Back from Plaython…


We’re back! (a couple of weeks now – time flies!) from sunny Greece, having spent two days at the brilliant Plaython festival in Athens, where we collaborated with Pollie Barden on the memory and psychogeographic game “Hippokampos in the Grey Matter. ”

Hippokampos in the Grey Matter has evolved thought several play tests. The premiss for the game now is a new myth we wrote, based on a Greek myth. Poseidon, angry for loosing the right to guard Athens to Athena, cursed anyone that left the walls of Athens with the loss of the memory of how to return to the city.  The aim was to leave Odysseus clues with his hippokampos, (a mythical creature half horse, half serpent) for his return journey.

The game centred around mapping memories to new locations, sharing and “editing” them by replacing original landmarks with new ones found around the new location. Palm trees became a row of orange gas pipes in the old power station grounds of Technopolis, where Plaython took place.

Day 1. The workshop
Participants wrote the memory walk in the morning. They decided to compose a walk familiar to all of them that went through a local park, using google maps.

They then placed the clues, with hints and landmarks, around the old gas works.

Day 2.
Game players followed the clues around the site, photographing their interpretation of the landmarks, and creating new perspectives on a memory.

Thanks so much to Chloe, Artemis and all our wonderful helpers for such a great weekend!!

Pollie is a researcher at Queen Mary’s University, on the Media Arts and Technology PhD programme, and is exploring memory and  in her work.

Pollie Barden:
This game experience is inspired by psychogeography practice and research in the temporal memory. Psychogeography approaches our landscape through our human emotional and behavioral responses, instead strictly measurements of distance and features.

Psychogeography practice aims to find the wonder in our familiar surroundings.

Temporal memory describes how we organize our memories. In particular to spatial memory. For example, how we remember where we parked our car in a large parking lot.

With Hippocampus, we took someone’s memory of a favorite walk. (Temporal) and worked with them to extract the salients elements of the experience. Then used those elements to reimagine the walk in completely different space.

The workshop was important in exploring how people recall memories. In particular , in the workshop all the participants had visited the park. Therefore they collaborated and debated what were the important elements in their experience that they wanted to players to experience. We gave them the limit of 5 identifying experiences. The constraint helped to keep the experience focused.

The game:  The players explore a space by hunting for hidden memory boxes. When they find box they photograph themselves recreating the memory. The end outcome is new interoperation of the experience.

The players are exploring the current space not as it as “other” space. They are playing with the memory of the creators.

The interesting outcome from the playtesting this game is the development of the hook for the players to step into the “memory” of the game space.

In earlier playtests, where players were only told they were uncovering memories, they found it hard to take on the exploration not knowing what they were recreating.

For Athens, we created a myth that Poseidon, had stolen the memory from the Odysseus . The memory was broken into 5 pieces and guarded by his hippokampos (half horse/half seahorse). The player is Odysseus and he must recover the parts to form the memory so Odysseus can return home to Athens.

In Athens, the game was mainly played by families. It depended on the family whether they took interpretative photos or “tourist” photos of standing next to the site. In both cases it was interesting the translation of the information. The children were interested in finding the tags and hidden boxes. The parents were interested in the connection between the sties.

In all cases, everyone ended up with photos of the experience. For us, it is a recreated journey. For the families, it is documentation of the experience in playing a game for the photo album.