An encounter with Patrick Moore (people are complicated)

A story I would like to share, on hearing that Patrick Moore passed away today (or perhaps yesterday). Already twitter is filled with a mix of sadness at his death and discussion of his positive legacy for science, but also reminders of his sexist comments and fairly extreme right wing views. I think it’s OK to talk about both these things, challenging the latter and celebrating the former.

When I was much younger I was a huge astronomy nerd and Moore was obviously an icon. When I was perhaps around 11 or 12 I was at an astronomy conference in London with my mother, who would escort me to astronomy weekends, observatory viewing sessions, and events like this. Yeah, I know, I was a weird kid. During a coffee break at the conference, Patrick Moore was there just sort of hanging out, and my mother encouraged me to go say hello.

I did, and Moore was charming and friendly. He was obviously pleased that I was so enthusiastic about the subject, apologised that he couldn’t talk for longer, and invited me and my mother to come visit him in Selsey. We arranged a time to do so via post (imagine, using the postal service to arrange a meeting!). I even kept his typewritten notes to me, see below, so I must have been a bit starstruck (pun intended).

A message from Patrick Moore
A message from Patrick Moore

We went to visit during a holiday nearby, and he was a great host. He showed us his telescope (no jokes please, seriously) and various bits of astronomical equipment and garden observatory. Finding out that I played music, he played his xylophone and recordings of some marches. We had tea and cake. He was clearly keen to encourage my interest in astronomy and science. We left after a couple of hours of visiting and that was the end of any correspondence, beyond a thank you letter from me of course, but the encounter left a huge impression on me.

Years later, I was immensely disappointed to discover his political views, and especially disappointed to hear his sexist comments about women ruining TV and so on. How to square this with the avuncular character I’d met who was so supportive of my enthusism for science? People contain multitudes, I guess. His views are clearly more complex than the impression you get from what is reported, but this isn’t a defence of them. It’s disappointing that he wasn’t challenged more on this in his lifetime.

We sometimes forget that people in the public eye are as nuanced, messy and complicated as any of the rest of us, and we shouldn’t expect them to be otherwise. We can be grateful for Patrick Moore’s kindness and great work in popularising astronomy and angry about his views at the same time.

On the BBC #FusionGames Summit, changing the tune about educational games, and Susan Bloody Greenfield

As I sat in the audience at a session called “Learning To Game or Gaming To Learn?” at last Wednesday’s BBC Academy’s Fusion Summit on games in Salford, I became rather frustrated. The session had been billed thusly:

How far should broadcasters use games as a vehicle for learning? Join some of the finest minds in the field as they wrestle with the future of learning games and the controversial subject of gamification.

On the panel were Mark Sorrell (Hide and Seek), Carlton Reeve (Play With Learning), Tom Kenyon (NESTA), Phil Stuart (Preloaded), John Milner (Bitesize, BBC Knowledge & Learning), and they were being questioned by Kate Russell of BBC Click. Undoubtedly a great line-up, yet it was all rather unsatisfying, and also rather familiar.

This is my attempt to explain and unpick this frustration, which is actually a more general frustration with the way educational games are so often treated with scepticism and distrust. This isn’t really a criticism of those involved in the panel, since it was just playing out in the same way that these sorts of discussions always do, and probably are always expected to.

Starting the session with a discussion about gamification didn’t help. Russell acknowledged that it wasn’t going to go down well with some of the audience, and winced as she said it (as I did writing it, ugh). So much has already been said on this subject, whether gamification is just pointsification, whether it mistakes the extrinsic trappings of gaming for the reason why people enjoy games, whether it should be reclaimed as just meaning adding game mechanics to content and so on.

Most people do seem to understand it to mean pointsification, and I can’t see this having any more than limited value. In this context, it’s also a total distraction. This isn’t really what people are talking about when they talk about games based learning in my experience, so it’s a shame it took up so much of the panel’s time. In fact, it’s a shame gamification has taken up so much time on so many conference panels and sessions over the last couple of years, can we possibly move on from this now?

But it was the next few questions that troubled me more. Russell asked “do educational games work?” And “where’s the evidence?” Now, it’s not that I think we shouldn’t ask these questions, but it seems that these questions are all anyone ever asks about educational games. The implication always seems to be that one should be hugely sceptical of such an outlandish and possibly even NEUROLOGICALLY DANGEROUS (more on that later) concept, and that educational games exponents had better have some seriously good evidence up their sleeves if we are to countenance allowing their nutty ideas into our schools and homes.

