Having followed the Gambaloa project with interest for some time, I was honoured to be invited to give a keynote at the project’s final conference in Berlin.
Held at the Haus der Wirtschaft, at the west end of the Tiergarten, the conference made the most of its location in this fabulous city, mixing papers and workshops with outdoor excursions.
I opened the first day with a keynote which reviewed existing data and trends relating to older adults (and ‘mature students’) in games and education, then considered the redesign of an existing simple contextual game I’d designed for the Museums Computer Group (Curate-a-fact) with older learners in mind – and we all tested this out by playing a fast (and hotly contested) game, Bernd Remele’s team winning with a suitably arty ‘I/eye’ theme fitting the Berlin ethos. Briefing papers from the three partner institutions came next, covering their work on health and business themes.
Before dinner, we visited the Computerspielemuseum – a guided tour, followed by a playful exploration of the working exhibits (Marcus Geeraerts – one of the fabulous student representatives from KUL along with Lien Van Der Stock and Evelien Luts – coming off worse in a torture console, whilst myself and Nicola Whitton gleefully discovered an original Monkey Island, and battled Nathalie Charlier at Gauntlet).
The following morning we heard a pair of fascinating papers from Vero Vanden Abeele and Marcus Geeraerts – Vero demonstrating some of the digital games her company has designed for elderly users; while Marcus helped us to realise what games mean to those with physical or learning disabilities – and how adjustments can be made to ensure everyone can participate and enjoy games and sports at either leisure or more competitive levels.
Gamestorm then took us through a 90-minute rapid game development exercise, which produced at least three very playable board games (my favourites being the quacking frogs on a wall, the rather risqué Blowdown, and Lien and Bernd acting out Push-Push in human form). It was a great exercise, but our creativity didn’t end there. Jana Wendler (http://greenplaylab.co.uk ) took us through the slightly subversive world of pervasive games, and then transformed the conference hall into a medieval trebuchet battle between warring houses – who ever knew bottle tops and white boards were such dangerous weapons?
We finished the day with a ‘pimped up’ bicycle tour across Berlin – myself and Clare Hamshire taking the tandem (and going through a rapid shared learning experience in doing so!) – travelling through the beautiful Tiergarten before some of the famous – and not so famous – sights of the city. A delicious Thai meal followed, accompanied by a range of word-and-action games around the table, and there was much discussion of games, learning and other shared interests long into the night.
Overall, the event was a great example of how and why games can be used in learning for all ages and abilities – the varied mix of activities, the city and (most importantly) the fabulous people making it a very rewarding experience.