A Day With Crawford

We had a lovely day at Cologne Game Lab with Chris Crawford. He held two talks. The first one was only for our students. It was a talk about the strengths of the medium and importance of exploring it. Some of the talk was material from his webinar on interactivity. But that was only a starting point for a few very interesting observations. Two stuck me in particular.

Chris talking about Star Wars

Wow, I never saw it this way! ;)

Chris made an analogy between the discovery of written language and the discovery of digital interactivity. In ancient Greece, written language was responsible for a huge economical and cultural boost. But it was also seen by many as problematic. Socrates in particular was highly critical of the written word. His main argument was that it was not possible to argue with a text. It’s funny how the lack of interactivity was the troublesome aspect for him. But written word had other advantages over the spoken word and eventually led to the scientific method – of written, linear arguments towards a certain point. Chris suggested that interactive media may trigger a second revolution – one of non-linear, branching arguments that are able to tackle complex problems with a lot of variables.

His second argument was that we are experiencing a huge split between Science and the Humanities. He was of the opinion that the gap was especially wide in the US. It was evident how the games industry was dominated by computer science thinking. He observed that the gap wasn’t that wide in Europe. He warned our students not to try making American games – they would always be second-class Americans. Instead, he suggested to develop a distinct European approach to Game Design. He was confident that an approach that unifies Humanties and Science would prove superior to utilize the medium to it’s full potential and perhaps even stop the bifurcation of our culture.

His second talk was public and was called “The Phylogeny of Play”. All the slides and major points are actually on his website so I won’t waste any time re-telling that one. Of course, you have to imagine the talk being at least 10 times as insightful when Chris Crawford is actually presenting it.

Finally, we had an hour or so to just hang around with him and chat. It was a wonderful discussion. Chris is still a bright, energetic dude with plenty of amazing ideas and the experience to back them up. In his talks he often comes across brash and perhaps even a bit arrogant. Up close and personal he is actually incredibly polite and kind. He makes quite a transformation when he goes on stage.

It was quite an experience to meet him in person. It was also good to hear so many points that echo strongly with my own beliefs. I hope we will have more opportunities to hear from Chris at Cologne Game Lab. And of course, I hope his newest project will finally have the kind of success it deserved. The things he hinted at sound like it’s going in exactly the right direction.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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