Boyhood is a phenomenal film, perhaps the best I’ve seen in years. It is full of life, full of humanity, the kind of art that continues when the lights are on, and will be there, with you, until.
There are many reasons why Boyhood is great: how it writes a strong female lead that is not a caricature of a strong female lead, embracing flaws as they are overcome by kindness and love and better judgement; how it is generous with characters, how even the worst are not judged, but understood. Boyhood gives a kind, generous gaze to how complicated and messy and difficult but also joyful and luminous it is to be human, to be alone and with others, to figure all this out.
The genius of Boyhood, though, is that it does all this without big drama, without big topics presented in a big way. It is a great gesture film without great gestures. It fills you with joy because it reminds you of your time, of your life, of how moments pass and that is what we have for each other, the moments we share.
Games and other playthings have been opening lately towards this expressive potential. We have great games about important topics: Howling Dogs, Lim, Mainichi, Cart Life, Dear Esther, The Graveyard. These are all important playthings, but they are also all grand gestures about big topics.
Boyhood shows another joy, another pleasure, another form of exploring and understanding what makes us human. It does not have to do with the big gestures, but with small moments. Like those moments when we play and we also make up our history and our being, making memories and the present and the future for us and those we play with.
JS Joust is not a big game about big gestures. It is, in all honestly, a silly party game. But it gives memories, moments of joy that drives us together, that gives us others to talk with, that gives us memories. Proteus, a playground that looks like a game, reveals a time for us we didn’t know it existed, filling it with strange pleasures and recognition. Noby Noby Boy amuses us, giving us the pleasures of silliness without remorse.
Time will pass and we will remember the moments we spent playing these things, we will share them, they will bring back the joys and pleasures and togetherness they meant. They will soak us up in the joys of playing past and present, alone and together.
Play Matters, as a manifesto, is perhaps a bit too full of great gestures. But those big gestures are not the only ones that makes play an important way of being in the world. Sharing a game of Joust, jumping on trampolines, kicking a ball, telling stories about Spelunky, … all of these are forms of play that gives us togetherness, shared moments, kindness and generosity; moments that gives us humanity.
Play, in big and small gestures, gives us moments that seize us.
And we should embrace these moments, we should embrace the lightness of that joy.
[thanks to doug wilson for reminding me of the importance of togetherness in play]