Interview with Tine Bech

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 Tine Bech, a multidisciplinary artist and researcher. Her work explores the potential for transforming environments and human behaviour through the creative possibilities of play and game-making.

Her PhD thesis Playful interactions: A Critical Inquiry into Interactive Art and Play is available online, and gives a really interesting overview of some of her work and the things she’s discovered making it. The image above shows her work On The Bridge.

US: I wanted to ask about the invitations your work extends to people, these different invitations to play. You talk a lot in your thesis about how tiny little details make a big difference to how people respond – like with Catch Me Now, you talk about the difference made by how long a spotlight pauses for and how big it is, what colour it is. [Catch Me Now is a gently roaming spotlight that responds when you step into it, expanding to invite you to perform, but then quickly runs away from you]

I was wondering – is there anything more you can tell me about that? Silly example, I guess, but are there colours that are just more playful, for example?

TINE: I think for me the question of little details is more about being aware of how the body responds to different situations. I often draw on play theorists like Caillois and on aspects of letting go and having the body in movement, and how movement is the gateway into play. So I’m interested in an interactivity which is physical, visually physical gestures.

The body seems to count time differently than we do rigidly in our heads. So for something like Catch Me Now it’s very much a matter of hands-on testing, watching people, trying things out. I think the answer really is in how the body feels. It’s actually a quite fine-tuned element of interactive playing or interactive engagement that has to be quite precise.

It looks undisciplined because you’re creating something that other people are interacting with and people are wonderfully unpredictable. I’ve just written something online about this, the idea that “one subtle change, one step, leads to bigger change”. So one subtle invitation is to step in, and then there’s this sort of flow of commitment that leads to bigger things. Bigger moments.

The Scientific Village Fete

Have you ever been at a village fete, and found it just a little too… unscientific? Or wandered around a science festival and wished for some real festivities?

Well, we’re coming to New Scientist Live – a four-day festival of ideas and discovery, taking place at ExCeL London – with a solution to exactly those problems. You can challenge your friends and beat the clock in four cosmos-themed events at this space age fair:

  • Knock the planets from their perches in our Planet Shy – but be careful, the planets are made to scale, so your aim is going to have to be pretty good if you want to get Mercury.
  • Overcome the fallibility of your delicate human mind in So Wrong It’s Right, a head-to-head gameshow that pits you against your friends and against the Stroop Effect
  • Become master of the solar system in The Two Body Problem, a gravitational simulation that challenges you to choose an orbit that isn’t immediately disastrous
  • Prove your worth as an astronaut in Saffron Parker’s Space on Earth, a co-operative game that asks you to work with a friend while you both wear spacesuit gloves

The Scientific Village Fete will be running at New Scientist Live from 22 to 25 September.


Interview with Greg Trefry

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 Greg Trefry, a game designer who co-founded the games festival Come Out & Play (and is director of the New York branch); also co-founded Gigantic Mechanic, which makes games with real-world physical elements; and teaches at NYU.

This is an extract from a longer interview, which will be included in full in a report at the end of our research project. The picture above is from Come Out & Play 2015, taken by Josh Lee.

US: We’ve talked before about people being able to drop in and out of games in public spaces – and not having to install anything, and the difference that makes to persuading people to actually play.

GREG: It’s a weird design problem. Most games – as opposed to playful things – are delimited by time and space. People can push the boundaries on some of those (“oh you can run around anywhere”) but a game still usually starts at a specific time and ends at a specific time, or you’re moving towards a winner and you have to be there at the end of the game to see that.  

So how do you make an experience that isn’t ruined if players can drop in and out at any time?