Technology and Folk Games

Extracted 05MAR2012 from

For the past three years, Die Gute Fabrik’s Doug Wilson has been researching and working on a PhD dissertation about folk games, even while developing games like Johann Sebastian Joust and B.U.T.T.O.N. with his Copenhagen-based colleagues...

What’s a “folk game,” exactly? Wilson cites a Denmark researcher’s description of “traditional, ethnic or indigenous sports and games… it can also include new activities based on traditional practices,” he says.

Folk games are play activities that are easy to understand, to play and to teach, requiring a minimum of equipment -- they’re simple games that are easy to understand for spectators and easy to learn for the players; they require common equipment that most people have around or can make, like balls and bats, if they require equipment at all.

Folk games travel as a form of cultural language, as well; players, cultures or families frequently tailor the “house rules” to how they like to play, which is why they evolve organically through time and across cultures...

Motion control tech is surprisingly limited, though. “Despite all these promises and optimism, all these technologies kind of suck, is the reality. And to me that’s awesome – it’s precisely because these technologies suck that [they are] interesting.”

Rather than fight the complex problems in gesture recognition tech, designers have opportunities to find new ways to play based on what the tech can do. “Let’s just do exactly what this technology does, so we don’t have to fight… and to pretend.”

This advice is especially valuable to indies, who don’t have the time and money to create complicated algorithms to, say, get he Kinect to track four people at once. “It’s more effective and productive to offload that approach onto players,” he says, jokingly calling it “the lazy man’s approach to motion control.”

...For him, it’s about repurposing technology objects to give them additional meaning, not to rely on technology for play. “I’m not interested in how technology can improve games; I’m interested in how games can improve technology,” he says.