This makes me weary. It is really such a leap to see that an activity so absorbing as playing a good game, could be harnessed for learning of some sort? An activity whose very essence is about learning, as you must do to improve in any game? Does it trouble people that much that it might be possible to have fun whilst learning? (Note: not that learning in and of itself can’t be fun, but if there was a better way of educating children that all of them would really enjoy, shouldn’t we be really happy about that and keen to explore it further?) Some of the panel did indeed make some of these points, but were rather on the back foot in the face of this slightly negative questioning. Asked to think of evidence off the top of their heads, they were unsurprisingly unable to cite any academic papers in support of their position.

Gran Turismo Academy was mentioned (by Mark Sorrell IIRC) where players were put in real cars, and performed brilliantly, despite only ever having played the game before.  It’s a great example, but in the rest of the discussion little other evidence was mentioned and the conclusion was that there wasn’t much out there. I couldn’t think of any either off the top of my head at the time, but a google search shows there’s a fair bit out there. I’m pretty sure the military wouldn’t be so keen on using games in their training if they didn’t have some good evidence, for example. But maybe all of us involved with games for educational purposes should be better versed in the literature (and there is definitely a discussion about better dissemination about this sort of research and evaluation to be had at some point).

Testing the efficacy of games in learning is always going to be tricky though. For example, testing existing games may show that some of them are poor learning tools, but you couldn’t conclude from that that all games are poor learning tools or that it’s impossible for games to work in this way. And perhaps this is a rather back to front approach anyway for those making the games. Using what we know about the science of learning and good gameplay to make great educational games, with the majority of the testing taking place in formative stages would surely be more effective?

This week I read the Nesta Decoding Learning report, which makes a similar point about starting from good learning principles when creating digital educational tools, and which I highly recommend. I’ve also had a number of discussions recently with people who are indeed working on this basis, which is great, and it may be that this line of thinking isn’t news to many people working on educational games and technology.

So why do we always end up on the back foot in discussions like this? Why is the default position apparently one of scepticism? Responding with examples of the odd good game based learning initiative or stats about how the games industry is huge, broadly equal in terms of gender, not just played by teenage boys in their…snore… doesn’t appear to be making a difference. I hear this defensive tone so frequently and, hands up, have definitely been guilty of doing this myself in the past. Especially to audiences I assume will be sceptical (science types, for example). I promise to stop doing that now. But I have heard this discussion about whether or not educational games can work so frequently in conferences, articles and from people outside the “industry”, and it never seems to move on.

Perhaps we’re doing it wrong. As I tweeted at the time, perhaps all this defensive navel gazing is counter-productive. Perhaps it’s merely reinforcing the impression that the scepticism is right. I think many others in this area, like myself, know in our hearts that there is much potential here; that there is something in games which could work really well for increasing people’s understanding of subjects, situations, and systems. There may well be aspects of learning that games are not good at too, of course, but I don’t think it’s so far-fetched to think they could be very powerful educational tools.

Let’s not allow the likes of Susan Greenfield and her Daily Mail pleasing nonsense about video games set the agenda around this. She might not be able to point at any actual evidence for her claims, but we can. (On another note, if she thinks games have so much potential for evil, they must be powerful things, and therefore have potential for much good too. And of course they change the brain, as any repeated activity will, and this is not necessarily a negative response, as well she knows. But I digress). Let’s not sit back and wait for others to confer respectability on this area, let’s set examples, continue to do great work, and let’s talk instead about how to deal with the real and meaty challenges facing educational games: reaching teachers, funding projects, being heard above the noise, and so on.

On that note, we do actually get into the genuine issues around games based learning at the London Educational Games Meetup group (LEGup). Please do come along to talk games, share learnings, tell me I’m full of crap, or tell me how you think we can change the tune on this issue.

Bring out your games evaluations

Games evaluation page on the museum games wiki
Games evaluation page on the museum games wiki

So, the games evaluation page on the museum games wiki is looking a little sparse. The only thing up there at the moment is the High Tea evaluation. I should be getting a couple of others up there soon, but I’m hoping there are others out there we could add.

