Co-op, the Purity of Play, and One Little Steam Ad
This week, whenever I’ve logged into Steam, I’ve seen the big ad: Cozy Couch Co-Op Bundle! It’s a cute one, with characters all piled onto a couch. Everyone’s got a controller, even the bomb from Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The message is clear: gaming brings people together, and it’s a message we’ve written about many times, from many different angles. But we’ve written about the flip side, too, the other puzzle piece—the ways social gaming, at least of the online variety, can create the opposite effect. Or wait; erase and correct: gaming in general can create the opposite effect. Because sometimes, I think, we all get tired. Studying what we do, how we do, can turn playing into work, can make us feel like we must stay in and slog through even when we want to be out doing something else. And let’s not forget that we’re always studying Othered bodies, Other spaces, the fringes, the margins, the left out, the forgotten, the abused.
It wears. It’s wearing.
So here’s this reminder: couch co-op! It’s like a little sunburst of joy when I log into Steam. Imagine me: logging in for a few minutes of this or that, not necessarily for fun—for work—but also as a break from other things. I’ve read three chapters; let’s play a little. But still, here in my mind, are all the things I have to do. The papers I have to grade. The taxes I have to file. The paper I have to write. The work toward the conference I have to do. Other projects, other plans, everything swirling. Then this ad. Co-op! It always makes me pause a little.
Last weekend, my partner and I took the time to play a little Rock Band together. We haven’t done this in a while; I’ve had a nagging cough for months (yay, asthma), and we’ve been busy. He’s got a research project wrapping up in a few weeks and so he’s been spending a lot of evenings in the lab. On that particular night, in fact, he was supposed to be in the lab, but things happened, and I was taking a work break, so we ended up in the living room instead, playing Rock Band. Laughing. Forgetting, for a time, all our other burdens. Just playing.
Isn’t it nice to just play? To play without thought or care? I’m not writing about Rock Band (or so I thought, yet here I am). He could stop thinking about his projects for a while. We experimented. I even got him to sing one, which never happens. It was fun.
So I see this ad, and a small part of me wants to critique it; I feel that urge to notice, to look, to break elements down, every time it loads. But this time, I’m choosing to not. It’s cute. It reminds me of good things, the best aspects of gaming, and while I can’t turn off my urge to analyze, I can back burner it, the way I do projects sometimes, the same way I choose to take a break from anything else. It’s a good reminder. It’s a good step along the path to finding some measure of work-life balance.