What is this?
An interview with whom?
With myself, I guess.
Why would you do that?
I dunno. It was an idea I had. And I was getting bored with the essay format. Why don’t we just see how it goes?
Ok… First question: Adrienne, who are you writing for in this blog?
I’m not sure. Myself, mostly. And other people that, like me, are afraid.
Afraid. Interesting word choice. Why afraid? Afraid of what?
Yeah. I guess it’s a strange word to use. It’s how I feel more days than not: afraid. I think it’s fear but also anxiety, which is a little different.
I’m afraid that I don’t understand harsher realities of the “real world” very well. I’m afraid that I went into a profession in the arts with some very lofty ideals about changing the medium and connecting to people. I’m afraid that those two things put together will make me unhappy.
A lot of the time I’m afraid that what I want to do is impossible. I’m afraid that the only people who will ever go to the theater are rich people, and even they are getting bored with it. I’m afraid that regardless of the spirit of the art form, in practical application the best business people are the ones that succeed.
I’m afraid that not being rich, despite my belief that it shouldn’t matter, is such a huge hindrance that for a vast majority of people, and that it is the bar one has to clear to achieving a kind of stability that will make it possible to stay in this profession. I fear that the only ones outside of that category who succeed are either exceedingly lucky or exceedingly ruthless.
What if I’m not exceedingly lucky? I don’t think I can be exceedingly ruthless.
Do you really think that is true of your profession?
Yes. Sometimes. Sometimes, I do.
What about talent and hard work?
I vacillate between thinking I’m incredibly naïve and thinking that I’ve become too jaded. I would really like to believe that those things matter. I think they do to some degree. But the reason I’m afraid is that I fear they matter less than they should. I think I’m talented. I know I can work hard. But one can’t work hard in a vacuum. You need opportunities to work towards. It seems like you have to work hard in the right place and time on the right thing.
I’ve tried to figure out ways that I can see these supposed “disadvantages” in the opposite light. What does having to work a day job, needing to constantly hustle, having less time than I’d like to make my artwork potentially offer as a lesson that I can use?
And? What are the lessons?
Empathy. Determination. Getting over things you fear. That’s something I’ve had to learn because of those things.
But I am afraid that I’ve developed other things that might overwhelm these positive things – an awareness of limitation, a slower impulse to try anything, a bigger fear of failure.
And you think those things are bad?
They are a product of practice. I have lost a lot of money making shows. I almost couldn’t buy my house because of one, and that was, creatively speaking, one of my best works. A bad critique from grant evaluator can follow you around for years. It makes it harder to try something really out there, you can’t help but shift what you’re making to what you think they might want.
Maybe you just need to say “fuck ‘em” and do what you want, regardless?
In theory, true. But I like to eat. Food, specifically. I also like to pay my bills. On time, preferably. I’d like to make my “career” the same thing as the “job that makes money.”
It can feel one or the other sometimes. So it depends on which scares me more: making something I don’t care as much about, or potentially making my art just a hobby and not an income.
New topic. How about something more positive?
Sure. I agree. This is getting really depressing.
What’s exciting to you right now?
Right now I want to make a board game.
Really? That’s weird.
Why a board game?
It’s something really different. I don’t know how to do it, so I get to learn a lot about something new, which I like. I don’t know enough about board games yet to be too harsh a critic, and I like having a space where I can just enjoy something without too much self-critique. Plus they’re fun! And cheap!
You don’t need any actors.
And you can start one any time. You could conceivably go anywhere in the world with it.
I like symbols and codes. I like tiny objects that you store in perfect little containers. I like to organize and create rules. Games do all these things. I like the idea of a controlled space in which we can use metaphor to explore bigger questions.
Also, a game can include a party that surrounds it. I like to cook and have parties.
What are the best board games you ever played?
Well, recently, I’ve played a game called “Ticket to Ride.” It’s a turn based strategy game about building railroads. It’s a lot of fun, though not terribly interactive. It’s the game we’re going to play at tonight’s Swim Pony Game Night.
I also like “Settlers of Catan” which is another “German” style board game.
Yes. It’s a style of game (though, I should note not all “German” games are board games and not all “German-style” board games are from Germany).
What makes it a German game?
Well, Wikipedia says they “generally have simple rules, short to medium playing times, indirect player interaction, and abstract physical components.”
And “emphasize strategy, downplay luck and conflict, lean towards economic rather than military themes, and usually keep all the players in the game until it ends.”
The thing about these kind of games that I think are the most interesting is that they don’t emphasize a few aspects that “American-style” games do: luck, conflict, drama.”
Hmm… Not to get too deep with you on this, but those sound like similar things that give you anxiety in your real life profession.
What? You mean the luck part?
And the conflict.
I said ruthlessness.
Same thing really.
I guess. Maybe.
Not the rich part.
Yeah. But I don’t like drama in theater either. Ha ha.
Drama. In drama.
It’s a joke.
Anyway. Do you think that playing these games is a way to work through your own anxieties in life by putting them in a controlled setting that you can manipulate?
Uh. I didn’t – I didn’t mean to do that. At least, not on purpose.
Are you trying to see if you can create a world, however small, that removes the luck and conflict, so you can find a system you CAN win, based on the morals you believe in?
But when you say it that way, maybe subconsciously – I think I just want to play a board game with some cool people.
Whatever you say. Any other games that you want to play?
There was a game I had as a kid called Mall Madness. You had to buy a certain number of things on a shopping list. You swiped a credit card to buy the things at different stores, but you had to be careful because if you used up your money on things that were too expensive you had to go back to the ATM and that takes a lot of time.
I thought you said you were using credit cards.
Yeah. That bothered me too when I looked up the rules recently. But when I played it I was 10. I didn’t have a deep understanding about how credit financing works.
So what was so great about this game?
At the center of the mini-mall was an electronic voice over that controlled the random elements like a SALE or CLEARANCE. Every time you pushed the button to end your turn there might be a surprise.
My dad, sister and I used to imitate the woman’s voice with each other:
“There is a SALE in the SHOE STORE. There is a CLEARANCE in the FASHION BOUTIQUE.”
Sounds like fun.
Yeah. It was. I’m not sure what the moral of game was… Buy a lot of stuff? Get out of the mall the fastest? But I liked playing with them.
Well, I think that’s about it for today. Thanks for sitting down and talking with me.
You’re welcome. Maybe we’ll do it again some time.
Adrienne, have you ever played bridge? Or its simpler (and probably German, based on the name) cousin, euchre? Both are amazing games. Andrew and David and I played them both quite a bit in college and into our 20s. I think playing bridge made us better improvisors and maybe better collaborators, too.
It’s not a board game, but there’s a free cooperative game for iPhones/iPads called Spaceteam that I think you’d enjoy. Everyone’s working together. It’s all about communication. Could be a fun point of reference for your game design efforts.
I will look it up!