Play is the Wrong Word

This is a piece that originally appeared in the Emerging Writers’ Festival Reader.

Every piece of writing – in fact every act of creation – is an exploration, a mapping of elusive contours of thought, a process of divination and excavation. At the other end, every experience of a piece of writing – or every creative work – is the same: a scrabble through uncharted caves, a handheld guide through an unknown city, a slow resonant unveiling of how things are and how they came to be.

But mention the word play in association with either of these processes and the arguments come at you hard and fast. We are serious writers and thinkers, they say, explorers of uncharted territory. We stalk the wilderness and return with wisdom, heroes of our own creative journey. We are adults struggling against the dark, and we have no time for such trivial things.

Perhaps play is the wrong word then? Or perhaps it’s something that needs reclaiming through reflection and re-examination of how creativity works.

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Play, not just games.

This is one of two posts I wrote for Invest Victoria’s gaming blog, reposted here because I think it gives some context to both the ‘social misfits’ post and also to my ongoing question of games & culture.

Beyond just the technical shift that digital games have brought us, there are also cultural, academic and experiential shifts taking place all around us as more and more people are exposed to games and game-like thinking into their teenage and adult years.

Obviously, digital games have benefited from the constant evolution of games and game technology. In a relatively short time, they have become one of, if not the, dominant media and entertainment forms in the world, and they have changed significantly. We’ve gone from Pong and Space War to cinematic 3D games like Mass Effect or Heavy Rain, and most recently, we’ve seen the emergence of a vibrant indie scene delivering personal visions like Braid, The Path, Crayon Physics, and Passage.

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