Tired, a bit drunk, in wonderful company & so incredibly thankful for the way #counterplay14 played out – thank you!
— Mathias Poulsen (@mathiaspoulsen) April 4, 2014
That’s how I felt Friday afternoon & evening, when CounterPlay ’14 had reached its conclusion, and I was having a few beers with the last remaining speakers & participants.
Now I’ve had a bit more time to let it all sink in, and I feel like attaching some words to my thoughts.
If you’re looking for the short version:
I had an amazing time, met so many inspiring people, it all played out better than I could have hoped for, and I’m eager to start working on #CounterPlay15.
If you’ve got a bit more time, keep reading:
What really struck me, right from the start, was the atmosphere at the festival.
It was somehow instantly relaxed, informal, cozy and welcoming.
I felt it wherever I went: at the talks, where people were laughing and participating actively, at the playground, where everybody was talking & playing, and in all the small “spaces” between scheduled activities. For some reason, this view during the lunch break really made me feel good, people scattered around, also out in the park:
Speaking of park, spending lunch break like this is a perfect image of how I experienced the atmosphere:
This means a lot to me, and it may be the single most important success criterion for the entire festival.
I feel confident that such a climate increases the likelihood of people having meaningful conversations, playing around (maybe even making a fool of themselves), and making strong connections with each other.
On a more personal level, I immediately felt at home, and despite my excitement & nervousness, I couldn’t help but become more calm and relaxed in these surroundings.
I don’t know exactly how it turned out this way, but maybe my informal way of communicating helped a bit? Maybe my initial announcement that everything’s an experiement worked (thx, Zuraida for that shot):
Curiosity & diversity
With the three tracks at CounterPlay, I am targeting three different, very broad, heterogenic & not clearly defined groups of professionals.
In the months leading up the festival, I was thinking a lot about how to make sure these audiences were actually going to be represented. While I’ve been working in all the three areas, I believe I have the strongest network in relation to “learning”, then “culture” and finally “business”. This was mirrored the distribution of the participants.
One of my biggest concerns was directly tied to this:
Would people mostly be interested in one track (e.g. Playful Learning), leaving the other tracks empty?
I was extremely pleased & relieved to see, that these concerns had been more or less unfounded. We somehow ended up with a diverse crowd of people coming from many different areas, but with (at least) one common denominator: curiosity.
This curiosity resulted in a nice flow of people between the tracks, the playground and the workshops; a constant migration from here to there, which in itself sparked energy, conversations & play.
For that, I need to shout a big:
to everybody participating for bringing such an open mind!
Even so, I’ll be working with growing the audiences for the three tracks towards #CounterPlay15,
One of the biggest problems with organizing an event like this, with several tracks, is the inherent impossibility of seeing all the talks. I would literally have liked to attend every single one, but I just kept running around, staying at every talk only for a few minutes before moving on.
Knowing this, I couldn’t possibly do the wonderful speakers any real justice by trying to say anything clever about the content. That being said, I need to point out, that I was utterly impressed by the general level of commitment. Whether they were speaking in the big lecture hall in front of +100 people, or in the much smaller “Playful Business” track in front of 20-30 people, I got the impression that all the speakers were incredibly engaged.
I’ve said before, that it has been a humbling experience to receive such strong support from the speakers (many of whom I didn’t know at all beforehand). This feeling is only more outspoken now, having met them all & gauged their passion & dedication.
I remain incredibly grateful and impressed by all these people (whom I hope want to be part of shaping CounterPlay in the years to come).
While I has been trying to achieve some variety in terms of formats, it was limited to regular talks, PechaKucha talks and open space sessions this first time around. I’ll be exploring other possibilities like panels and more interactive approaches.
At the library entrance hall, we had a small playground or expo, where many different games & playful activities were being showed & played:
— Mathias Poulsen (@mathiaspoulsen) April 7, 2014
I was really happy with the fairly chaotic layout of the playground, the fact that people were playing at (more or less) all times during the festival, and that it was calm enough that Jean-Baptiste Huynh could show DragonBox Geometry to a couple of kids (that Stine Liv Johansen brought along on Friday):
For next year, I would like to build a larger playground, that has even more different activities, more diversity, more physical (inter)action (also outdoors) etc.
We had planned 5 quite different workshops during the festival (read more here). While I didn’t participate in any of these, I got the feeling, that they went well, and that people appreciated to get a bit closer to practical implementation in informal settings. For next year, I’m thinking we should have more workshops, greater diversity, and I could probably consider announcing them a bit earlier and with more clarity 🙂
Spilbar & dinner
On Thursday afternoon, we went to “Godsbanen” for Spilbar & later on dinner. Thomas Gregersen from Shareplay had put together a great event with lots of “local multiplayer” games like JS Joust, Laza Knitez!!, Stikbold! and Spin the Bottle.
It was a perfect break from the packed schedule at the library, and people seemed to have a great time, playing games, talking, relaxing, drawing: Dinner was nice, and people just kept playing different games:
I could continue, because there’s so many thoughts & observations, that I’d like to share. I think I’ll resist, and simply finish with a short & brilliant quote from the final keynote, Miguel Sicart, which wrapped everything up nicely (while making my thoughts move frantically in all directions):
These are all just some of the impressions from this first edition, and I’m working on a slightly more formal evaluation, which I’ll present in future post(s).
Also, remember that the conversation about #CounterPlay15 has already begun, and you’re most welcome to participate. CounterPlay will always stay open & transparent, and it will continue to be shaped by anybody that care.