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Meaningful Play 2018 at Michigan State University

Paper Information

TitleA Case Study of Dreamwalk – Leveraging Myth and Ritual for Game Design
Presenter(s)Doris C. Rusch and Allen Turner
SessionIndigenous Games
TimeThursday, October 11, 11:00a-12:00p
LocationLake Ontario
FormatPaper Presentation
DescriptionHow can we design games that shed light on the human experience and can contribute to a meaningful life? This is a big question that seems to hold much interest for the gaming community. It is also an incredibly daunting one, screaming for definitions and qualifications: what is a meaningful life? To whom? How do we know a game is contributing to it?

The authors do not believe there are final answers to any of these concerns. There is no recipe that spells out how you create anything meaningful and transformative. And the kind of impact we are looking for so complex and personal, eludes measurement (see Paolo Pedercini's "Making Games in an F*** Up World", 2014). Yet, we have some thoughts we would like to share, hoping to inspire transformative games.

We propose drawing on myth and ritual (=enacted myth) with their archetypal patterns and transformative structures in order to create games that have the potential to increase our understanding of ourselves and others and construct our relationship to ourselves and the world around us. This approach is informed by an existential perspective. According to Irvin Yalom, the human experience is characterized by anxiety, stemming from the Givens of Existence or Ultimate Concerns: death (life is finite), freedom (we have to make choices and it is unclear what they should be based on), existential isolation (we are all ultimately alone in this universe), and meaninglessness (life has no inherent meaning, we have to find our own) (Yalom, 1980, pp.8-9). When we speak of games that can contribute to a meaningful life, we specifically mean games that help players grapple with the Givens of Existence - feelings of loss, loneliness, alienation, purposelessness, choice and suffering - in ways that can put them on a path to coming to terms with these experiences and discover their authentic desires, aspirations, connectedness, human potential and "bliss".

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