As we continue to learn our way with these digital tools and online events, we might shift our energy from trying to prevent inevitable technical difficulties to cultivating a sense of belonging. Tools break and containers change, but the urge to tell stories remains. Containers and content can be used to mutually inform the shape of their counterparts, expressing a tender, anti-heroic, communal, and present side of storytelling in place of our received understanding of historical material as heroic, individual, disconnected, and past. As we complicate the definition of gathering, this blurring of container and content diminishes any lingering idea of fixed, solitary authorship. After all, societal movements come not from singular authors but emerge as dissolved collections, making it impossible to know where one thing begins or ends. To survive, we gather not only from what’s around us, but from among us.
As an activist and scientist, I spent a lot of my time moving amongst groups of people who seemed to have a very clear grasp on what they believed, but in a time of greater access to information and an explosion in the number of choices we have it becomes harder to cling onto a simple story. Perhaps it’s time to accept that an increasingly complex world we need to adapt to more nuanced stories and resist the urge to hone in on the one that is the most black-or-white. This is vital for two reasons: to prevent and reverse ecological destruction and climate change and to re-establish the role of community, empathy and cooperation amongst humanity. As with the Industrial Revolution we left behind, it’s clear that we’re done with a certain phase of our human existence. The time is ripe for a new story, one that allows us to integrate all parts of what it means to be human today. Fundamental to this new story should be the question of how do we create communities and individuals with a sense of meaning? Where do we find our belonging? What is our purpose? What makes a ‘whole’ human being — a sense of connection, meaning, purpose, self-worth, justice, community, belonging, and a sense of love for this planet, this one short life, and humanity at large?
We’re in a chasm between stories that used to function and new stories which haven’t yet gathered enough coherence to function effectively.
Storytelling is a form of sense-making. Humans need this. Salmon don’t have a cosmic story that they talk about. They are born into the world and they instinctively know the direction in which they need to swim. It’s built into their DNA, inherent in their being. People, on the other hand, need stories that are created and expressed through culture in order for us to find our way forward. It’s our ability to imagine, and communicate about things like memories, plans, things that don’t exist yet, and the future, that many have attributed to our “humanness”.
This feeling of new regions opening up is the soul of overworld, and, by extension, the soul of these games. Maybe I’m projecting a bit; I will just speak for myself: it’s the scale at which I enjoy them. I tolerate the dungeons, the monsters, the battles … only so I can explore more of the map.
I radically undervalue such contexts: I can get much, much better at recognizing such contexts, at capturing such contexts, at valuing such contexts, at making them as jugular as possible, at distilling and saving and revisiting and protecting and valuing such contexts, at stewing in (and improving) such contexts, and finding ways to act to completion on such contexts. They will die if I let them. In some sense, I want to savour such contexts, to keep putting myself back in them, over and over and over, until I've shipped. They should be as provoking as possible, emotional and intellectual fuel. Part of the challenge, of course, is that my thinking changes, the context evolves. But that's part of learning to do this well.
This is the tiny little nub of a thing – maybe just an image or a phrase – that you hold onto, that gradually comes into focus, and then blossoms, the animating force driving the project. It's the emotional and intellectual force driving the work, the thing you return to over and over. People will sometimes describe it as "the idea", but it's often both considerably more and less than an idea. And if you get disconnected from it, don't nurture and stew in it enough, don't believe in it enough, you start to lose contact with your project