Invisible Buttons and Escape Rooms

Yesterday, from the comfort of my outdoor eco-lounge (it’s a Fremantle thing) I had a fascinating Google+ chat with fellow pervasive/physical game designers Dr. Christy Dena and Holly Gramazio about “Games with Invisible Buttons” — what we do, what we’re thinking about and some of the challenges we’ve faced working in this still somewhat unconventional space. The whole thing was recorded and broadcast online as part of Freeplay 2015. If you’re curious about physical-world based games or have been creating them for years, I think you’ll find our talk insightful and interesting.

Games with Invisible Buttons
with Holly Gramazio and Dr. Christy Dena
Freeplay 2015, 12 April 2015, Melbourne

While I was at GDC in San Francisco earlier this year, I was incredibly lucky to attend and speak at the Adventure Design Group, a meetup of people in the Bay Area working in the pervasive/physical/mixed-platform game space. I spoke about the MEMORI Escape room that I created for the State Library of WA which attempted to push the narrative boundaries of the escape room genre while providing a new way for patrons to engage with the library’s collection through the use of play. If you’re curious about our design process or the use of escape rooms and pervasive games for public engagement and education, you’ll find this useful.

The Making of the MEMORI Escape Room
Adventure Design Group, 11 March 2015, San Francisco

Invisible Buttons and Escape Rooms

One Response

  1. Thanks to each of you and Freeplay for letting us listen in to your three-way conversation :) I work at the intersection of museums, education and technology, am a longtime advocate for game-based learning, and favour digital experiences that are grounded in or return us to real world sensation and perception… so it was great to hear of the extent and nuance of the work you’re doing in this field.

    I really appreciated a point that Christy made (and obviously these are my words, not hers, so I may be putting words in her mouth) that she likes to design experiences that allow players to discover things for themselves. Good designs include gaps, or spaces in-between, so that players can explore independently, and bring something of themselves to the experience. I cheered at this point. I am so put off by ‘games’ or other ‘interactive’ ‘educational’ experiences where the whole thing is planned and directed and prescribed. (I’m thinking of so many museum ‘interactives’ here…) I think this goes to your point, Kate, about impacts beyond fun. I’m thinking about emergence as a possible affect. Emergent behaviour can occur as a result of very simple rules, and it seems that a great way to *prevent* it is to over-design or over-direct or fully prescribe an experience. I’m really excited to see how this field develops. Interesting that both of you (Christy and Kate) are doing work with remote Indigenous communities.

    I also wanted to comment on something Holly said. Mentioning her preference for being there in person to witness the effect of the experiences she has designed, she described this preference as shallow. It may seem a small point, but I believe it’s (very) important to recognise that our sensory experience – and therefore one’s body – is absolutely integral to our understanding. Rational analysis is obviously very important but it does not, not ever, provide the best understanding in isolation from an embodied way of knowing. Play itself is a non-rational – intuitive/bodily – mode, and given the emphasis in your work on physical surroundings, on the body in the context of place, it makes perfect sense that physical presence is integral to evaluation as well. I hope it’s a point of pride for you all that this work that you’re doing leverages and celebrates sensory experience. I see it as part of a return to recognising the body as a source of or channel for knowledge-making, which at this point in history is a critical countercultural intervention.

    Cath April 18, 2015 at 10:27 am #

Leave a Reply