What are games?

This semester my first year writers are exploring games as a way to grow as writers, thinkers, and humans. I have long used games to support the teaching of writing and know that games can be an useful teaching tool in many settings. Games also provides a wonderful writing invitation as every human has life experience with games from our childhood games to gym class to poker nights. Some people play games throughout their lives and others are lifelong sports fans. Everyone has stories to tell about the impact of games on their lives and the ways that their lives intersect with play and games. So for the next few weeks I am going to share the invitations I use with my students during our jam sessions with the Just Write virtual writing group and on this blog to inspire other writers.

We began our journey with the deceptively simple question: What is a game? Jane McGonigal argues that games have a goal, rules, feedback system, and voluntary participation. As technology has developed so have games which makes this exploration so interesting, but due to the ubiquity of games developed in recent decades to capitalize on those technological developments it is often easy to forget about games we played as children and the more traditional card games, board games, and sports we continue to enjoy alongside our game consoles. And also, despite the fact that games play such an important role in our entire lifespan, society often displays a very negative viewpoint of adults who play games and frequently targets specific games and players for even more disapproval. Why? We continued our journey by asking the question: Do you think games get or deserve a bad rep?

But the real focus of our first week writing together was to consider the role of games in our origin stories by asking ourselves:

  • What games are you drawn to and why? 
  • How and why have your chosen games changed over the years?
  • How have your connections with others influenced the games you play and how you play them? 
  • How have the games you play and the way you play them influenced your connections with others?

For further inspiration, we read these poems:

I was drawn to share these poems as they both captured common yet different aspects of our personal connections to games. I am particularly struck by the dark side of children’s games in Party Games and A Perfect Game carries so much in it from the weight of history to family connections to specific games, teams, and players. There is a lot to respond to within both poems.

I invite you to write about your own memories and experiences with games with your own exploration of the ideas shared above or these questions:

  • Do games deserve their bad reputation?
  • Share a game memory?
  • Why do you play the games you play?
  • Who do you think about when you play a specific game?
  • When was the last time you learned a new game?

Both my students and writing group had so much to say about this topic and these ideas. I invite you to take this journey with us and JUST WRITE!

Image by 192635 from Pixabay