Play

Play

The names we give things can be so unexpectedly revealing sometimes.

I saw a play a few days ago. It was a good play, but that’s not relevant. This was the last staging of this show, though, and as someone with a tenuous connection to the production I ended up at the small party afterwards. I didn’t have much to say, but it was interesting hearing actors talk about what made a good performance…

There are different ways of approaching creativity. I tend to pursue the creation of discrete objects, whether they be songs, novels, games, or omelets, and I view every step of the creative process in light of what it produces at the end. You could call this a results-centric approach to creativity. I think that most of the people who find themselves in the field of game development tend to value this approach. There is, though, another approach, one which I think is favored by actors and musicians, which focuses on the process over the results. That is, while the end result is important, the best way to achieve an optimal end result is to be in the moment, to serve only the needs of the performance, to wholly and unreservedly inhabit a role.

What’s peculiar about games is that while they’re almost always the product of a results-oriented approach, they just as frequently incorporate and encourage their audience to engage in process-oriented manner. When you play a game, you inhabit a role – whether it’s a role as a character, as we would in a play, or a role in a team, as we would in a band, or a role in a process, as we would in a job – and by doing so we complete the game.

The game is a system, one which is missing one component to function, and the player provides that component.

Play your part. Play a game. Play a role. Playing is being, is inhabiting a purpose, is serving something greater than oneself. When you play, you serve your team, serve your story, serve your music.

It changes you.

It’s something I had never thought of. Playing a role in an experience is something entirely apart from merely observing it, and it can be far more rewarding, or at least provide rewards not attainable in other ways. We play games in order to inhabit characters who we find interesting and admirable – how is that, beyond the fidelity and mode of the experience, different from acting?

To me, this style of process-focused creativity is a foreign country. It is something completely outside of everything I know and understand about how creativity works, and I find myself both intimidated and intrigued. I think it is a necessary step in my creative development to explore that territory someday, to be in the moment, to cede my pride and serve a role rather than, as I am accustomed, slowly creating a work, like a pearl crafted of a piece of grit in my mind, and presenting it in my own time.

I want to understand.

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