Rachel Kippen writes a column for the Santa Cruz Sentinel about gamefulness in the time of covid and the work of Jane McGonigal, “How I learned to stop worrying and love the internet“:
When I lived in San Francisco in my twenties I was gifted a pair of tickets to see Dr. Jane McGonigal in conversation at the Herbst Theater. McGonigal is a Ph.D. game designer and author who embraces technology as a tool to create positive connections among physically disconnected people, oftentimes towards a beneficial societal goal such as reducing oil consumption or improving mental health.
But what I’ve seen of late is a society pivot, in a flash, working collectively towards the “epic win” of not harming the lives of those we hold so dear.[…] Adults, kids, and organizations across the Monterey Bay region are essentially playing massive games together, all day, every day from a distance.
I see new silver linings in the cloud. Does the virtual and distance-learning sphere increase freedoms to express our true selves and shed inhibitions? Are we more creative, humorous, sarcastic, verbose, and daring? Have we been galvanized by the ideas projected by others and then riffed off of them to further produce remarkable content, in real time? I can’t remotely begin to cite how many of my better thoughts were inspired by subconscious musings informed from exposure to virtual content. Internet avatars can give people and organizations permission to share in ways that they may never have before.
The essay “This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For: Pop culture has been inundated with catastrophe porn for decades. None of it has prepared us for our new reality” by Laurie Penny for Wired is probably the most beautiful piece of writing I’ve seen about the coronavirus pandemic. She begins by running through a list of games and other media that have served up catastrophe porn “somewhere between wish fulfillment and trauma rehearsal”: “I was expecting Half-Life. I was expecting World War Z. I’ve been dressing like I’m in The Matrix since 2003″ but this apocalypse is going differently than expected, “less Danny Boyle and more Douglas Adams.”
These two paragraphs really hit home for me:
The end of the world has never been quite so simple a mythos for women, likely because most of us know that when social structures crack and shatter, what happens isn’t an instant reversion to muscular state-of-naturism. What happens is that women and carers of all genders quietly exhaust themselves filling in the gaps, trying to save as many people as possible from physical and mental collapse. The people on the front line are not fighters. They are healers and carers. The very people whose work is rarely paid in proportion to its importance are the ones we really need when the dung hits the Dyson. Nurses, doctors, cleaners, drivers. Emotional and domestic labor have never been part of the grand story men have told themselves about the destiny of the species—not even when they imagine its grave.
My job will be the same as yours and everyone else’s: to be kind, to stay calm, and to take care of whoever happens to need taking care of in my immediate vicinity. We have been living for many, many years in what Gramsci called a time of monsters, where “the old is dying and the new cannot be born.” The new is now being induced in a hurry, because after this, nothing is going back to normal. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and everything does feel fine—not fine like chill, but fine like china, like glass, like thread. Everything feels so fine, and so fragile, and so shockingly worth saving.
It makes me think of Gris and some of the other games we’ve been playing this semester. I hope you find her essay illuminating.