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Other people’s work

Interview with Heather Kelley

As part of our research project for the King’s College London Arts and Humanities Festival, we’ve been interviewing different curators, designers, artists and architects about playful work for public space. This interview is with Heather Kelley, a game designer, digital artist, and media curator. She co-curated the groundbreaking 2012 exhibition Joue le jeu / Play Along at La Gaîté lyrique in Paris, France, and is co-founder of Kokoromi, an experimental game collective. She’s worked on console games, physical installations, VR and pretty much every area of game design.

One of her games, Trente Pas entre Terre et Ciel (shown above, and co-created with Oscar Barda of Them Games), is a two-player jumping game derived from hopscotch which we showed at Now Play This earlier this year, so we started out by talking to her about itThis is an edited extract from the full interview, which will be included in our report at the end of the research project.

US: So I read something in your talk about making games in institutional contexts (PDF). You mentioned there that when you were making Trente Pas you spent a load of time trying out different sizes of squares for people to hop in.

HEATHER: Mmm. So we wanted the squares to convey information inherently, so things like the direction the number was facing and things like that were important because they would say what way the player should be facing at that moment.

And they had to be also accommodating of different abilities and sizes of humans. If they were too small like a child-size square it’d be too small for an adult, and it might symbolise that it’s not for them. But if it’s too big then there’s the opposite problem. Kids would think it wasn’t for them. So it was finding this sweet spot between the size of the square and also the distance of the squares from each other, because you want them to be encouraging movement! You want people to hop! But you don’t want them to have to do the long jump to get there.

And also because it’s a game for two people the distance between squares was important because sometimes you wanted those people to have to pass by each other very close, and at other times you wanted them to be apart from each other – although they might be holding hands, physically connected but at arm’s length.


US: And do you remember how big they were, the squares? What is the perfect definitive researched tested proper hopscotch size?

Interesting links for August

This month in physical games and embodied play…


The Hand Eye Society’s WordPlay festival is happening at the British Library this year, which is pretty amazing! Jo Summers (who among many, many other things is digital producer on Now Play This) is directing the festival this year, and if you’ve got a “writerly game” you might want to show, submissions are open until 28 September.

And in Bristol, there’s one and a half days left till the Playable Cities open call closes. This is a £30,000 award for the development of a new work around play and cities – this year they’re particularly interested in proposals focusing on journeys. The initial submission of an idea is pretty quick and straightforward, so if you’ve got something that might fit you should definitely, definitely pop it in.


Andy Field’s written a great short essay on games in cities – it’s for an upcoming book but he’s put it online, and it’s worth a read. It touches on the history of artists making play in public, on questions of who is permitted to play in cities, and some possible future directions. “Behind me I could hear another supervisor using a loudhailer to encourage these new players to disperse. This was not the kind of play we had anticipated, and not the role we thought we would find ourselves playing.”

Interview with Sarah Brin

As part of our research project for the King’s College London Arts and Humanities Festival, we’ve been interviewing different curators, designers, artists and architects about playful work for public space. This interview is with Sarah Brin, a writer, curator and public speaker who has a history of working with public space, new media, artist-made games, digital fabrication, public spaces, and participation. Among other things she’s been the Public Programs Manager at Autodesk’s Pier 9 Workshop, curated game exhibitions, and written extensively about games, play, and art.

The image above shows her with Sports!, an arcade cabinet she curated for Cooperative Gaming Co-Op at the Zero1 Biennial in San Jose.

US: You’ve created or curated a lot of work where you’re asking people to do something that wouldn’t normally be expected in that environment – so, games in visual arts contexts, say, or your art exhibition on a subway train. I’m curious about how you help people understand what’s being asked of them, and that a particular action is permitted in a space where it might not usually be allowed. Any particular tips or tricks?  

SARAH: Every situation has different nuances, but I find that generally the best way is to just talk to people. For example, in an art museum, if I were to install a game alongside maybe some paintings or other non-touchable art, I’d make sure there was a chair to sit in, or a controller on a pedestal in front of a screen, preferably with some “it’s okay to touch!” signage. I’d watch how people interfaced with the work, and then, depending on the response, I’d modify how the work was presented. It can be really nice to have an in-gallery “Dungeon Master” to ask things like “do you want to play a game?” or “did you know you can touch this?” or “did you know that the artist made this entirely out of toilet paper?”