As my son’s and my annual pilgrimage to Firemaker Wilderness Survival Camp in the Comox Valley quickly nears, I find myself pondering many questions.
Last year, I left camp feeling enthused with a passion to create a work shop of theatre, and myth making, where youth between the ages of 7 and 12, boys especially, but not exclusively, might be able encounter their own inner hero, adventurer, warrior, hunter, magician, and help co-create a mythic journey / epic quest.
Such a journey or quest would include, communing with their environment, facing a fear, meeting a spirit guide, animal avatar perhaps, receiving a message, gathering resources, herbs, magic talismans, crafting tools, facing physical / survival challenges, slaying a beast, finding water, collaborating or learning to work with (an)other(s) and returning with a treasure / a learning / an epic ‘win’ and a transformed self to the ‘tribe’. And, of course, and incredible story to tell!
Something akin to a coming of age ritual, but more an enactment, a role play, a way in games, story-telling, challenges and quest to practice for coming of age.
One of my questions is how do the stories we tell of ourselves, our ancestors, our heroes, of the growth of a boy to a man, a girl to a woman impact our survival.
Just as a youth learns to use a knife, to hone it, clean it, set a trap with it, skin an animal, carve with it, and honour his kin by holding his knife safely, consciously, respectfully; should s/he also encounter stories of the knife’s sacredness and the honour of using it bestowed up on him?
When I read edgy mama’s latest post on CommonSemnse Media’s ten most violent video games and their alternatives, I was reminded of Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk Gaming can make a better world, and how stunned and horrified I was at first by her findings. http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.htmlan
In this Ted talk, Miss McGonigal asserts that because children spend so much time playing video games, apparently as many hours doing so as they spend in school between the ages of 5 and 21; what they are learning playing these games could be used to solve present and future world problems.
She states that players of on-line collaborative games experience an extraordinarily positive optimism and satisfaction that keeps them playing for hours on end. And, essentially, that gamers feel they could never achieve in real life what they can in games!
Jane out-lines a list of the qualities of gaming that make this so. Gamers feel:
1) Motivation and Meaning – they belong to an epic story and understand what to do and why to do it.
2) Collaboration and Belonging – they meet a wealth of characters that they can trust and are ready to help them or receive their help with their mission
3) A Sense of their Higher Self – they see themselves as a hero without the hesitation, anxiety, depression, fear, or cynicism of real life.
3) Competence and Contribution – playing at just the right level at the verge of what they are capable of, and recognized for their achievements with constant positive feed back.
4) Courage and Perseverance – the first three qualities combine to maintain a peak experience or Flow that according to Csikszentmihalyi, is completely focused motivation, a single-minded immersion and perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. So our gamer will to stick to a problem and achieve success as long as it takes!
Jane McGonigal then asks how we can take those feelings from games and apply them to real life.
Wow! What a great idea….
WAIT A MINUTE, what about real life? I realized that the positive experiencces of belonging, meaning, contribution, competence, and epic quests used to exist in real life. What has happened to them? Why must our children look only to video games to fulfil these deep human yearnings?
I believe it is up to us take back these stories, and recreate opportunities for our children to encounter these essential experiences in real time.