I just watched this excellent TED talk by Jane McGonigal. She argues that we should treat life like a gaming experience: set ourselves tasks, have immediate rewards and larger missions, and treat our friends and relatives as ‘allies’. On one level the idea could only ever work for a gamer, other people may find it easier to think of life like it’s an artwork or a business. But if the talk works for you, then it really works, I was surprised at how enthusiastically I found myself playing along with the game. I managed to score points in physical, mental, emotional, and social resilience…excellent, level up!
I should say, McGonigal takes a few liberties. She says her game will add 7.68245837 minutes to the life of every participant. Apart from a complete disregard for digit significance, this oversimplification of cause-and-effect does not belong in a TED talk (though it may have its uses in anti-smoking campaigns, where people are told every cigarette costs them X minutes of life). Also, there are a few moments where McGonigal says vaguely that her claims are backed by “science”, as if she’s trying to sell us a homeopathy remedy.
But the central message of the talk is still worth telling: creating an alter-ego in an alter-reality has advantages in real life. Internet users with aspirational avatars find themselves more able to actualize those aspirations. So if you have a ninja avatar online, you’ll go about your real-life business with a spring in your step. If your online persona is a hacker, you’re more likely to actually start playing with some code. If you play the freedom fighter online, you’re more likely to stand up for yourself in real life.
This blog, which wasn’t supposed to start until September, is partially a response to that notion. My job involves a lot of reading text and watching video, and not really a lot of writing. Initially appealing, that imbalance in the long run means I’m less able to respond critically to content. I am a media consumer, when really I want (as most people want) to be a producer, part of the conversation.
Sure, I get it, I may well be just mapping out more territory doomed to be online desert, an arid landscape of zero comments and unread content. I’m ok with that, because this is really an exercise in re-finding a voice that has been neglected since university. If my only goal was to get an audience, I would have topic-specific blog and a few sock puppets on Reddit.
Space Druid is my avatar of choice. Partly because I already have a space druid costume that involves a silver cape and solar glasses. And partly because it’s vague enough that the blog can evolve without needing a rebranding. But also because, as an aspiration, I like Space Druid’s blend of apparent opposites: cyber-utopia (space) and Celtic earthiness (druid). It’s a rejection of specialisation, in keeping with the thinking of the folks at Open Source Ecology — a project I have a lot of time for. They advocate “subsilience”, a peer-to-peer economy of multi-skilled maker-artists. I imagine Space Druid already lives in that economy, he knows how to pitch manure and program a computer. After all specialization is for insects.