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Everlasting, Neverending Game Night

is “wonder” just oil on the cogs?

Published 3 months ago • 2 min read

Hi Reader,

Welcome! Please, come in and sit down. Tonight, I have cookies. You deserve a cookie. On the table, I have a few purple vinca flowers.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm feeling pretty heavy tonight. If you're not up for that, maybe skip this week's game night. You're always welcome back.

The thing is, I talk a lot about wonder. For me, "wonder" means a sense of possibility, in its purest, most kid-like form. It keeps me going.

But to get real for a minute?

In our world, wonder often has a job to do.

When I come home from a long day at work, and I’m emotionally exhausted—from doing whatever I had to do to keep a paycheck and a roof over my head (while feeling lucky to have one)—I need to recharge. So what do I turn to?

The TV. Netflix and video games. Media ... lushly produced, with a fine sheen on it.

They serve up dreams for me, for you. They shape our dreams.

They lift our gaze to another place: maybe kinder, maybe crueler, usually fantastical, but always more meaningful.

They can be a mercy.

Sometimes, I hate to read the news. I feel like we live in a dystopia. Life, with its senselessness and cruelty, deadens me, us. When we're surrounded by so many awful things without respite or proportion, they fail to create even a sense of tragedy. Tragedy requires a sense of how good things could have been. Tragedy demands we feel something.

It's hard sometimes even to feel.

So, sometimes I want to be served tragedy, so I can feel deep-breath feelings.

Usually, though, I want to forget the dystopia. I want someone to renew the promise of possibility. I want to feel wonder for an evening.

So that, in the morning, I can go back to work.

Rinse, repeat.

If we settle for that, we can feel like cogs being oiled. Maintained. Distracted. Whirring endlessly in an enormous, infernal machine.

And TV and video games are so ready to do that. It's astounding how polished they are, how assiduously they work at it, often at nothing more meaningful than inducing a physiological response. Excitement. Thrills.

But I want wonder to mean more. It can.

Imagine a small gift box, sitting on your lap. It's red cardboard. It feels hefty for its size.

When you open the lid, golden light pours out. It dazzles you at first, but then your eyes adjust, and you see...

What?

Your best self. Your dignity. The fact that you are loved, and that you deserve to be loved. A more just, equitable society.

It's just a vision, like spots in your eyes. It fades when you close the box. But you get to keep it. You can open it whenever you want.

I'd just like to give everyone that box. I'd like us to give it to each other.

What a tall order. I know that working toward a better world takes persistent work, from all of us, and we won't even live to see its completion.

But our little tabletop games can at least give us all that box. When we gather in small groups and tell meaningful stories, with human connection, that's homespun wonder. It's a guiding vision, so we can remember we're more than cogs, and keep doing the really important work.

It means a lot.

Thanks for sharing the box.

Cheers,
Chris

P.S. Next week, I'm getting ready for the eclipse! So I think the tone will be totally different. Whew.

Everlasting, Neverending Game Night

by Chris Sellers, they/them

🌈🚀 Reliable wonder engine. I make narrative role-playing games that imagine a weirder, queerer, more connected world.

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