Games as tools @ cinekid

On: October 18, 2007
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About Tjerk Timan
During the last couple of years, I have been involved in Industrial Design at the Technical University of Eindhoven, both on the theoretical as well as the physical/practical side, always working on the boarder between the digital and physical. After an internship at Mediamatic, I wanted to get more involved in the digital side of new media. Currently, I am investigating the complex realm of new media [at] the master course New Media, UvA. With a thesis focus now on ‘objects that blog’ within the context of an internet of things, the challenge is to investigate the agency and influence of things. Especially when these things, being digital or physical, are capable of sharing, posting, editing, deleting content. And on who’s account? Within that same line of thought, the digital is often taking itself for granted maybe too much, where often the step towards WHO and HOW data is manipulated is left out of the loop. Taking these things back into the (design) loop is one of my missions, with the statement in mind that the way content is created and consumed has at least as much importance as the technology driving it. Furthermore, I am currently active within the Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam. Also, I do some occasional freelance work, where disciplines differ from web-design to workshops to product design.


With: Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Friedrich Kirschner and Daniel van Gils.
The lecture was meant as an introduction to the workshop given by Mediamatic on games as tools, but also as an inspirational talk to all involved/ interested in film making and new media.
First to talk was Friedrich Kirschner ( and, with an introduction to his framework of comparing game-play.

In traditional board-games like RISK, the rules of the game are quite straight-forward (world domination) and the game-play is limited to the game-space (in this case, the actual cardboard)., So the limits of your ‘adventures’ and fantasy lay within these boarders, where games like LEGO offer a lot more game-play possibilities by taking away the limited games-pace. Since Friedrich experiences the well-known problem that he ran out of Lego-pieces, a form of abstraction was used in order to create more stories (a one-piece as a persona etc.).
Now the rules of the game are made by the player’s own perception of reality;
In comparing these two forms of gaming, Friedrich phrases:
simulated play (RISK) vs. creative play (LEGO).

This introduction is followed by a schedule (which I unfortunately do not have visualized) on game-play, where elements like AI, rules, assets, human input, physics engine combined are ‘making’ the game.
In mmorpg‘s, for instance, the AI function is already eliminated, because now, the computer does not create and manage the rules anymore, the players do.
Now in this case, we do not have to follow the rule again that guys with handkerchiefs and black suits are bad guys, and army-boys are the good ones; we can now question these rules, stop shooting each other and e.g. start dancing within the game.
Also, when I see my screen as a camera viewpoint, I can start making movies of us dancing and share these videos (birth of Machinima).
When people started doing this, some of them also discovered the possibilities of modifying the engines of games like Unreal and Quake run on.
Now, is this still game-play, or is it more?

Where this modifying of game engines is quite a task, Kirschner developed an open-source tool that lets you interface with game engines in order to create your own movies very easy. He shows this by creating a character within Unreal that talks when Friedrich talks in the microphone (lip-syncing) within a couple of mouse-clicks. Also, he is making the very important link to physical computing, where he demonstrated (amongst other things) a WII-mode to draw 2d and 3d within MovieSandbox.
Taking it even a step further, the tool is also networked, so one can imagine working collectively over the network on movies, characters or levels, using their own physical input device, combining real-world assets (like a picture of you, or a your room etc.) directly into the game!
The nice thing is that all this ‘intelligence’ is already embedded within the game engine; the tool is merely an interface to these possibilities; making them useful without having to be a c-programmer.
This will give the user lots of options for ‘creative play’.

Daniel van Gils
Is also experimenting with using games for more than gaming. Having a game-design background as well as a programming background, he realized that a game engine is a very stable piece of software that can be used more a lot more cool things than merely gaming. Think of museum installations, performances, VJ-ing, but also interactive documentary making.
Daniel also creates his own open-source interface software for a game engine (Quake 4 and Doom 3- compatible).
Since games are event-based, this provides an interesting way to interact with the game engine by e.g. a midi-input tool.
The main power of using a game as tool for Daniel is to create quick prototypes and cross-media experiments

Amongst more recent performances, Daniel did a gig on DEAF, and made a interactive documentary with children for VPRO’s villalive.
vpro animation
Both Friedrich and Daniel will guide the games as tools workshop organized by Mediamatic for the Cinekid festival in order to let movie-and documentary makers have some experience with the power of new media, creating not only concepts, but also working prototypes/ proof-of-principles of these concepts.

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