Do you have any sort of games evaluation that you’d be happy to have published/linked to from here? It doesn’t have to be a museum game to be useful, any sort of game evaluation would probably be relevant to those developing museum games. It could be a formal document, blog post, presentation. Just something that talks about what you did with your game, what your aims with it were, and what you did to test whether it achieved those aims.

Let me know in the comments or via twitter, where I’m @marthasadie. Thanks in anticipation…

Notes from #SXSWi: Public Lab: Mapping, DIY Activism & Civic Science #PublicLab

I’m attempting to write up every single session I went to at SXSWi. Will be mostly about games, but also how tech can kill, neuroscience, digital anthropology, civic science and more.


A video introduction to the Public Laboratory of Open Technology and Science.

Public Lab: Mapping, DIY Activism & Civic Science

This session was an introduction to an extremely interesting organisation: The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS). In their own words, they are “a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental exploration and investigation”. They provide simple tools and DIY solutions that enable people to collect data about their environment. The applications of this are absolutely fascinating and potentially very important.

As the panel explained, much environmental data is effectively owned by agencies and major organisations. Moreover, the standard tools for collecting this sort of information are expensive and proprietary, requiring serious investment in hardware or software. This creates an imbalance, especially in communities where the environment is under stress as a result of the action of big companies, think of the BP oil spill (more on that later). Those communities don’t usually have the means to collect their own data. PLOTS aims to change this.

They call what they do “civic science”: enabling projects which are community developed and community owned. They were keen to distinguish this from “citizen science”, which they defined as crowdsourcing data that then goes back to a big agency or research team, out of the hands of the people that collected it. The tools they develop are low cost and open source and information is shared under a creative commons share-alike license.

To give an example, during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, people along the Gulf Coast wanted their own monitoring tools to see what was really happening to their shores. They clearly mistrusted the official line, and wanted to see for themselves. So PLOTS provided the information and tools to do this, particularly in the form of aerial mapping, and funded the project via Kickstarter. The rig for the aerial mapping technology is deliberately basic, uses balloons, a soda bottle and a camera, and yet can produce data “an order of magnitude better than Google maps”, they claimed. You can see the rig here, and more information about the Gulf Coast project here.

The aerial mapping tools have also been used by protestors to monitor demonstrations. For example this article on The Verge has pictures of balloon rigs being used by Occupy Wall Street protesters. This and other mapping projects can be found on the Grassroots Mapping site. From the PLOTS website:

Maps are often used by those in power to exert influence over territory, or control territorial narratives. “Grassroots mapping” attempts to invert this dynamic by using maps as a mode of communication and as evidence for an alternative, community-owned definition of a territory. To date, our tools have been used to contest official maps or rhetoric by enabling communities to map sites that are not included in official maps. In Lima Peru, members of an informal settlement developed maps of their community as evidence of their habitation, while on the Gulf Coast of the US, locally produced maps of oil are being used to document damage that is underreported by the state.

Mapping can be hugely political, and as they say, this has traditionally been a tool only for those in power to wield. It’s exciting to see the tools being made available to try and redress this imbalance, but the challenges don’t end there. Firstly, it is important, they said, for people carrying out aerial mapping activity to consider how what they are doing might be perceived. After all, people may be unsettled by unmanned flying objects taking pictures of them if they don’t know what it’s for.

More significantly, though, there is the hurdle of getting your data recognised by authorities. Particularly, I imagine, if it is data that contradicts the official information. They have to be careful about the chain of custody for data to make sure that its legitimate and can’t be called into question. Also, they have to go through a legal process for advocacy which they described as “frustrating”.

But it sounds like they are doing good work, and it’s an inspirational idea. I did a bit of digging, but haven’t turned up any similar projects here in the UK. Anyone heard of any?

The whole session was recorded and you can listen to it here. You can also follow PLOTS on twitter: @publiclab.

Notes from #SXSWi: A New Culture of Learning: Gaming, Tech, Design #newlearn

I’m attempting to write up every single session I went to at SXSWi. Will be mostly about games, but also how tech can kill, neuroscience, digital anthropology, civic science and more.


