The senior member of Wieden + Kennedy London’s creative department talks about games and interactivity.
On the morning of September 10, PSFK will gather the people behind some of the most inspiring British and European projects that we have covered on PSFK.com. These brilliant creative minds will present their work that explores innovation at intersections of fields that include art, design, branding, retail and technology.
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One of our speakers will be Dan Hon, a senior member of Wieden + Kennedy London’s creative department who specializes in games, play and new ways of storytelling. Dan will share his views on the future of gaming and how fun fits into the bigger picture. In advance of the talk, we asked him about his current creative projects and inspirations:
What projects are you working on right now?
I’m mainly working across Nike and Nokia in London and every so often get involved with briefs from other clients as they come in. There’s something exciting that I’ve been working on for Fairtrade. It’s really left-field as an internal agency project, but we’re not quite ready to talk about that yet. I’m also working with our Portland office on a couple things for Coke that are also super-interesting.
Across all of this is the idea of media invention, storytelling, play and games. But I’m veering a bit away from overt games at the moment and am more interesting in play and pretending.
Can you tell us a bit about how you see the future of gaming playing out?
There’s the danger of stumbling blindly into a mundane future of gaming which is to say: like it or not, we are going to be getting points for brushing our teeth and there’s a lack of imagination and playfulness around, say, location-based services. The lazy first port of call is that we’ll get badges for eating at Pizza Hut and we’ll check in so we can get a voucher from Starbucks for our next latte. That’s the grim dark future – I’m much more interested in being able to do big non-linear things that go a bit sideways and injecting genuine fun and play into experiences rather than imposing regimented styles of games upon how people live their lives. The point is that just giving people points and badges for things doesn’t make anything fun at all.
What has been the most interesting response or unexpected outcome of your work?
I guess one of the most interesting responses has been ending up at W+K. Weddings? Do they count?
What projects, people, things, places or ideas are currently inspiring you these days?
I jumped on a friend’s meme recently – Alice Taylor posted about five things that she’d been thinking about recently, then Kim Pallister. It was a great opportunity to do a bit of a brain dump that was in between a del.icio.us bookmark and a full-on blog post that we hardly seem to have time for these days. I’ve been learning a lot more about mobile trends in developing countries lately, and that kind of stuff is absolutely inspiring.
I also recently got a copy of a magazine called ACE – Advanced Computer Entertainment – from September 1989. I used to read and collect them as a kid and 21 years of perspective is a wonderful thing to have. The pages of that magazine have done as much to spark a thousand ideas as anything else recently.
I’m working with Crystal Beasley out in Portland who’s running this thing called pieLab – it’s a set of behavioural economics experiments centered around a pie chart. That’s fun. But she also happens to work at Cheezburger Networks and the stuff she told me about them was completely mindblowing.
It strikes me that we – people, objects – are so interconnected nowadays, at such a speed, that we don’t really understand what’s going to happen next. We can post-rationalise in a way that might make sense to us as consumers of narrative, but really, we have no idea. I find that terrifying and exciting.
What developing trend, idea or technology makes you most excited or hopeful for the future?
Connectedness and accessibility of technology. The new set of smartphones and tablet devices have a really great chance of making computing transparent and just being a part of the background of life. Concepts like ‘saving’ should just disappear. ‘Email’ isn’t email, it’s just talking to your friends on Facebook. It’s not diary or calendar management with permissions and invitations, it’s telling your friends that you’re going out for drinks on Friday. There’s an opportunity to really think about making devices and services more task-oriented and focused on helping people get things done. That’s not to say that the current crop are perfect at all, but they’re making enough strides to be significantly different to what we’ve already got.
On the other hand, I’m really interested in the new ways that people are connecting themselves to each other in a faster, more ad hoc way than ever before. The way bits of culture suddenly appear, get amplified and spread through networks, is fascinating. Then at the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the infrastructure-jumping of developing countries where they don’t have the baggage of established business methods dictating how people use technology. It’s all good right now – there’s a great Cambrian explosion of creativity.