Our first drawing jam – game cards, automation and mediation
Reflections on the tension between automation and mediation:
We are designing a game platform that will allow people to create and contribute their drawings to the game online, independently, logging on whenever and wherever. Theoretically this makes the game scaleable- not dependent on structured activities organised by the originators of the project. Ideally the platform should provide a way for people to start to connect with each other through the game to take ownership of different levels within the game.
There are two interesting sets of challenges. The first is about drawing. We need to get a feel for the range of ways in which the process of drawing can connect people with their experience of a place. How different drawing activities might enable imaginative leaps in thinking about a place. How to overcome many people’s inhibitions and ideas about ‘good’ drawing in order to allow great drawing to happen (perhaps through lots of small informal pop-up drawing sessions in very public locations, like the high-street, the Golden Mile etc). We want players to see themselves as local players in a global game of world-shaping and at the same time we need to managing the tension between linguistic approaches to place and image making. How to allow images to remain meaningful while avoiding the temptation to say “this drawing means this” or even “this drawing represents this”. We start to address this by prototyping and drawing with lots of different people and groups and asking them what works for them. We will need to develop clear and simple constraints if we want lots of people to get involved. Isis suggested we look at Common Ground’s Parish Maps project which involved many people in the mapping of their local parishes to help us think about how people might want to contribute in other ways.
Then the second challenge arises when we think about technical questions. How do we create a framework and interface that places different people’s drawings into the game as environments, obstacles, creatures, players and that still creates a coherent experience for players. What to do about different perspectives, horizon lines, half drawn figures etc etc. Drawing for mobile phone screens is a special challenge.
In our Skype round up with Mary we showed her our drawings and talked about some of the activities that we had been trying out. Conversations about the technical challenges of creating consistent, coherent drawn worlds led us to ask whether the environments actually needed to maintain a continuity that mirrored a conventional map of Southend, whether it should exactly replicate the arrangement of the actual place. Really should not the game see Southend reconfigured as a space of fantasy?
Mary and her team at Dartmouth suggested that players might respond to challenges such as:
What’s the best thing about Southend?
What’s the worst thing about Southend?
What are the best secret places in Southend?
The game cards worked well. 5 categories: medium (what you draw with and on), environment (elements, structures, and feelings of place), context (world affairs- social, economic, cultural- beyond Southend, even extra-terrestrial), beings (living things), and actions. They gave rise to nicely surprising combinations of subjects such as: a future pet, being itself, or drought stricken land and sea, or land under alien invasion. The cards enabled us to explore many, many aspects of the relationships between experiencing, describing, deciding and drawing.
Medium: The isometric graph paper produced some interesting structural drawings, limitations to 2 colours, and atmospheric pastel drawings also seemed fertile areas for further exploration.
Inventing possible game scenarios within our drawings led to fun and surprisingly stimulating reconfigurations of ordinary behaviour (by humans, birds, cats and cows). Here is where the relationship between drawing and meaning making and world forming feels most natural.
These are the drawings we created.
And finally a couple of practical things:
A drawing workshop on a sunny day in Southend should probably involve ice cream- hot chocolate if it’s raining.
We need a neat way to call people back from time-limited drawing activities.
Wet-wipes, fixative and masking tape would be useful additions to the drawing toolkit
Thanks to everyone who took part: Pete, Isis, Beccy, Liz, Tracy (our photographer) Janie (our driver) and Michael. The day was full, complex and everyone worked together with great generosity. Many of the drawings are gorgeous in themselves and the conversations will shape what happens next. Hope many of you will stay involved in some way. Thanks also to Metal for hosting our afternoon session and to Rossi’s for the ice cream: )