Daydreaming about meetings

A stock image of a corporate meeting.

There’s a lot of work that goes into a creative process, and not all of it is creative. We’ve spent several days worth of time doing meeting stuff: planning, scheduling, organising, budgeting.

There was one day in particular we spent doing work none of us really wanted to but that really needed to be done. We banged through the schedule at a cracking pace, but even so, I think that evening was the most tired I felt all process. I remember vaguing out in the taxi home, and the rest of this post will be what I remember from that daydream. Continue reading

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An unusual final week

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End of another process. Phew. As ever, a month is both a really short time when it comes to getting a new creative work up on its feet, and a long time to be in project headspace. Long enough to go through a few cycles of different energy, inspiration, exhaustion, the whole gamut.

The last week was interesting, though. We had two playtests, one on Tuesday, one on Friday. On Tuesday, we busted out all our well constructed games for a group of students at the Science Centre. And that was that, we didn’t really need to go deeper into fixes, because these were only a subset of the total games we’ve made. (We probably made 10-15 games over the course of the month, not a small number but not a huge one either.)

So on Wednesday we leaned right out of the immediate work and went into long-range planning, which was super valuable but a jarring headspace switch. And then on Thursday morning, 48 hours before we flew out of the country, we sat down and began making brand new playful throwaway games. Which is a super lovely part of the process, but what a weird thing to gear into at that late stage of the game!

And then on Friday, testing these brand new scraps, which worked as well as all brand new games do at the outset (confusing! broken! fun! pointless! mayhem!), and then, man, that was an energy drop.

But did we leave ourselves enough pieces / the right pieces for the next development, to bring this thing home? We find out in a year…

– David

Grab the Kids and Run!- Working title

 

This week we delivered our first playtest for the EOS staff – showing lots and lots of small half formed games. We attended a lecture by Gordon Woo – a Catastrophist – on counter factual thought experiments in climate science and went to an escape room (called ‘Exodus’ and was bible themed. We worked at getting our communicable points in some kind of order (so we don’t miss any out in the final outcome) and began to hone the games we have to say the things we want them too – and be more fun. It’s been a busy week! We’re also tentatively referring to the game as ‘Grab the Kids and Run!’ which will do for now (and might even stick). 

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End of week three. This is an interesting week because here we’d normally be fighting with structural questions, trying to impose an overarching format that allows us to illustrate some of the core systems principles we’re interested in, as well as having a few of our favourite games in the mix.

In this instance, we don’t have the same structural constraints. What we’re providing for EOS (at least this iteration) will be a package of short games, a bundle of different activities that snapshot different aspects of natural hazard crises without being all part of a larger whole. 

This is really freeing, actually. There’s something nice about being able to create a series of interesting games that illustrate different principles, without needing to worry that they all click together neatly and have inputs/outputs that speak to one another. We trialled seven of them with EOS on Monday – we have a total of, maybe, nine.

But removing that structural step of the process opens up a gap – if we’re not zooming out to focus on the bigger overarching picture, what should we be focusing on at this stage of the game? 

I have an inkling that we should be trying our damndest to lock down these games in the best possible shape (for this iteration) so that we can sketch out new games to fill in the gaps in our systems model. It seems more feasible than usual to have scripts for each game, to have materials lists and rulesets, and I really want to get there before our playtests next week.

I’ve also benefited hugely from having Gillian in the room this week – there’s something incredibly focusing and grounding about having the set in front of me while we talk abstract possibilities. 

Today I spent the day working on this ‘science lecture’ text, our breakdown of the principles we’ve absorbed and want to communicate through the work, and making sure we have them communicated in text – so that hopefully we never have to use the text, but can turn them into games.

And then next week: playtests. Everything!

– David F.

We were invited to attend a talk this week with Gordon Woo – A Catastrophist (which is fast becoming my favourite job title ever). He was speaking at the university about counter factual thought experiments in climate science and it was fascinating. Mostly his encouragement to use the think about what could have been worse, in any given situation – in order to predict possible disaster situations, or problems in the future. He was very excited talking about using this process of thinking to interrogate past events such as battles during a war or to question collective assumption about how events changed the course of history. Assumptions like what caused the Spanish Flu – which could then have ramifications by making us more aware other possible causes – and therefore hopefully more resilient. I have to admit, a lot of what he was speaking about sounded like stuff that historical counter fiction writers have been engaging with for ages – but perhaps not with the same range of application. There are a few points in history we like to imagine things going incredibly badly – but very few. Usually it is the ones that GO very badly that we remember, not the ones that were a near miss, or went very well but if interrogated it was only by chance.

