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Symposium | First Time Flowing
 

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Symposium V: Fitter Happier

Another great Symposium this past Friday. I’d been wanting to schedule something really different from previous Symposiums to give folks an idea of the breadth of topics people could present. So I was really happy when Greg and Neal each came to me with their ideas. It worked out so that they both presented on the same night.

Greg started us off with Qigong exercises, which reminded me a lot of Tai Chi. While he was teaching us the various movements, Greg interwove his own experiences with this practice. I was impressed with the fluidity in which he could demonstrate movements while telling a story. It reminded me of a musician who is very comfortable with their instrument. Whenever it comes to any sort of martial art or something that asks you to perform precise motions, I tend to get in my head, wanting to do it “right.” With the Qigong exercises, I found myself just going with the motions even if I wasn’t doing them perfectly.

After the intermission, Neal gave a presentation (complete with Powerpoint!) on the Science of Happiness. He covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. I won’t go into everything he talked about here, but I will summarize by saying that he took us through a tour of the concept of happiness and how it can be interfaced with via your mind, body and spirit. We also took a happiness test which assessed our current level of happiness. I fell into the “average” demographic in each of the three categories. Afterwards we played an improv game where everyone was given a small glass stone. The only rules were that the experience lasted ten minutes and you weren’t allowed to speak. It was designed to evoke the playfulness we experienced as children when we could just invent and have fun with no boundaries.

I was pleased with the whole evening and happy to see some new faces. Now I need to book someone for January!

Boldly Go

For this month’s Symposium, we had Reed and Isaac from their band World Racketeering Squad share some music with us. It was very “VH1 Behind the Music” as they shared their writing process as well as the inspiration for several of their songs. Isaac was able to describe some of the more technical aspects of songwriting in a way that I, the average non-musical person, could understand. They also treated us to two new songs still in beta. Their homage to Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was well received indeed. After that, Reed and Isaac blew my mind by creating songs on the fly, based on audience input, improv style. It was like a friend suddenly revealing a mutant power.

For the amusement portion of the evening, we returned to the bridge of the Artemis for a few hours of space exploration. This time around, we set up a network of laptops in the office. The laptops were then paired wirelessly with iPads which controlled the laptops remotely. That way we could all stand on the bridge with nothing but a slick Star Trekky-looking slate and play the game.

We had all six stations in play: Captain, Helm, Engineering, Comms, Science and Weapons. It was great to see how quickly everyone fell into using the bridge communication patter we’ve all been trained to use by Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. Even though the Artemis was destroyed more often than not, everyone seemed to have a really good time.

I’m amazed that Artemis is not more widely known. Thom Robertson could be the next Markus Persson, bathing in money. Artemis is the Rock Band of sci-fi games, hours of fun. If you have a couple of Windows computers, a large screen, $40, and some buddies, I definitely recommend you check it out.

Symposium!

A few weeks ago I sat down to write an email to invite people to a recurring movie night. But then I recalled some other ideas I had discussed with some friends about doing a kind of show and tell type thing. Basically I wanted an excuse to get a bunch of friends together to watch a movie or play a game and also have someone do an awesome presentation. So, instead of sending out an email about movie night, I created a group on Facebook. I called it the Symposium, after its Greek namesake, yes, but more for what we called those nights in Albuquerque when my friends and I sat out on someone’s back stoop, drinking wine, discussing geeky things.

Here is the mission statement of the Symposium:


“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates

“He was a wise man who invented beer.” – Plato

Once a month I will host a Symposium which will always include three things: Amusement, Imbibement and Enlightenment (sometimes in that order).

Amusements will consist of games, films and interactive experiences. These amusements will be curated and presented with care by myself and other participants. The back story about why a game or movie is important will be an emphasized component.

Imbibements encompass all manner of drink and edible delectables. Strange wines, mysterious brews and home-made dishes are encouraged.

Enlightenment is the heart of the Symposium. Each Symposium will feature a presenter or topic of discussion. Every one of you has something to share. If you are a musician, you might have a new song. If you are a poet, a new poem. A game designer might discuss their new game or a work in progress. A writer might read an excerpt from a story they are working on. A scholarly presentation of a subject one has passion for is also possible. Alternatively, one may present a topic for discussion and debate. In any case, questions and answers are encouraged.

The first Symposium, called Symposium I: I Think Therefore I Game, happened this past Friday. About ten other people showed up to hang out, chat and drink wine. Then Marc Majcher led us through a couple of game poems he had created. A game poem can be described as the thinking person’s party game, or a very short role playing game. Or maybe a structured improv exercise. Each game was designed to evoke and explore a particular mood or concept. The first one was a study in fidelity and betrayal. The second one is a bit harder to describe. Maybe a study of identity and empathy? Both were really fun experiences.

After an intermission, game designer Jonathan Leistiko did a presentation on “Applying Philosophy to Understand and Design Board Games.” Really genius, mind expanding stuff about what certain game mechanics say about fate, the future and reality.

Everyone seemed to have a great time and I felt it was a resounding success. I plan on doing it monthly and I have a number of amusements and topics I’d like to schedule. Mostly I’m just happy to give friends a chance to demonstrate their awesomeness and have fun at the same time.