It's been three days at the International PLAYTrack Conference 2017: Playful experiences: Designs, Characteristics and Research at Aarhus University in Denmark. I came here with high expectations, and the event totally lived up to them. Playful. Serious. Intellectual. Rewarding.
Every single talk was relevant to all others and to the main theme. Rarely can you find such cohesion, with all programme items tightly interconnected. I can recall only two other conferences of this kind (MMN and DHS in Warsaw). Instead of the 'classic' segregation of topics in separate panels/boxes, they went for an interplay of multiple perspectives on multiple aspects of one topic. As a result, you get mind-blowing complexity and scope. It is humbling to realise how little you know of all the work that has been done on 'your' subject in the variety of disciplines. And it's empowering to find out about all the new tools and resources which are out there, just waiting to be picked to inform your research and broaden horizons. I've got notes from each presentation I attended: all useful in one way or another.
I attended all but one (skipping the one only because I woke up too late on the third day, regretfully). This was another blessing of PlayTrack: just one track throughout the conference. Of course, this came at a price: fewer speakers and speeches per day. But it was good trade-off: we were spared the frustration of choosing between equally interesting alternatives, when each choice would mean giving up something else. Moreover, each day had relatively few hours of lectures. "Relatively" from my Polish perspective, where we frequently have conference days packed with talks from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. PlayTrack ran from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, with break time in between the talks. We could go on like this for a whole week (I wish we did) without burning out.
My contribution was in the poster session. I presented the just-launched "Curriculum Design for Skills in Game Design" project open for international collaboration. Having recruited five potential collaborators within 30 minutes, I conclude PlayTrack was just the right place to put such things in motion. There is just one sad thing about the poster session. Standing for 1 h on my station as I was, I couldn't really talk to all other presenters. Some of the good stuff escaped me. But not entirely: I have all the abstracts. :)
I come back with a new list of mandatory reading, new set of ideas to explore, new list of interesting projects to keep track of, and a small crowd of newly acquainted researchers and practitioners to stay in touch with. It's a shame I didn't manage to talk to all of them (about 70 souls). I have no doubt each person in the room could offer a fascinating conversation.
The next PlayTrack conference is expected in two years. It's too early to book the date, but remember to stay vigilant!
P.S. On the tourism side: each time I come to Denmark I love it more. Previously, I'd only been to Copenhagen and its vicinity. Aarhus was a new experience. As is always the case with conference trips, I had a very limited time for sight-seeing. But I did indulge in some urban exploration in the evenings. This awesome building in the harbour is DOKK1 - public library.