In terms of our game I feel like this would be an excellent question to pose – go through a disaster situation and then ask the question – what could have been much much worse? What could have been the worst possible outcome and what would have had to have happened for the situation to have gone that way. 

– Nikki

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Boho experiments with escape rooms at Lost SG

The Nikki Kennedy Professional Development Lecture Series

During the first weeks of our development in Singapore Boho spent some time bringing each other up to date on the projects and thoughts we’ve had over the past year.

Entitled The ‘Nikki Kennedy Professional Development Lecture Series’ – because I was slightly too pedantic about the origin of the idea for the series (It was mine) – I am of course quite proud of the series and very much enjoyed introducing each of the speakers.

 Speakers in the January 2018 series:

Nathan Harrison – Development of ‘How I saved the Western Black Rhino’

Nathan updated us all on the show he currently has in development – programmed for performance at The Joan in Penrith this coming March – ‘How I saved the Western Black Rhino’. He filled us in on it’s progress up to now, from its origins through to development with Camden Peoples Theatre in London and at Battersea Arts Centre and with the OpenLab program at The Joan last year, and then took us through some of his current thinking about the project and questions he has as he drafts and edits scripts and prepares to go into development the day after he returns from Singapore. The show is a performed lecture where fiction and fact intermingle interrogating extinction on our planet, species that we’re losing, and the complicated process of current conservation efforts. If you do want to catch this one you can find tickets and more info at thejoan.com.au

David Shaw – What I Learned as a CSIRO On Primer

The eminent David Shaw (or Muttley as we know him) took us through some of the things that he learned from the CSIRO On Prime entreprenurship workshops that he attended last year. This was an excellent opportunity for the Boho team to take a step back from getting sunk into projects and to think about the company, the customer and to have a good think about what we should be doing, and which audiences we should be aiming for. We went through several stages if the program with Muttley guiding us, and steering us towards the questions that we don’t currently have answers to. Every arts company (or company in general) needs a business talk, and a critical assessment of what they do and where they’re going once in a while and this was very much appreciated. It’s something that we’re hoping to return to and run a few more simulations of while we’re here. As always finding time for these meetings is tricky.

 

David Finnigan – Updates from Coney: Workshops for schools and corporates

David took us through the exciting and busy (!) year he has had mainly in the UK. Working with our friends and collaborators Coney he has been using some of the systems thinking and game play that we have created and begun shaping it into workshops and projects for London and Coney audiences. One part of this has been making systems thinking workshops for corporates which allow for some play – but also to create a systems map of the organization – that they can then use in further discussions and planning. Another involved making some systems games a little like a simplified version of BFE that you can play through with pens and paper in an office setting that show some of the things that occur in systems but is less complex and less of a performance than BFE. He’s also experimented with making games for schools and testing for a market there. It’s all interesting stuff, and very useful information to have as we each use what we have created in different ways. We’re hoping to use some of the approaches he has developed this year to inspire some new workshops in Australia this year so this is something to look forward to and hopefully a way for us to continue to grow our company and make it more responsive to the market for systems science based communication.

 

Nikki Kennedy – Development of ‘Apocalypse Fatigue’ and Systems Thinking Workshops for Creative development

I presented on my development of a show I’ve been thinking about for a while, and attempted a first development of, earlier this year. The show –currently titled ‘Apocalypse Fatigue’ but soon to be titled something else (as this no longer fits) uses apocalypse films to create a space for explaining how climate change is going to impact on the probability and scale of environmental disasters and the changes that are occurring in disaster management. Presenting these talks is not an easy thing necessarily and I began my talk feeling a bit down on my project – given that it was a very intense process. But through questions and answers from this highly skilled team who share a language around explaining science and interactive performance I now have some actionable ideas of how to progress and where to take this show next and who I can talk to about it. It was also nice to share some of the things I had found from working on disaster management related shows – which feeds into our current research project.

For the second part of my lecture I spoke briefly about running a workshop in our process and some game making for Directors Lab in October this year, and then proposed the idea of it being applicable as a creative development process workshop offering – with a little bit of structuring. This was fun and in the process of discussing it I found this idea coming into focus with another I had had a few years back about teaching or running workshops in devised theatre tools for young people and high schoolers. It’s something I’d like to try again and perhaps extend – and with the thinking gained from Muttley’s entrepreneur workshop perhaps find an audience for.

