The tether fantasy

Reading some ambitious theory about how kids come to play Minecraft by Christopher Goetz in “Tether and Accretions: Fantasy as Form in Videogames”. One of his key ideas is that games allow players to explore the darker and scarier side of existence, while maintaining a tether to the home or home base. This allows exploration as a kind of oscillation between binaries (good/bad, safety/peril) from the perceptual safety of the home. It’s a great read and goes someway to highlight the appeal of Minecraft in the home, and why, as a cultural object, school based Minecraft tends to not allow students to move away from home base at quite the depth and ambition as they do at home. It really supports the argument that games are a part of literary culture, and parents play a vital role in children’s understanding of the world though media.

It also signals reasons so many people are exploring new forms of media and relationships from home, yet at work, they tend to less motivated. He says the digital fantasy a provides a “reliable, infinitely repeatable source of pleasure”. He also asserts “tether fantasy encourages us to consider everyday routines as creative acts permeated by a playful impulse: as we leave one site of adult identity for the next —whether it is bed, the cubicle at work, a car, or home—”. Certainly most people engage in this kind of activity via twitter for example. In addition he says it can be used to both engage and withdraw for the world and the power invested in these objects enables you to go beyond what is normally possible. I’ve said several times that I see twitter as sandbox game, and this article opened some new doors for me.

It’s a great theory, not least as it deal with the progressive autotelic narrative of building and venturing further from home base in a really interesting way.