I feel like I should explain why I have disappeared without a trace for the last 52 days.
In 52 days, a lot can happen, 18.4 million people will be born and 1.8 million jars of Nutella will be sold. In terms of of Play Southend, the online game that I am studying as part of my dissertation, the last two months have held, the launch of the game, countless workshops and a few artists get togethers, it’s been a busy time!
But, you may ask, if it’s been so busy, why the no show? All I can say is, the changes that Play Southend is talking about aren’t going to pop up overnight. I am studying a process that was thought up years ago, put into action last summer and has snowballed into a mass of different people and different ideas all interacting with each other through games. An idea that is going on to new places and new challenges in the future!
I’ve spent 5 hours in 30 degree heat asking complete strangers about their hopes for the future and another 4 hours colouring in pictures for a game, but I’ve been having fun! (and not drawing any oxbow lakes might I add!) But of course every piece of research is going to have a few setbacks. Mine is partially that to get to Southend, I have to get 2 trains and a tube, which means that I can’t just pop in on a workshop. Also partially the fact that I’m working with the general public, people who react completely differently to what you might think and sometimes aren’t afraid to be funny.
But then again, anyone who’s made a survey or a questionnaire and sent it round to be filled out will know that there is always at least one person who decides that they are going to be hilarious. The problem is deciding where to draw the line.
I’ve had 60 year olds from the moon answer my surveys and even a 3 month old baby answer my questionnaires in the past, and I’ve always cut them out for the obvious jokers that they are. But now I’m in trouble. Now that I’m looking at people’s art work (as since the launch of the game on the 14th July I’ve compared 100 different games), but when can I say someone is honestly just messing around?
In the past 100 games I’ve had cries for more flying pigs in Southend, less germs in Southend, more and less cars and even just a bigger roller coaster. That’s all well and good, not hurting anyone. But what happens when you get calls for someone to hang the local council? Or there is a game specifically targeting a racial or religious group?
I suppose it is down to the opinions of the moderators of the website as to what can and can’t be shown. But it makes you think, that even a game campaigning for change in a community can still be used as a canvas for hatred in our sparkling digital age.