Each week in Play in Process, Richard Clark shares what he’s been playing and why it matters.
There’s an iPhone game that I downloaded yesterday for two reasons: 1. It was free. 2. It was the spiritual successor to one of my favorite iPhone games: Rat on a Scooter. This game? Rat on a Skateboard. It. Is. Deep.
Okay, so there’s this rat. And he’s on a skateboard. And there are obstacles and stars and pizza. You can earn points by bouncing on obstacles, collecting stars and pizza, and by doing various tricks. It’s incredibly simple – you tap on the screen at various moments – and playing well is all about timing. You go as far as you can and acquire as many points as you can. Then you do it again.
Is that okay? Is it okay that I spent a significant amount of time yesterday tapping on an iPhone screen so that my Rat on a Skateboard will do cool tricks? Let’s assume I got stuff done: I did some chores, some writing, played a game I need to review, I did some reading, I ate, I bathed. I lived my life. But on the edges, I played a game, not because it was particularly meaningful, but because it was just fun.
Typically, thoughtful people like to answer this question by pointing out that we get certain inherent benefits from playing games: they can make us smarter, better at reacting, and they provide opportunities for social experiences. But why can’t we appreciate the concept of fun without studying it to death? Not that studying the concept is bad, but relying on those findings in order to justify it gives the impression that all of life must be justified. This is an unfortunate side-effect of the assumption that God is not so interested in our enjoying his creation as-is. On the contrary, God has given us tools in the here and now to create things and to enjoy them. Like children, nature, music and the visual arts, games are a blessing from God, however stained by sin they may often be.
So, sometimes I play Rat on a Skateboard, and God smiles.