Of shadow puppets, clouds and the Kinect

As a child, shadow puppets used to fascinate me, as they probably did a lot of kids. It’s a lovely way of letting the imagination loose – probably why being an amateur nephologist is everyone’s favourite pastime on a sunny, cloud-filled day. (For more serious fans of clouds, consider joining the Cloud Appreciation Society, which I only found about last week).

The Kinect is taking shadow puppetry to a completely new level. Puppet Parade is an installation that premiered at Cinekid Amsterdam  last year. It allows kids to control animated characters on screen – watch the enchanted faces of the kids in this demo:

Puppet Parade – Interactive Kinect Puppets from Design I/O on Vimeo.

There was an interesting Kinect demo during a keynote at CES last week too. Microsoft’s Jaymi Bauer, senior director of product marketing, gave a glimpse into what they’re going to be doing with Sesame Street and the Kinect later this year, along with a young girl.

It’s a whole new world out there for kids these days.

I just hope they don’t forget the charm of the original shadow puppets!

Stories vs. games

Over the last couple of years, storytelling has ingrained itself in the marketing industry as a key part of brand strategy: the way to engage with people over a prolonged period of time is to make them feel part of a larger story. However, simultaneously, we’ve seen the massive growth of gamification and the use of gaming tactics in services like Foursquare and Crowdtap to TV shows like Psych and brands like Microsoft (for Bing) and Ford (for the Fusion) to engage people.

In general, though, what’s the difference between the two? I asked my followers on Twitter:

A lot of interesting answers. I think All About Stories, a project I started to document interesting examples of storytelling on the web, will soon start venturing more and more into game territory.

The best thing on the internet

Huge thanks to Leila Johnston at work, who pointed me to this superb video, appropriately calling it ‘the best thing on the internet’.

Some context: this post about interesting talks related to games and game design, in one of which Jordan Mechner, the creator of Prince of Persia, features. I was a big PoP fan when I was younger, as I assume at least some of the people reading my blog were!

Prince of Persia Animation Reference 1989 from jordan mechner on Vimeo.

The Pocketgame documentary

John Willshire, Chief Innovation Officer at PHD and a great, down-to-earth guy if ever there was one, was recently part of the team that built Pocketgame for Cadbury. At Playful last year, I remember James Wallis and Sally Manning demonstrating their respective game entries for the competition (Sally eventually went on to win), and I remember thinking what a fun way to get into people’s lives Cadbury were backing, and what a great project it was. Games are more important now than ever; in Jane McGonigal‘s Reality is Broken which I’m currently reading, she mentions high-level executives who say they play during work “in order to feel more productive”.

Now this is a statement that sounds crazy on the face of it – playing games to feel more productive at work? But this speaks to how much we all crave simple, hands-on work that feels genuinely productive. We turn to games to help us alleviate the frustrating sense that, in our real work, we’re often not making any progress or impact.

She also quotes another author (and book) that I’ve read and enjoyed, Alain de Botton’s ‘The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work’. She then says:

In casual games, there is no greater purpose to our actions – we are simply enjoying our ability to make something happen.

And Pocketgame is a rare example of a small but truly nice brand campaign.

The Pocketgame team have just created a documentary which is a nice insight into the whole process. Take a look.

And by the way John, I recognised your voice in the voiceover!

Ready, set, Kronum!

When I first read about this, I thought it was a joke, but it isn’t (surprisingly, there isn’t a proper Wikipedia entry yet, though).

Kronum is a new sport that is a sort of combination of football, basketball and volleyball – check the video out, it’s quite amazing. Here’s a short piece in the Thrillist about it. They aim to democratize sport by ‘handing over the game and all of its leagues to athletes and fans to operate’, though I’m not entirely sure how they’ll do that. I’d love to know more about the people and ideas behind its genesis.


I like the concept of ‘flow’, as described by Kellee Santiago, TED Fellow, game designer and founder of thatcgamecompany:

A fundamental aspect of game design is creating “flow.” A state of flow is achieving the right balance between challenge and experience. If we’re presenting the player with something that’s too difficult for them while they’re playing it, they’re going to be really frustrated. But on the flip side, if it’s too easy, and their skill level is very high, it’s going to be boring. The sweet spot is called the state of flow.

The term comes from the psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and his observations of people in the 1970s. He studied how people achieve happiness and how we define it. He came up with the word “flow” because most people describe that feeling as being carried along in the water. So it not only is a great tenet of game design, but it really applies to our whole life, and life design.

More here.