Trailer for TiltWorld

Heather Staker, Nicole Lazzaro and Scott Stropkay: A New Culture of Learning: Gaming, Tech, Design

This fascinating session invited us “to imagine a future of learning that is as powerful as it is optimistic”. It was a discussion on “exploring play, innovation, and the cultivation of the imagination as cornerstones of learning” with three speakers:  Heather Staker, of the Innosight Institute, a “a nonprofit think tank devoted to applying the theories of disruptive innovation to problems in the social sector”, which sounds pretty interesting; Nicole Lazzaro, founder of XEODesign, a “Player Experience Design” consulting company; and Scott Stropkay, a “Lateral-thinker, envisioneer, strategist, designer, prototyper, builder” and founder of Essential Design. You can listen to the whole thing on the link above, and I recommend it, but here are some of my highlights from the session.

Nicole Lazzaro introduce us to her 4 keys to fun, or principles of game design, available as a poster. It sounds like XEO design do a lot of interesting research as part of their design process, including something called facial emotion coding (this?). She also mentioned the work of Clayton Christensen, author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. And she introduced us to the new release from her company, Tiltworld, a iPhone game that aims to both educate players about the environment but also have a direct impact in that points gained result in trees being planted in Madagascar. Games in general were much discussed as effective learning tools.

The panel discussed innovation in the classroom. A good example, apparently, is work being done in Singapore where large scale efforts are underway to change the way kids learn. Another was the Carpe Diem school which offers online as well as campus learning and puts the emphasis on students taking control of their own learning. I liked the concept of teachers as coaches, helping individuals to “get unstuck”. The Carpe Diem school is an example of something called Blended Learning, which is based around using a mix of different learning environments.

Design based learning also came up, which sounds intriguing. It appears to be based around setting students problems to solve, which “empowers kids to think of themselves as creative problem solvers”. That from Scott Stropkay, if I remember rightly. This article seems like it may explain more. Somewhat inevitably, the incredibly successful Khan Academy was also brought up.

But currently, this innovation isn’t making it into the mainstream in the US, as Stropkay pointed out. Heather Staker agreed that it’s very hard to break into the traditional learning system, as it’s so entrenched. She also noted that we shouldn’t forget that actually not all students want to learn in this way.

Lots of food for thought, then, in this session, which opened my eyes to the possibilities for taking education in new directions. Listen to the whole thing here.

Evaluating games: learning through play? (SCC2012 panel) #SciCom12

[slideshare id=12921875&doc=summativeevalmh-120514035048-phpapp02]

Above are the slides from my talk about summative evaluation of games for a panel on different approaches to evaluating games for this year’s Science Communication Conference. The panel also featured Hannah Clipson, from the Science Museum, and Helen Kennedy, from the University of the West of England and the Digital Cultures Research Centre.

I haven’t added more notes for these slides, because my talk was almost entirely based on the evaluation we did for High Tea, which you can read here on the Museum Games Wiki.

We also recently presented a paper at Museums and the Web 2012 on games evaluation of all types with colleagues at the Science Museum and National Space Center,  entitled Levelling Up: Towards Best Practice in Evaluating Museum Games.

Hope you found the panel interesting, do feel free to feedback in the comments.

Examples of experimental/art games

Screenshot from Every Day The Same Dream
Screenshot from Every Day The Same Dream

We’ve been playing The Company of Myself and Dys4ia in today’s Games Club at work, run by Tomas Rawlings. This sparked off a conversation about experimental/art games (which I’m not going to try and define here, I think you’ll get the gist) and some really great examples were mentioned. I thought it would be useful to collate these somewhere, not least because every time this subject comes up I have to try and dig up the examples I dimly remember to send people links, “oh it’s this game about suicide or something by an, um, Daniel someone, I’ll go look it up”.

So here’s my list, with several examples via Danny Birchall (updated to add examples from Phil Stuart).

Update 22.09.12 Some more examples from Mathias Poulsen, who has two lists for “Poetic” and “Newsgames“, I think I like “poetic” and “news” better as descriptions.

Anyone got more good or interesting examples I can add to the list?

Notes from #SXSWi: Games 4 Change: Great Power, Great Responsibility #g4c

I’m attempting to write up every single session I went to at SXSWi. Will be mostly about games, but also how tech can kill, neuroscience, digital anthropology, civic science and more.


Trailer for Peacemaker the Game.

Asi Burak: Games 4 Change: Great Power, Great Responsibility

A very interesting talk at the end of a very long day by Asi Burak, Co-President of Games for Change. As their name suggests, this non-profit organisation has a mission to, as they state: “catalyse social impact through digital games”. They run a conference/festival in June each year which I am a little bit gutted not to be going to, and have a Google group for discussions on the subject of Games for Change.

