Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

Family Unity: Virtual Worlds, Games and Auntie Em in the Kitchen

Tom Higgins, the evangelist for Unity3D appeared on Metanomics today and confessed after that he’s also called The Preacher – to which I’d add carnival barker, pep squad leader, coach, and school yard razzer – “bet you can’t climb that wall, I bet ya, come on, climb it, bet ya can’t, come on.”

Leaving aside Unity3D itself, of which I’m a big fan, what struck me about Tom’s appearance, aside from Robert Bloomfield going off again on the Serenity Prayer and telling us that we need wisdom in order to accept the Lab (um, OK, now I really DO need a drink) was that Tom so clearly came from some sort of machismo gamer mindset and was probably still pumped on adrenaline from GDC where they all walked around in company polo shirts and wished they had ear plugs with all the ‘customizable audio falloff’ that was going on.

I mean picture it. You’re maybe thinking about family, right? Easter is around the corner, spring long weekend, the clan gathers.

You’ve tried to prepare yourself but those wacky relatives of yours always pull the same stunts and all you can really hope for is that the kids will get home without too much damage or that at the very least they’ll fall asleep in the car on the way home so you can finally have some peace and quiet.

Out in the garage, Uncle Phil has gathered a bunch of them together and even though you made him swear not to get them all high on pot this year, you’re sure you heard him whisper something to your nephew about peyote and last time you looked he had them all convinced that they could take apart Uncle Mitch’s motorcycle and learn about combustion theory before dinner, and whack it back together before the sun went down – the problem is he always gets an emergency phone call and ducks out early, saying that “the clouds are calling me man, friend needs some assistance and love” before hightailing it back to his beach shack and sandals.

In the living room, cousin Higgy is regaling another group of kids with stories about some trip he took last week, what the flight attendants looked like, and making knowing winks about how ‘interoperable’ they were. Thankfully, someone stops him before he gets too explicit (in fact, before he does much of anything at all other than drop hints and winks) but Higgy gets everyone up for a good rousing game of Halo 3 and before you know it there are shouts of “kill! kill!” from your youngest, and you realize it will be months of deprogramming before you’ll get him to stop begging for his XBox fix.

But out in the kitchen things are more placid.

Auntie Em came, as always, with a box of activities, and she’s gathered the little ones together and is having what she likes to call “structured play”. She sure TRIES really hard, Auntie Em does – she has everything planned out with the paints in their own individual cartons, with the cardboard in different colors and the child-proof scissors and Elmer’s glue.

The problem is that those darn kids don’t ever seem to WANT to settle down and have all that structured play, not with Higgy in the living room turning the volume up on the TV and not with the clanging noise from the garage where they’re trying to open up the source of that vrrrroooom sound on the motorcycle.

And so the kids wander off until all she’s left with is little Sally, who’s still trying to glue together the cardboard so it will make a paper crown.

You console poor Auntie Em. You tell her that her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. She gives the kids the tools and the structure through which to channel their play, she encourages them and brags about how “wonderfully creative our little residents are today” to all the adults in the room who aren’t looking down at their feet with quiet embarrassment.

And at the end of the night Uncle Mitch will need to try to get his damn motorcycle back together. Steve will take care of cleaning up the mess of spilled Coke and popcorn kernels stuck in the XBox. And little Sally will still sit all alone, trying to get her paper crown finished with its peel-and-stick stars, while all you want to do is flop down on the couch and, well, watch TV.


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