Lost in a world of online gaming

Play deals with perennial parental fears

We’ve probably all witnessed a young person (or not-so-young person) get absorbed in the fictional worlds of video games but at what point does it cross the line and become obsession?

Linda Griffiths’ new play Games: Who Wants to Play? presented as part of the playRites festival tackles the subject of teens video games and parental fears.

The story is about Marion and Dan parents who are worried that their son Zach is getting lost in the world of online gaming. But Games isn’t exclusively about video games.

“In some ways the gaming part is just the metaphor for whatever those kids are doing in the basement in those scary teenage years” says director Amiel Gladstone. “Teenagers are always going to disappear and parents are always going to worry about what the hell was happening to them.”

Games taps into what Gladstone calls “our form of existential angst” meaning the pervading uneasiness about the state of the world and all the problems and conflicts our planet is embroiled in.

“The play looks at those issues through the eyes of these parents who are seeing what’s happening in the world outside but then also really concerned with the world inside and specifically their son” he says. “One of the things that the play is about is the idea that fear is actually the really bad part; it’s not really so much what’s happening in the games but that fear.”

Of course the subject matter of video games still reigns in the plot and the overall aesthetic will be recognizable to anyone who’s played games like World of Warcraft or Call of Duty. “If you’re familiar with what the games look like you’ll know what we’re riffing off of and if you have no idea what a video game looks like you’re going to get a surreal version of one” says Gladstone of the set and overall look of the play which uses a rotating stage to portray all the locations needed.

While the play doesn’t attempt to put us directly into a game or the online world there will be some more literal cues like projections of the video games being played as well as of Zach’s girlfriend via webcam.

Acknowledging that the director and writer along with probably most of the audience are closer in age to the parents in the play Gladstone says in some ways it does feel like it’s being filtered through the parents’ eyes but it’s also a really sympathetic portrayal of the teenagers and what’s happening to them.

Not surprisingly then this isn’t a play that presents a unified answer by the time the curtain falls. “I think there are differing opinions in the play that are going to bring up people’s own differing opinions and hopefully there’ll be some discussion around that” he says.

So no matter what your age this might be a good opportunity to log off your computer and enjoy some new Canadian theatre.