Who are we as strategizers? Who are we as role players? We get to play around with our own identity in a way that is a little bit safer than it can be in the real world.
Jessica Creane is the founder and CEO of IKantKoan, an award-winning immersive experience and game studio dedicated to crafting surprising games for curious people. They create play/s that span live events, tabletop games, digital games, mobile apps, and fantastical hybrids. IKantKoan has been named one of immersive guide NoProscenium’s best immersive experience designers. The studio’s partners and clients include The National Parks Service, Tribe 12, and The UPenn Environmental Humanities Program.
Creane is an extremely focused generalist who runs her life as a creative lab. Her passion is uncovering surprising connections between imagination and reality, and turning those discoveries into play.
In this episode of Velocitize Talks, Creane discusses how design, play, process and the immersive experience are all keys to unlocking the future.
Fun and Games: The Immersive Experience (3:30)
Play and games often get conflated; games are playful and play is not always game.
“Games are very structured,” says Creane. “There’s usually a win and a lost state. There are usually rules attached. There are tutorials or there are rules and so you know that you’re playing within a world that operates a little bit differently than the real world.”
In contrast, she interprets play as a bit more organic and emergent. Play and games go well together, and when combined, “We end up in a highly agentic world where we get to make choices that are meaningful for us,” Creane says.
IKantKoan defines play/s as a playable and immersive experience that tests personal boundaries and limits in order to discover who people are as both strategizers and role players. “We get to play around with our own identity in a way that is a little bit safer than it can be in the real world,” says Creane. This creates a bridge that invites discoveries and learning in play to then be extended and applied to our real lives.
Embracing Chaos (5:09)
The audience ends up playing through these experiments which are actually games over the course of the piece. Ultimately it moves from a narrative about…life into the narrative of the audience’s lives.
One of IKantKoan’s interactive play productions is called Chaos Theory. The production draws the audience into a lecture and asks them to help process and experiment with chaos theories. These can include deterministic chaos, fractals, self-organization and strange attractors. Creane uses games over the course of the production which lead to the audience running experiments on their own lives. This helps the audience figure out who they want to be and how they want to embrace chaos in their own lives. “It empowers people to to take actions throughout the piece,” says Creane.
Chaos Theory ran for over a year at Caveat, NYC pre-pandemic and has recently pivoted to a virtual production. It has received recommendations from The New York Times and won the Best Social Immersion Award from Immersion Nation in 2019. “Imagine a TED Talk that turns into an interactive adventure…asking audience members to play along in a series of games that dare them to leave their comfort zone,” writes The New York Times.
The Game of Risk (9:02)
There aren’t a ton of people who are willing to jump into the abyss in their own right. Those who do are pretty brave.
According to global nonprofit Six Seconds, risk tolerance is the tool for using emotional intelligence to maintain equilibrium in the face of challenge. When a person perceives danger, risk tolerance is how a person responds to that danger and knows whether it’s danger or discomfort keeping them from moving forward.
Creane shares this analogy for risk taking: “It’s like cracks in a sidewalk. It’s like there’s a magical world underneath the sidewalk, but you’ll never know it unless you break it open. What uncertainty is for us is that the world is falling apart around us; there are cracks under our feet.
“If we just keep going, if we keep our eyes up, we’ll fall into that abyss. But if we look down and start to examine what those cracks are, we start to see ways in which it can actually be positive growth for us, in which plans can spring out of those cracks.”
Ultimately, it takes curiosity to fully comprehend risk and fear of the unknown.
A Work in Progress (10:11)
One thing always leads to the next thing. That was what gave me permission—it’s given me permission my whole life—to know that I am not the end-all-be-all self right now; I’m always going to be in progress.
The growth mindset theory coined by psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck is an oft-cited recipe for success. You can either be fixed in your thoughts or be flexible while understanding your motivation is what matters the most. Meanwhile a growth mindset is critical for moving forward. You may not be where you want to be, but it’s important to keep going.
“Even if I made the wrong choice in this moment, it will lead me to the next thing that will be either back on track or a whole new path that I didn’t know that I was going to be in,” Creane says.
What I’m Reading (10:52)
It’s really all about the nature of consciousness, but deeply relatable and very, very readable.
Creane calls writer and philosopher Meghan O’Gieblyn’s book, “God, Human, Animal, Machine,” fantastic. A philosophy book focused on technology, metaphor and the search for meaning, it explores what it means to be human in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It explores such topics as transhumanism, consciousness, religion and technology with an accessible message. The book was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Science & Technology.