Remember playing on the playground with other kids on a warm (not hot) sunny day? Everyone is running around, playing games or climbing on the jungle gym having a great time. There are no cares, no worries, just sun, innocent children’s games and the delightful exhaustion that comes only from running until you’re out of breath and falling into the grass laughing.
And then the piercing scream. Not just piercing to the happy and melodious hubbub of a playground, but also to the innocent nature of the day. Katie’s hands became damp with the sweat of play and she fell from the monkeybars. Now Katie’s friends surround her; one decides to run to get her mom.
Everyone else stops dead in their tracks, watching the scene: Katie lies on the ground, clutching her arm; Katie’s mom runs over, a terrified look on her face; other parents collect their children, worried; other children hold their own arms close and make mental notes to either stay away from the monkeybars, or perhaps to prove their mettle another time by daring to climb.
The next few days, the playground is less crowded. The monkeybars become a point of contention – some parents move to get rid of the monkeybars altogether; some parents tell “back in my day” stories; some parents teach their children about the little-bit-of-dirt-in-the-palms trick. Some children are afraid of the playground; some children have no problem whatever going back; some children begin putting a little dirt on their hands before climbing again.
The point of this? And how does it relate to games and “Get Off My Cloud,” this week’s theme? A child breaking an arm during innocent play is a very raw example of “realness” invading. True, this is an accident, and many things in games are not, but ultimately, the reactions are the same – some people get angry and seek decisive action, some people become fearful, some people exploit the opportunity, some people take it in stride and use it as a learning experience.
In gaming, we face invasions of “realness” from things like race, sexuality, economic dissonance in fantasy worlds, worlds that to many, are free from the everyday struggle, discomfort or frustration of such things. This interruption leads to many reactions – anger, desire to stop games, fear of games, amusement and even the realization of opportunity to tackle some of these problems in an environment that’s perhaps a little safer. Odd that many are able to show their real, deep worries and fears moreso in a fantasy world than a real one. Perhaps we can build from that.