Star Wars and the Intersection of Game Play with Storytelling – Changing Our Collective Stories

Maria and I finished our Star Wars marathon this weekend when we watched Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. In this episode we witness Anakin Skywalker’s conversion to the dark side, in order to save Padmé from dying, an event he foresaw in a vision.

Star Wars

On the Blu Ray release there were many great additional features on the bonus DVD, one being a recording of a preliminary meeting of George Lucas and his production team as they develop the series The Clone Wars. George Lucas re-acquaints his team with his vision of the force and his instruction is really worth exploring:

We have a destiny which we follow. We live for a reason, and must discover what it is.

The core of the force, you have the light side and the dark side. One side is self-less, the other is selfish. We want to keep them in balance. What happens when you go to the dark side is that it goes out of balance. You get really selfish and you forget about everybody. And ultimately weaken yourself.

When you get selfish you get stuff or you want stuff. And when you want stuff and you get stuff you become afraid that someone will take it away from you, whether it is a person or a thing, pleasure or experience. Once you are afraid that someone is going to take it away from you or you are going to lose it then you start to become angry, especially if you are losing it. And that anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering, mostly on behalf of the person who is suffering because you spend all your time being afraid of losing everything instead of actually living.

With joy and giving to others you can’t think about yourself and therefore there is no pain. But the pleasure factor of greed and of selfishness is a short-lived experience, therefore you are constantly trying to replenish it, and the more you replenish it the harder it is, so you have tyo give up in the end. You are actually afriad of the pain of not having joy. So that is the ultimate core of the darkside, light side of the force. Everything flows from that.

Obviously the Sith are always unhappy because they never get enough of eveything they want. Mostly their selfishness is centred around power and control and the struggle is always to let go from this stuff. In the end, this is the problem of Anakin. You are allowed to love people but you are not allowed to posses them. What he did was that he fell in love, married her and then became jealous.

Star Wars

He saw in his visions that she was going to die and he couldn’t stand losing her. In order not to lose her he made a pact with the devil to be able to become all-powerful. But when he did that she didn’t want anything to do with him any more and he lost her. And when you are powerful, being able to bring her back from the dead, he though “well if I can do that I can be Emperor of the Universe. I can live as the Emperor. I can do what ever I want.”

And what you do then, you will never be satiated. You will always be consumed with the driving desire to have more stuff and be afraid of others taking it away from you. And of course they are.

Every time you get two Siths together you have the master you have the disciple, and the disciple is always trying to recruit another apprentice to join with him to kill the master. The master knows that everyone under him wants his job. The only way to defeat the dark side is discipline. The dark side is pleasure, biological, temporary and easy to achieve.

The light side is joy, ever lasting and difficult to achieve. A great challenge. It has to overcome laziness, give up quick pleasures and overcome fear which leads to hate.

Watching Star Wars again has come at a very interesting time in our collective history, especially as this week people around the world received a huge insight as to just how desperate the American “empire” is to know and control every aspect of our lives, with whistleblower Edward Snowden revealing the  secrets of the NSA and it’s PRISM spying facilities. (Much of this has already been known for many years, with previous systems called Echelon and PROMISE, but it was this week that these “secrets” entered the consciousness of the masses. It also remains to be seen if Snowden with his background working for so many intelligence agencies and their commercial partners really is a whistleblower or if this is not some kind of strategic move on behalf of the NSA etc. )

Also of course, going back to the description of the dark side and light side, it is not a great leap of imagination from one perspective to view the entire advertising industry as being on the dark side, playing to our fears, insecurities and egos. It is therefore ironic that the original Star Wars film then spurred one of the greatest merchandising business operations in history. Despite this, the impact of the films on our collective consciousness has been huge, a phenomena created by such expert mythological story telling and the great passion and vision of Lucas himself.

I myself am extremely interested in the intersection of game playing with story telling, and in the entire Star Wars saga we have unprecedented access in many different documentaries to the making of the films. As can be seen by the popularity of the series across multiple generations, story telling can be a powerful way of helping us to know ourselves better, and in Anakin we see at first hand just how difficult it can be to really see where our emotions and level of consciousness is taking us, despite it being obvious to our Jedi and Sith masters, and our personal, occupational and spiritual teachers and mentors.

