There's a passage in the Bible from Corinthians that people quote now and again that goes:
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
Well, it's exactly that attitude which is why so many adults find it difficult just to let go and have simple fun. Here's a quote I enjoy much more; it's from Keith Johnstone, one of the trailblazers of modern improvised theater:
"I began to think of children not as immature adults, but of adults as atrophied children."
I started thinking about this again when upon getting hold of a Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis, depending). It wasn't a system I ever owned before but playing it was instantly familiar, bringing back memories of the way I used to play before I, and gaming, grew up.
At first I rebelled against it. It was quite shocking when it dawned on me that the games couldn't be saved. But then the next day I put the game on again, starting from the very beginning. It didn't matter. I had the same fun, got a little further, had to stop or failed again and repeated the process the next day - or even straight away.
It was back to the days where when I played games I would actually play
. I may as well have been eight years old. At no time did it feel like work. Never did I wonder if I would make it to the next level, I was just fooling around and having a good time. It never seemed to matter whether the session lasted two minutes or two hours. Playing it on the original console meant I couldn't just create a save image or leave the Wii to remember where I left off last time. Instead of the frustration I expected, however I was simply freed
from the relentless need to win, making it all the more delightful when victory came. For me, retro isn't just what I play but also my whole approach
to playing it.
Of course, modern games are often able to give us experiences much deeper and more artful than were possible (or, more accurately, deeper than were attempted
) back then and I wouldn't miss those for the world. That games are growing up is something that is surely both necessary and mostly good for the artform. The past week has just been a stern reminder that depth isn't automatically a virtue and that winning isn't necessary to having a good time. Most importantly, though, I was reminded that childishness is not something to be avoided or grown out of but something to constantly rediscover and delight in.
If you've put away childish things, do yourself a favour and get them out again once in a while. It'll do you good.