The leading organisation, the Estonian VAT Teater, located in the huge building of the National library, was the host of the first PlayOn! – meeting. About 40 people from all over Europe, Artistic and Managing Directors of the 10 project partners and gaming and digital experts, came to Tallinn for 3 days to start the 4-year-adventure of PlayOn! The programme was packed with speeches, TED like talks, discussions and hands on workshops. First, the Artistic Director of the project, Dirk Neldner, gave a detailed overview of the complex project structure.
Richard Hurford, a British playwright, approached the PlayOn! theme “ Concrete Utopias in the Digital Age“ as a writer. He referred to the German philosopher Ernst Bloch, who had used the term for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century. And he asked himself what “concrete utopias” could mean to him as an artist and for the participants of PlayOn!
The TED like talk “Make AI great again” was given by H.E. Max Haarich. Max is a consultant on arts and technology with a focus on ethics in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Since 2017 he is Munich’s (DE) Ambassador of the Lithuanian artist Republic Užupis. The embassy builds bridges between arts and technology and engages in policy making for ethical AI. In his talk he explained the embassy’s focus on ethical values and presented examples of its activities to make innovations more inspired, accessible, and ethical.
In his TED like talk “A Future for Humans and Machines”, Marek Strandberg, Estonian scientist, journalist, businessman and politician, asked questions without giving final answers:
When technology is developing with accelerating tempo, does that mean, that in (near) future machines can go past humankind? Would machines be interested in power or understand the concept of money? Or can we predict a sudden progress in humans to stay in front of this race?
Marcus Lobbes, Artistic Director of the Academy of Digitality and Theatre Dortmund (DE), spoke about “Games and Theatre” – a field, where he – as a theatre director – is very experienced. Marcus introduced the participants of the meeting to the dramaturgy of images in computer games and how they can be connected to the performing arts. He spoke about which forms of gaming can be found in theatrical contexts, which images does the theatre use, and how can mutual questioning of the narrative device contribute to the development of the respective genres.
Professor Marian Ursu, the Director of Digital Creativity Labs at University of York, UK and one of the PlayOn! partners, introduced the audience to the possibilities of confluence of creative practice with technology. Over the past twenty years he has led research in the creation of new forms of mediated communication and artistic expression as well as dedicated digital technologies for their realisation. His lecture about research and innovation in immersive and interactive storytelling and gamified experiences was of great interest for everyone.
Johannes May and Julian Jungel, gaming experts from Germany, spoke about “Game Mechanics and Theories of Fun” and enabled the participants to experience a game jam on the subject “Build a new society” in practice during 1 ½ day. This extraordinary experience made it easier for the theatre practitioners to open up for new production formats with the inclusion of gaming elements.
An important element of the meeting was the visit of a performance at the hosting VAT Teater: The adaptation of the famous book by Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, directed by the Artistic Director Aare Toikka, was the final diploma project of the theatre students of the University of Tartu, Viljandi Culture Academy, in 2019 and gave an impression of the high artistic quality of the work of the Estonian PlayOn!-partner.