Minecraft ob­ses­sion in­spired new play

Gam­ing jour­ney with child be­came provoca­tive play

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - STU­ART DERDEYN sderdeyn@post­media.com

The­atre Re­place­ment’s lat­est work, Mine, shows us what hap­pens when a per­form­ing arts par­ent gets ac­tively in­volved in their child’s play — in this case, cre­ator Maiko B. Ya­mamoto be­com­ing in­volved in play­ing Minecraft with her 11-year-old gamer son, Hokuto MacDuff.

De­vel­oped over the nar­ra­tives the two dis­cov­ered play­ing the pop­u­lar video game, the play in­volves a group of in­ter-gen­er­a­tional gamers/per­form­ers be­tween the ages of 10 to 45 en­act dif­fer­ent sto­ries built up around the game and also trans­posed into real world events. Or some­thing like that, in this con­fused dig­i­tal realm.

“The show was in­spired by a con­flict I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing with my son who, at around age eight, was be­com­ing com­pletely ob­sessed with dig­i­tal screens and the game Minecraft,” Ya­mamoto said.

“We lim­ited his screen time as we’d been ad­vised, but it was still re­ally hard for him to leave and it be­came this kind of Grand Canyon rift be­tween the two of us.

“It was re­ally hard be­cause I didn’t want to be the one tak­ing away this thing he was re­ally into, but zon­ing out and spend­ing all your time in a dig­i­tal world isn’t tak­ing care of him, ei­ther.”

The con­flict grew and, in seek­ing so­lu­tions to it, the par­ents found MCKids Academy, which uses Minecraft for learn­ing pos­i­tive and safe ex­pe­ri­ences. For many younger peo­ple, the build­ing process is more im­por­tant than the sur­vival as­pect of the game and the cre­ativ­ity ex­er­cised in mak­ing things in the on­line en­vi­ron­ment can be­come a means to pos­i­tive play. Even­tu­ally, Ya­mamoto ac­cepted her son’s en­treaties to play the game.

“And I was such a newb, could barely walk in a straight line and kept break­ing things while he was an ex­pert run­ning cir­cles around me ask­ing what he could show me how to do,” she said.

“He was the ex­pert, but I was still the par­ent, as he would ask me if he could bring home a dog be­fore he “tamed” one or put his bed next to mine. Sud­denly, there was a pos­si­ble work of the­atre com­ing about.”

Col­lab­o­rat­ing with game-savvy lo­cal the­atre artists such as Hong Kong Ex­ile’s Remy Sui and Conor Wylie, as well as a quar­tet of lo­cal gamer/per­form­ers rang­ing in age from 10 to 14, Mine was cre­ated.

Ya­mamoto said that slowly the par­ent-child nar­ra­tive de­velop be­tween moth­ers and sons with an on­line lens of sorts.

be­tween “You mother/son watch ages 10 a group and re­la­tion­ships 45 of en­act gamers dif­fer­ent through as all well of their as try var­i­ous to nav­i­gate mo­ments we this are whole in,” she new said. dig­i­tal world that

we’re “Hokuto nav­i­gat­ing is on stage and with the hard­est me and thing for me is let­ting go, let­ting them/him be­come this con­fi­dent hu­man in this new world.”

Us­ing sto­ries rang­ing from Bambi’s open­ing be­tween the mother and son to the heavy-handed prophecy of Ter­mi­na­tor, the play ex­poses many sides to the par­entchild dy­namic.

There are a lot of con­ver­sa­tions about fears.

“The kids on­stage are meant to ap­pear like th­ese gods who can do all th­ese things while the par­ents are barely able to keep up with them,” she said. “And the won­der­ful thing is we are al­ways play­ing the game, too. If it’s night time, zom­bies and crea­tures will sud­denly start wan­der­ing in and, in day­time, you have pigs and other an­i­mals pre­sent­ing, it starts rain­ing, odd things hap­pen all the time.”

Mine is some­thing of a huge, un­struc­tured im­pro­vi­sa­tion based around the game and it won’t play out the same each time. As to whether the mak­ers of the game were pleased about it be­ing used in the play, Ya­mamoto says they were.

“Ul­ti­mately, it’s a pretty Minecraft-pos­i­tive show and we talked to lawyers who made it clear that many oth­ers are do­ing this and you re­ally just need to say, ‘this is not an of­fi­cial Minecraft prod­uct,’ and it isn’t,” she said. “We’re not chang­ing the game, we’re us­ing it, and we’re a non-profit, so we aren’t mak­ing money on it, ei­ther.”

But the real ques­tion to an­swer is did the re­search for the play turn the par­ent into an ob­ses­sive gamer like the child?

“Minecraft be­came a nat­u­ral part of our con­ver­sa­tion and I be­came able to see why it’s hard for him to leave at times,” she said.

“He’s in the mid­dle of build­ing a ho­tel and he needs to fo­cus on it and his re­sponse is no dif­fer­ent than my own when I go, ‘Not now, I’m busy.’ So now I ask him first about what he is do­ing and how much time he needs, in the same way he does for me.”

Mine will touch dif­fer­ent nerves in dif­fer­ent age groups. Where younger play­ers might just see van­quish­ing a zom­bie as what you do, par­ents could think that a child alone in a room ob­ses­sively killing char­ac­ters could be a pre­cur­sor to some Amer­i­can style school shoot­ing out­burst. There are mul­ti­ple lev­els to the play and they are de­signed to foster dis­cus­sion.

“The­atre Re­place­ment is try­ing to cre­ate a show that adults and game age kids can watch to­gether and then dis­cuss,” she said.

“And they may likely have very dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions to things tak­ing place. We’ve been able to use our imag­i­na­tions like never be­fore with this, be­cause you can do that with Minecraft.”

Mine is not an of­fi­cial Minecraft prod­uct nor is it af­fil­i­ated with Mo­jang. It is tour­ing to Lon­don and Cam­bridge in March 2019.

Hokuto MacDuff, the play­wright’s son, in a scene from The­atre Re­place­ment’s Mine.

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