 

Rachel Roberts – Development of ‘Everything I Ever Wanted’

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Rachel was the final presentation in the NKPDLS and a lovely way to finish the series. Her project – Everything I Ever Wanted – is also programmed for performance at The Joan in Penrith in March and has been something she has been thinking about and developing for a long time. It’s about dieting, weight and disordered eating. Rachel took us though the history of the project and then also through some of her thinking, her questions and concerns about content and the making of it as she drafts her final script to begin development when we return to Australia in a little under a week. It’s always comforting to know that we ask similar questions about our work, and that Rachel is having similar issues that I was having with Apocalypse Fatigue in terms of ‘what to I put in and what do I leave out?’ when there is SO much to say. Questions we have all asked at one point or another when creating a performance lecture style work of ‘how do I make it not just a lecture, but more creative than that?’, how to know when you’re too close to the topic and protect yourself from the things you’re exploring as well as how to position ourselves, our level of knowledge and our qualification to speak about these issues. There is also other tricky things that come up in process – such as at what point do you shift from creator to performer to allow for the best performance outcome of the work, and to give it it’s full chance at being good, and simple things like how to work with a designer you don’t know that well. I have total respect to both Nathan and Rachel for working through this month on their own scripts for Penrith whilst also making disaster games in Singapore. Trying to hold two shows in your head at once is super tough and I’m glad that through the lecture series we had time to unpack and understand a little more of what they’re up to, and hopefully help out with support, interrogation and suggestion. Can’t wait to see them. If you do want to catch this one you can find tickets and more info at thejoan.com.au

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So that concluded our little series. It was a great success and I’m so thrilled it happened because it gave us all energy to begin this year with, job and development possibilities to explore and a bit of a map forward. It also helped me personally to remember that we’re all asking mostly the same questions, and finding the same things difficult and that alone has some weird kind of comfort in it. It makes me think – this might be uncomfortable and complicated right now but at least everyone else is going through it too, so I must be going the right way. I’m looking forward to our next development (potentially next year now) and the next NKPDLS – so I can be updated on these exciting people and their work.

– Nikki

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Singapore pushing the boat out to sea. Week 2.

Nikki

This week has been an ‘in the forest’ kind of week. It’s sort of comforting (in an icky, uncomfortable kind of way) because it means that we’re not just skimming the surface and coming up with the obvious stuff. We’ve also all sort of become more expert in our own specific interest area. It’s important when we’re making games that we have these different perspectives and little pockets of information because it means the games have more complexity, color and reach. But it’s not a totally fun experience.

This week I have been mostly looking at the hazard communication organization and roll out for Pinatubo in 1991. So it’s been interesting to realize the disaster planning and management that occurs (ideally) in that area and also what the issues are. Part of that is also realizing that even with excellent delineation of tasks and good planning things can go wrong, unforeseen things happen (even weeks or months after an event) and that not everyone understands things in the same way. In a great example today we heard from Adam Switzer about the term ‘higher ground’. To some people that means get to the top of the nearest mountain – when it might just mean get to the 3rd or 4th or 5th story of a building – or vice versa. It’s this kind of complexity and understanding of language and concepts that this whole project is about – but it’s such a common communications issue anyhow. I’m looking forward to working out a fun way to gamify it.

Nathan

It hasn’t been the easiest week, and after last week’s blitz it was a bit jarring to slow down and wander. I think we’ve gotten really good at working through our creative process, and last week’s productivity was testament to that, but it took me until the end of this week to remember that wandering is an important part of the process too.

I’m thinking about the difference between showing a specific structure of decision-making based on a real life case study, and showing something broader.

I’m thinking about a farmer during a volcanic event asking how long will this last, and having to make awful decisions.

I’m thinking about games that aren’t fun, and how sometimes they can be very fun.

 

Gillian

Every project has a material or a process you’ll never forget. You’ll be walking through a supermarket and see a container of toothpicks that are exactly perfect for a project you completed three years ago and think “Yahtzee!” before you remember the need has long past. This time it’s going to be origami paper and farm animal shaped pencil erasers. If you see any, let me know?

The primary goal of most design is to support and assist in communicating a concept. For this development I am creating prototype game pieces that can be picked up and played with, and that communicate a sense of location and familiarity that will help players understand the complexities of disaster evacuation. I’ve only been with the team here for a week, but the ideas are starting to take shape:

At the moment, the prototype consists of 5 interlocking tiles that serves as a kind of board which can be broken apart for gameplay in smaller groups. Although this game does not necessarily require a board to play, a board game is a familiar object to most people, and invites the players to touch and interact with the game pieces. The movable but linked tiles allow for mobile gameplay, and represent a linked ecology between the represented areas.

