Monday, January 31, 2011

International Gaming Hub

One of the benefits of living in a European metropolis is the opportunity to "melt in the pot" of internationals living here. My wife just attended an international choir concert at Hans Scharoun's impressive Philharmonie concert house featuring traditional Turkish and Russian music, along with American gospel music. It was a four-hour event that could not have been more eclectic.

Last week, I stopped by the Spielwiese for a quick visit with Michael, and we reminisced on the variety of visitors he's had at his gaming cafe since it's start 4 years ago. Some Europeans come here specifically to get their yearly stash of German games, while other internationals are so intrigued by the concept of a gaming cafe with game rentals that they make it one of their tourist destinations.

In addition, we've had many international visitors to our game design group since we began meeting here Mondays shortly after the cafe opened. Some are game designers who come to get an outside opinion on one of their ideas, others stay here for an extended period of time and enjoy testing and critiquing the designs of the others in the group. Jerome is a recent example of the latter, a young Canadian planning on staying in Berlin for the next year. He found out about our game design group online and kindly asked permission to join. "Of course!" we said, as our group is open to any who are willing to playtest prototypes. He joined us last Monday night and were even able to try one of his own creations, a short 2-player abstract brain-burner (it was perfect to have Daniel "Mr. Abstract" Shultz present to give an expert opinion).

In the past, I have likened the camaraderie of game designers to that of architecture students in a design studio, and these kind of playtest sessions still do take me back to those days. There is something intoxicating about being in a room full of fresh ideas, incomplete as they may be. I don't know if the glossy, polished games on the Spielwiese's shelves will ever have the same allure as the inkjet-printed, abstracted prototypes we bring to the table.

And I don't know if I could ever live in another place that wasn't this multi-cultural. The Spielweise has been a great location for attracting gamers and game designers from around the world, and I enjoy being a part of this international gaming hub.

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