To kick off, Burak gave us a little background on himself, which he said was key to understanding how he came to be so convinced by the potential of games to do good. After serving in the Israeli intelligence corps for 5 years, he went on to join a mobile company working on location based services (if I recall correctly, it may also have had something to do with games). But the situation in the Middle East obviously troubled him, and he left for Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University where he studied Entertainment Technology. He mentioned the influence of Randy Pausch, whose Last Lecture, entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” (and covering virtual reality and teaching kids to code) I am listening to as I write this. It’s worth a watch if you aren’t one of the millions of people who’ve already seen it.

With his experiences in Israel in mind, Burak set about creating a game about the Middle East conflict. The result was Peacemaker, the trailer for which is at the top of this post. In this game, your objective is to solve the conflict whilst playing as either the Israeli Prime Minister or Palestinian President. You have a number of options to achieve this, both peaceful and military. It’s a bold idea for a game, which I hope to try at some point. What was perhaps most valuable about the game, said Burak, was the discussion that it provoked afterwards. It’s actually being used as part of workshops in the region for that purpose.

Peacemaker was released in 2007, but not everyone at that time was so convinced about games. He mentioned Hilary Clinton’s quote from 2005 that video games were a “silent epidemic” amongst kids. But for Burak it was clear: games are a powerful tool for social change. They provide continuous engagement, unlike films, for example, and are hugely popular. He recommended reading James Paul Gee, who has published books on the subject.

Things have changed since 2007 and perhaps now, he said, we are actually at the “hyperbole” moment, where grand claims are being made for the ability of games to change the world. This is a bit over the top, he said, mentioning gamification and the evangelism of Jane McGonigal as being an example of this (in the nicest possible way, I think, especially given that she’s on the advisory board for Games for Change). In fact, he said, we’re somewhere in between. There’s some interesting stuff going on, but it’s not yet hit its potential. There is no distribution system for games of this type, for example, though I’d argue that they’d have more impact being distributed in the same place as other games. Perhaps not for teaching purposes though.

We were then given some other examples of “games for change”:

iCivics: this site provides resources, including games, on the subject of citizenship. According to their evaluation, 78% of students better understood the subject after playing, and a large proportion also wanted to play on at home.

Freedom HIV/AIDS: This set of 4 mobile games made by ZMQ, was developed to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS and was launched in India across 9 million handsets on its first day. Their evaluation demonstrated a positive change in attitude after playing the games.

He mentioned FoldIt, which I’ve written about before, and various initiatives to get kids making their own games, such as Gamestar Mechanic and the AMD Foundation. In contrast to Hilary Clinton’s earlier scaremongering about games, the Obama administration seems to have come around to the idea that games can be used for good as evidenced by the National STEM Video Game Challenge and there is now a games consultant at the White House.

We came on to games evaluation, a subject close to my heart. He used the example of Re-mission, a game for “young adults living with cancer”, which took game evaluation to another level. This game has been tested in a randomised control trial, published here, which showed that the game improved “treatment adherence, cancer knowledge and self-efficacy”.

So, a talk that gave me a lot to think about, and included some fascinating case studies. You can listen to the whole thing here. And now, as I’m getting to the end of writing this, I’m also getting to the end of Randy Pausch’s entertaining “Last Lecture”. He’s just told us about his “legacy”, Alice. Alice is free software for teaching students computer programming, and also worth a look.


Notes from #SXSWi: Live the Game. Storymaker, Stupid Fun Club and Will Wright #stupidfun

I’m attempting to write up every single session I went to at SXSWi. Will be mostly about games, but also how tech can kill, neuroscience, digital anthropology, civic science and more.

iPad water balloon game

Live the Game: A Lifestyle with a Gaming Sense

The SXSW schedule stated that this talk was going to “explore the cross pollination of games with life” and discuss “how the next generation of mobile local social games and lifestyle apps will create opportunities to experience new dimensions of life, and lifestyles with a gaming sense”. That isn’t really what I got from it, but I think I was either a little distracted or perhaps the session was a bit incoherent, especially the second half that involved flinging water balloons at iPads using a trebuchet. Never did get why that was happening.

