Q&A

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

ANY­ONE WHO’S A PAR­ENT of a pre­teen boy is well-ac­quainted with the wild, blocky world of Minecraft. Now The­atre Re­place­ment artis­tic di­rec­tor Maiko Ya­mamoto’s new the­atre work MINE takes in­spi­ra­tion from her own ex­pe­ri­ences play­ing the pop­u­lar con­struc­tion video game with her 11-year-old son. Us­ing the game to build the fan­tasy uni­verse of the the­atre space, the re­sult­ing work puts a group of gamer-per­form­ers be­tween the ages of 10 and 45 into dif­fer­ent live story lines. It de­buts at Burn­aby’s Shad­bolt Cen­tre for the Arts from Wed­nes­day to Satur­day (Novem­ber 14 to 17) and will tour to Lon­don and Cam­bridge in the U.K. in March 2019. Here’s what Ya­mamoto had to say about it:

Q. How and why did you start play­ing Minecraft with your son, Hokuto?

A. I started play­ing Minecraft with him about two years ago. I re­ally re­sisted play­ing at first be­cause I felt con­flicted about how much he wanted to play and how hard it was for him to walk away from it. It caused a lot of fights be­tween us. We did some re­search and read about a kids’ camp around town called Mck­ids Acad­emy. This made a huge dif­fer­ence; he had a space and a com­mu­nity to play with, and the best thing about the camp was a code of con­duct that they de­vel­oped, with re­ally use­ful rules about how to play pos­i­tively with other peo­ple. We started play­ing to­gether and I re­ally en­joyed him teach­ing me how to do things; how to build, how to run and fly, and how to sur­vive through the night, when the zom­bies and creep­ers come! I also learned why it was hard for him to leave the game, and how to ap­proach him leav­ing in a pro­duc­tive way. If he was build­ing a house, I knew how to ap­proach him about stop­ping that worked with the flow of that way bet­ter.

Q. You’ve said the dy­namic be­tween you two changed within the Minecraft world. How so? Q. What do you think MINE says about the re­la­tion­ships be­tween par­ents and kids in the age of tech­nol­ogy?

A. We’re re­ally fo­cus­ing on the mother-son re­la­tion­ship in the show, but un­de­ni­ably it pokes at the fears we all have as par­ents about tech­nol­ogy. For me, it’s re­ally about the fear of not be­ing able to par­ent him in­side these new re­la­tion­ships. He’s re­ally on the cusp of all this, and it’s ter­ri­fy­ing. I think it’s su­per im­por­tant that I try and stay in di­a­logue with him as much as pos­si­ble about it. I can say that the con­ver­sa­tion we’re hav­ing now around gam­ing is in a way bet­ter place. At the same time, we’re not try­ing to of­fer any con­crete an­swers about what to do, be­cause that would be im­pos­si­ble. Ev­ery kid is dif­fer­ent. We’re merely talk­ing about our own ex­pe­ri­ences in­side ever-chang­ing ter­rain. And we’re us­ing found nar­ra­tives to ex­plore what it might mean in a broader sense, and we take the au­di­ence with us as we tell these sto­ries, all through play­ing Minecraft!

A. It’s not that it changed so much—it shifted. I was still his mom and he was still my son, but be­cause he is way more pro­fi­cient at the game than my­self, he was the ex­pert. So I no­ticed this shift im­me­di­ately. We still cared for each other in the same way; I was still par­ent­ing him (i.e., he’d ask per­mis­sion from me to “tame” a dog that would live with us be­fore do­ing it), but he was tak­ing on the role of the par­ent in-game— keep­ing me safe and giv­ing me things to help me, like po­tions that make me run faster, or see in the dark, or heal me.

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