Meet Jana – PLA member profile

Each month we will introduce a PLA member through 5 photos telling their Playful Learning journey. This month, we introduce you to…

Jana Wendler: a physical games designer and creative facilitator based in Manchester, and director of social enterprise Playfuel Games. She describes herself as a ‘fringe academic’ and her work focuses on building links between research and creative practice.

Jana Wendler wearing a 'brain scanner'
Brain scanner

This is me wearing a cool-looking brain scanner at the urban games festival PlayPublik in Krakow, Poland, back in 2014. We were testing an experimental street game that combined drones, brain scanners and performance. These festivals and collaborations were the starting point for me to not only play but create games.

6 people playing a street game

I love how urban, street or physical games (whatever you want to call them) bring play into unusual spaces and allow us to explore complex issues in powerful new ways. This is one team’s moment of happy success in Downpour!, a street game we created about flood risk management in Manchester.

A board game with test tubes and beakers
Data Science

I work with researchers from many different fields, from immunology to environmental science, and learning about their research is one of the most exciting parts of my practice. One recent project was a game about health data science, with some very interesting discussions about data linkage, security and anonymity.

Bottle caps lit with LEDs
Bottle caps

Bottle caps are my favourite ever material! They are great for prototyping, for game design workshops and (with added LEDs) as play material for a club version of Turtle Wushu. Exploring different materials and their tactility and affordances is a really important and fun part of the physical game design process.

[Editor’s note: I remember playing Turtle Wushu with Jana in 2014 at a previous PLA event…there’s even photo evidence of this!]

A group of Kenyans playing with a giant dice
Blind Striker

Play and games have a great potential to engage people in conversations.  I currently work on a community sensitisation project in Nairobi, Kenya. Together with a group of community champions we developed creative activities that spread the word about a forthcoming research project on child lung health. This is our version of a game called ‘Blind Striker’ which illustrates the research process.

Thanks for sharing your story and your photos Jana.

If you are unlucky, you might be selected as next month’s sacrifice chosen member – we will be in touch!