Report from Action Hero Game # 1:
Play and its crucial role in human life was described in Homo Ludens (Man, the player) by Johan Huizinga, a Dutch historian. He says, "Summing up the formal characteristic of play, we might call it a free activity standing quite consciously outside 'ordinary' life as being 'not serious' but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings that tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress the difference from the common world by disguise or other means." This definition of play is important to understand to fully grasp what we were doing last week. One of the participants touches upon this aspect and the role of play in behaviour and social change in an insightful article about the game in the Alternative. I should stress however, that the Action Hero Game isn't so much about social change as it is about finding/creating a space for testing and unlearning certain behaviours in ourselves. I could get into trite assertions about 'be the change' and all that rubbish but this game, for me, isn't about change. It is quite simply about being. We spent a lot of time during the game simply practicing a state of being, albeit in a public space. There is something quite spiritual about that. But, I won't go there either. Instead, let's talk a bit about the play.
Secrecy as play often entails, can be super fun, which is why the game wasn't allowed an audience. The instructions and our responses weren't shared with anyone except the players. And, being covert allowed us an opportunity to be. None of you, nor anyone around me in the metro knew that my chin-up-eye-contact-making-
standing-with-my feet-far-apart-behaviour was part of a game. In all likelihood I was unusual only to my self. I had huge problems with the idea of walking up and down the metro car or street with my arms swinging. I imagined that I would look happy but also raving mad. However, I am no spoiled sport and those were the instructions.
And, then there were instructions to do things that came naturally. Things I already do, like travel in the general compartment and occupy space. Actions a Blank Noise veteran has learned over the years. Howbeit, it's one thing to do what you do and another altogether to do it deliberately, mindfully. When standing and smiling are the ONLY things you can DO - you are, in doing, forced into being. So, what I am I on about being?
Being in my city, being everywhere who I am in those rare moments when I fully feel like myself. Not just when it is convenient. Surely, no one is out to keep you from being?
Well I am wrong about that. If it were ok for us to be anywhere, we wouldn't call ourselves Action Heroes. And, Blank Noise wouldn't have had helplines and police details handy when we were playing. What I am right about though is that even being only comes with practice. You might be surprised at the results. I caught myself swinging my arms while on the street walking yesterday.