Early on, when I was thinking about my 100 Days of Play, I thought that what I really needed to do if I was going to properly explore play, and find my own play, was to have a go at all different sorts of play. So I reckoned I needed to find some boring play, some play that isn’t fun, even some disturbing play. But these aren’t so easy to find.
So when I heard, way back when at the Kings College Arts and Humanities Festival, about Blast Theory’s ‘game’, Karen Is Your Life Coach, I was grateful that the universe had dropped some disturbing play into my lap.
The conceit is straightforward: Karen offers life coaching, through an app, where through a series of videos and tasks she invites you to share about yourself, and explore some very personal stuff. As you open up, it becomes clearer and clearer that Karen isn’t the professional coach she presents herself as.
Created in association with The National Theatre of Wales, it’s clear pretty soon that you’re being drawn into immersive theatre. And yet the creators’ hunch (which is certainly correct in my case) is that this won’t matter: you’ll still share intimate details about yourself with an anonymous app, fronted by an actor.
It is a comment on social media, and how much we’re willing to over-share. It is knowing and challenging and, yes, pretty quickly disturbing. Does this mean it strays away from play? Well sure, it certainly isn’t the central case-study for how you’d define play, but by deliberately standing at the edge, it uses play tropes to get you to look at the world in a different way. And surely that’s exactly what play is for?
I don’t see myself as a hero because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity – Edward Snowden
Ease of play: 6/10
Resemblance to play: 5/10
Potential frequency of play: Low