlay is a tribute to and an exploration of the many ways, in which a more playful approach can help us live better lives. We focus on the excitement, intense engagement and rich experiences of people involved in all kinds of playing experiences. This sparks an investigation of how play can be transformative, change our thinking, push our boundaries and lead us places, we never imagined.

And this tweet captures much of it as well:

Along the way, I got ambitious and wanted to build something big. I wanted an international conference  spanning  several days with multiple tracks, workshops, an expo etc. Even though there’s a few events in this domain  in & around Denmark (most notably the brilliant W00t in Copenhagen and Animated Learning in Viborg – both great events, that I want to support as much as I can) I still don’t think the space is saturated, and I feel like my approach is different enough to be relevant.

For those of you with whom I engage on Twitter, you know about these thoughts, as I’ve been talking about this with regular intervals (many of you have been very encouraging as well – thank you!). I almost feel a bit silly to keep coming back to this, and I’ve been a bit insecure as to whether or not my plans are really viable (to be completely honest, I’ve been thinking and talking so much about this, that I’m simultaneously A) afraid that it never happens and B) that it does happen, but fails miserably. None of these concerns are even remotely rational, I know. It’s all in my head). Also, I reminded myself about this:

It’s obvious, that I can’t do something like that by myself. I’ve investigated a number of possibilities, among them the fact that Aarhus is ” European Capital of Culture” in 2017. I haven’t really had much luck, though, and may not have tried hard enough (I clearly haven’t. If I had, I’d have been somewhere else). Even so, I’m currently left with a feeling, that, right now, I’ve got two options:

Either I forget about the whole idea (for the time being).

…or I scale it down (probably to one day), make it more low-key and just go ahead and do it by myself (and draw on anybody interested).

As this is something I really want to do, the former is not too attractive, and the latter is how I often work, anyway, so it’s not much of a choice, really. It just took me some time to reach this (fairly unsurprising) conclusion.

I haven’t given up on the dream of something bigger, but it’s always easier to allow something to grow, if it’s already up and running.

As it happens, I’m also currently planning the next iteration of EdCamp Denmark, that takes place in Aarhus on April 5th. Consequently, I’m contemplating possible synergies between the two. Maybe some people would want to attend both? Maybe I could host the two events the same place? Maybe someone would even be interested in sponsoring both?

For now, I’ll spend as much time as necessary during the fall talking to potential speakers, finding a relevant venue, and possibly acquiring a few sponsors.

As always, I’d love to talk to anybody interested.

All that’s left to say at this time:

It’s happening.