The materials that I am using to create the model for the prototype are also familiar ones, and the most prominent of these is paper. Paper suggests fragility and impermanence to me in a way that works well when illustrating concept of the threat of disasters. It’s also a universal material, is available in designs and patterns that evoke south-east Asian cultures, and can look both old and new depending on treatment. Paper also has the advantage of being both cheap and easy to work with, which is a plus during constant trails and errors of development.

After a week of paper and glue, the Beach Tile is rocking along, and I’ve started working on the model buildings for the City tile. I’m aiming to start the Farm by Tuesday, provided there are enough pencil eraser livestock left in Singapore.

 

David

I’m just going to second Nathan and Nikki’s comments from above about it being a slow week. But then, I sometimes want to catch myself when I think things like that, because when I say ‘I’m tired’, it becomes a bit of a narrative I tell myself. Last week was easy, this week was tough. And sure, there was a bit of that, but also, good things came through, and there were real moments of pleasure and breakthrough.

The best moments of the week for me have been small ones. I got a couple of hours on Wednesday to do a bit of scripting, and later, a sentence or two of that scripting came in handy when Nathan and Rach made a game about typhoon formation. On Thursday, Muttley pushed forward and ran a large-scales systems mapping process, and I was able to sit quietly and contribute nothing while I circled around some ideas for the most boring game I’ve ever made. (Getting to sit out of the conversation when you’re not feeling it, and it not being seen as a negative, is a really valuable feature of this collaboration – sorely missed in a lot of other settings.) And today, I wanted to write a bit about making the right decisions and getting the wrong outcome – and the exact text I needed was already there, notes from our meeting with scientist David Lallemand.

So the scraps are starting – starting – to come together. Something (sorta) exists which didn’t exist two weeks ago, that’s always a good feeling.

Three stories about uncertainty

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This was an attempt to change tack and think about uncertainty in different ways.

Every day a sentry climbs the tallest tree and looks to the plain beyond the city walls. The town is worried a foreign army will invade so have given the sentry the job of keeping lookout. The sentry has seen many battles and knows what a lot of different armies look like, but doesn’t know what every army might look like. Sometimes he hears a rumble on the wind and thinks perhaps there’s an invisible army marching towards the city. Sometimes he sees a dust cloud and thinks perhaps there’s a silent army marching towards the city. At the end of every day the sentry climbs down from the tree and the general says what did you see, what did you hear, and the sentry tells the general what he saw and what he heard. And every day the general asks if he should get the troops ready for battle, because if an enemy army is on the plain then the city needs to meet them. But the sentry can only say what he saw on the plain and what he heard on the wind, so every day the general walks away without an answer.

Every year a fishing village watches for a special orange cloud that heralds the arrival of a big catch. The fish caught after this cloud appears get the village through the lean winter months, so the fishing fleet is eager to get out as soon as the cloud appears. To help see the cloud from further away, a little girl has built a telescope, and her job is to watch for the cloud and tell the fleet as soon as she spots it. Every year she spots the cloud, and the fleet has a big haul, and then in the lean months she works on the telescope so she can see the cloud even earlier. Then one year with her improved telescope the girl sees an orange cloud and behind it a green cloud, which signals a dangerous storm. But the fishers say your telescope is broken, green clouds never come at this time of the year, and we need to catch this fish. Some fishers say they never liked the telescope, that they caught fish without the telescope before and they’ll catch fish without the telescope now. Through the telescope, the girl watches as the fleet sails out and a massive storm breaks.

There is a town where the days and nights are irregular. Sometimes a day will last only a few minutes, or perhaps a night will last a week. The town has a scribe of the sun and moon whose job is to record the lengths of the days and nights, and try to find a way to predict them. This job is especially important because the nights are very cold, and the people of the town need time to prepare. The scribe works hard, and is very good at knowing how long a night will last, and showing people the signs of dawn as it approaches. But in the day the sun is bright and moves without a pattern until it approaches the horizon at dusk. The people of the town need to light their fires before dusk when they can still see, but having the fire on in the day is a waste they cannot afford. They ask the scribe, we don’t have much wood, is dusk coming, should we light our fires now, but the scribe looks to the sky and says only that they do not know.

– Nathan