I had thought I missed this article because Austin and Natalie mentioned it in their podcast and I couldn’t find it. So I was mega excited when it popped up last night (Here’s hoping Austin feels better because he has done so much great work this year.) I read this last night as I unknowingly was traveling to a gen X 1950’s party (which was really something).
But I have been reflecting a lot since about how Austin compares games/play to reality as this has been a subject I’ve been working on in design and writing this year. Specifically I keep thinking of this portion…
In 2019, let’s take as a starting point that every conflict we wind up has a metagame, and that the rules of that metagame are often stacked against us. In politics, that’s the state of the filibuster rule but it’s also ongoing calls for “civility.” In the lives of marginalized people, when laws protect those who do us harm, it has meant learning how to show deference to the forces of injustice. For workers, these rules ensure lower income than we deserve and precarity in our careers: As SCOTUS ruled in the case of forced arbitration this year, workers are just individuals. That makes us easily replaceable, and less able to legally hold our employers accountable.
Austin says that it may be a better way to view our conflicts and greater place in politics/spaces/world as a metagame and I think there is a valuable point to make about large-scale, long-term action and attrition. However, I think I keep returning to this point because its subtle point of play being something that is a part of life, not just a part of games. It isn’t that this is a new concept that blew my mind but that Austin states it in a way that feels assumptive about the ways games and play intersect in life. It made me think about of Eric Zimmerman’s writing on games’ place in reality in some ways. So I wonder, if our labor, mental health, and political activity are all a part of this metagame, what isn’t play? Maybe it aligns with Eric Zimmerman’s definition as well:
Play is the free space of movement within more rigid structure. PIay exists both because of and also despite the more rigid structures of a system.
Soooooo I am typing this post because I guess this line of thinking scares me! I think play definitely has the power to be political, and maybe it has lost a lot of that power since the 70’s. But, should we accept that play’s existence is plenary in our lives as these lines of thinking seem to state? I don’t mean that the systems people experience in their lives can be ignored and sidestepped and I don’t mean that play can’t be other things aside from positive experiences. But don’t we we end up living in something like Eric Zimmerman’s ludic century or McKenzie Wark’s “Gamespace” if we can’t separate play from any systemic action?
Anyways, Happy New Year all I hope everyone’s first day is positive.