The rules…

“Where to begin” on Turkle’s essay has yielded to “where to begin” on leaving the class discussion.   I still have lots to ponder and write about my experience of her essay – but today’s session was profound.  What was set up on the “topic” of gaming gave way to quite a deep and multilayered discussion and experience centered on the human condition, human development, learning, and interpersonal interaction.  To me this is largely the point – the opportunity – in considering gaming as a framework through which we can engage our brains and beings in a different level of consideration, exploration, potential understanding…  As one who definitely prefers a “the possibilities are endless” type of game, I was all over it.  However, again the aftermath has left me filled with wondering about how to take all of this possibility and leverage it in creating “spaces” or experiences that encourage and allow people to engage (whether fully aware of the levels or not) in a way that proves transformative to their experience.

When did you first begin questioning the rules in school?   I forget exactly how the question was phrased, but it was fascinating to consider – then to hear not only the various perspectives represented in the answers, but also how that experience wound up shaping people.  For me it was 1983 – 5th grade.  Looking back, it was the perfect intersection of context, players, and a new level of understanding.  The teacher was Mrs. Leisure.  The boy was David Cerf.  Mrs. Leisure had just been in the game too long, I think.  David Cerf was my first crush.  Mrs. Leisure had tired of giving consideration to the question, “Why?”  This seemed such a crucial imperative to me…  and I put the pieces together: the “rules of school” were often arbitrary.  And I figured out that pushing buttons was not only entertaining but in itself fascinating and engaging – and that there was a way to do it that did not explicitly break the rules, AND at the same time earned me social capital.  Kaboom – the perfect storm.

Fifth through seventh grades were my most openly rebellious in school.  After that I learned better to play the game, and didn’t really find myself questioning the rules so much anymore… but accepting them and then looking for the ways to find infinite possibility within them.   That, after all, is part of the beauty of rules – however arbitrary or beyond our initial control – they give us the boundaries within which we have to play.  And then our own acuity, creativity, and ingenuity are free to take us just about anywhere – within the confines, yes, but the possibilities still can seem nearly endless.  Perhaps a reason why The Iowa Baseball Confederacy remains one of my all-time favorite books, and baseball is my favorite sport.

“Why not baseball?” my father would say. “Name me a more perfect game! Name me a game with more possibilities for magic, voodoo, hoodoo, enchantment, obsession, possession. There’s always time for daydreaming, time to create your own illusions at the ballpark. I bet there isn’t a magician anywhere who doesn’t love baseball. No mere mortal could have dreamed up the dimensions of a baseball field. No man could be that perfect. … The field runs to infinity,” he would shout, gesturing wildly. “You ever think of that, Gid? There’s no limit to how far a man might possibly hit a ball, and there’s no limit to how far a fleet outfielder might run to retrieve it. The foul lines run on forever, forever diverging. There’s no place in America that’s not part of a major-league ballfield.”  (W.P. Kinsella; The Iowa Baseball Confederacy)

At any rate, along this path, I learned to employ conformity at the surface: going along to get along.  Underneath and behind the scenes – exploring, pushing, experimenting…  This continued until – umm, …  This continues.  🙂