The talk was by Peter Swearengen and Tish Shute of Stupid Fun Club Inc. This three year old start-up is the brainchild of Will Wright, creator of SimCity, The Sims and Spore. It’s not easy to figure this out from their terrifically annoying website, but they seem to be doing something with robots that operates across different platforms including the web. And possibly some other stuff. It’s not really clear what, exactly, but there is a little more detail in these interviews with Will Wright from Wired and CNET.

They discussed the huge power of creativity, not just in terms of what it can create but because it is sticky and because it is its own intrinsic reward. They used the example of Spore, which saw millions making their own creatures. This included the creation of 13 million penises in just two weeks, suggesting, depending on your point of view, that not all creativity is necessarily positive.

The highlight of the talk for me though was finding out about Storymaker, a collaboration between Will Wright, ex-Nickelodeon president Albie Hecht, and Current TV. This tool allows a community to create a story together, in this case a TV series call Bar Karma. The series appears to be no longer available on Current, but there are some more details on its Wikipedia page and a few pages on Current that still have related content. This article on hacktext talks about the Storymaker tool in more detail and this interview with Will Wright and others about the project gives a little more insight into the ideas and inspiration behind it. It does sound like a great idea, but from the very critical IMDB boards for the series it seems like the end show wasn’t that well received. It would be interesting to see a more in depth evaluation of how Bar Karma worked, how many people got involved and so on.

Next up for the company, they said, was storytelling the ambient environment: encouraging people to re-explore the places where they live. And then they set up a trebuchet and used it to chuck full water balloons at an iPad which had a sucker mounted handle to allow the user to try and catch the water balloon with the device. Audience members volunteered to have a go, donned some nominal protective gear, grabbed the iPad by the handle and tried to “catch” the balloon on the screen. A direct hit/catch caused the app to make a breaking sound and bring up an image that made it appear that the screen had been shattered.

Sadly, the audience found it too easy, no water was spilled and the demo was pretty underwhelming considering all the faff it required to set up. It would have been more interesting to get a better picture of what they were up to as a company and what the ideas behind it were, but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what they actually do next.

Notes from #SXSWi: Applied Improvisation: Preparing to Be Unprepared #Improv

I’m attempting to write up every single session I went to at SXSWi. Will be mostly about games, but also how tech can kill, neuroscience, digital anthropology, civic science and more.


There were actually three talks about improvision that sounded quite interesting at SXSW. I made it to this short, 15 minute presentation, but not the others. Fortunately, those other two have both had the audio posted online, though I haven’t had a chance to listen yet:

Change Happens: Improv for an Unpredictable World. “…how improv can increase your adaptability”.

Storytelling: From the Bar to the Boardroom. “Using techniques adopted from improv and sketch comedy – you’ll learn how to craft a story that your audience will remember long after you have gone.”


Brad Temple on Applied Improvisation: Preparing to Be Unprepared

Back to this talk, then, which was part of the Future 15 series of short talks. In it, Brad Temple of the Austin Improv Collective discussed the ways in which the principles of improvisional theatre can be applied to everyday life, and work in particular.

He started with a historical example from Xerox, who had been trying to create a full manual for their engineers. They found that the many combinations of possible problems across all their machines were impossible to fully document, it was too huge a task. They recognised that their engineers would have to be able to improvise, but that that was OK.

Some myths about improv, according to Temple.

  • It never fails
  • Only some people can do it
  • Improv is comedy
  • It doesn’t have frameworks or rules

What is true about improv?

  • It’s a process
  • It improves with practice
  • It’s usually collaborative
  • It’s a combination of making do, and letting go

There was, he said, very limited literature on the subject, or particularly good empirical evidence for its use, but he was obviously convinced it was a valuable tool. He did point us towards the work of Mary Crossan (I actually wrote down Mary Cross, but some research tells me Mary Crossan is more likely to be the right person!) who has written on business and improvisation. He also mentioned Viola Spolin, who was influential in improvisational theatre and used games to develop the relevant skills.

So what are the main principles of improvisation?

  • Teamwork, trust and support
  • Failure is not only OK but crucial
  • Making your teammates look good
  • Being in the moment
  • Not premeditating or dwelling on past mistakes
  • Listening and communication, really hearing what people are saying
  • Agreement, and building upon others ideas – “yes, and…” rather than “no, but…”
  • Minimal structures, maximal flexibility

Being such a short talk it was lacking in case studies and details that might have made it a bit clearer how this might work in practice, but still, some interesting ideas, I thought.