One very powerful way of reaching a deeper understanding of ourselves is through expertly facilitated game play, and I have been exploring a number of different techniques all which utlise cards in one way or another. I thought therefore I would look at these four, as each of them can be used in many different ways to help us go on our own hero journeys and experience a transition of consciousness.

Art of Game Design Cards

I have already written about The Art of Game Design – A Book of Lenses which also has a companion pack of cards. This book is a must read for any game designer, which is structured around 100 lenses. The lenses are designed to alert us to the many different perspectives of all the different actors, participants and stakeholders in a project, and of course one of the primary sources of complexity in business today are these conflicting perspectives. This is one of the great skills which George Lucas had, and which attention should be paid when watching all the documentaries on how the films were made. Absolutely everyone it seemed was able to share the vision of what Star Wars was all about, something sadly missing in many business projects which seem to lack this vision and common purpose.

Photo: Analogue Stories by Rita Braz

Photo: Analogue Stories by Rita Braz

The next set of cards by Method Kit I have actually just taken delivery of, and they come in a wonderful small box and packet to keep them smart and clean. The pack I have are for projects, although a Method Kit for personal development is also available, and a number of others including an innovation pack are also in development. The use of cards help us to comprehend a project in many different ways, and for me they help us move away from being so dependent on the linear thinking forced upon us by software such as the gantt charts in MS Project.

Transition Ingredients Cards

The next set of cards which certainly deserve a mention are the Transition Towns Ingredients cards designed by Marina Vons-Gupta. These cards were designed for a number of different games which help people in communities come together to understand the different ingredients of the Transition Towns Movement. These ingredients though are just as applicable to organisations as they are to Transition Towns, and people such as Monica Picavêa are already using it to help organisations in Brazil develop more sustainable and community-based long term business strategies and visions. See this article for my interview with Monica.)

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

The final game I would like to mention is Juxtapose, a slightly different kind of game developed by Frog Design, which is based on hexagons rather than cards. A dialogue group begins with a number of piles of these hexagons which are categorised into People, Components, Human Values, Design Principles, and Locations. A single blank tile becomes the nucleus of the discussion, which will begin to seed as the conversation evolves and those taking part begin to be able comprehend the emerging narrative.

We were in São Paulo when I played and the question that most of my colleagues decided to focus on was security. My friend Daniel Egger, a futurologist and founder of Foltigo, was on another table which considered the role the elderly play in society. This was a great question, and one that is also emphasised in the Transition Towns Movement, who teach us how to honour our elders so that we can learn from them. Daniel had this to say about his experience:

We started immediately discussing the values and necessities resulting in a mess of multiple perceptions on the table. Perceiving that the topic is complex, the group decided to start over. This time we did a step back questioning a part of the initial assumption. Who is this elderly person and is there a categorization? Some of the participants argued that elderly people are those in society that can consume special services by local or national government. Others defended the point that it depend how people are relatively feeling about being old, strongly influenced by mental and physical health. Even others, myself included, argued that besides all the mentioned elements the driving force is the level of social integration and access to options.

In the city of the future, we should avoid rigid pre-classification of groups and work with a dynamic set of interactions and experiences. Only if we understand multiple perspectives we can identify the variables that can change the system to a more harmonic, empathy and humane society.

Source: A Happy City for the Elderly

The concept of consciousness is huge, and can be explored along many different dimensions. Star Wars uses a powerful form of story telling to show us the struggles we face as we pass through life, and doing good is not always the easiest choice or path. Sometimes we are blind to our own world views and ways of seeing, and so we need powerful techniques with skilled facilitators to help us break through our own mental barriers and straight jackets. People often ask me which tools to use to cope with complexity, but in business complexity and chaos are not forces which can be controlled simply by introducing yet another linear methodology. We need a new ways of seeing, and all these games and cards above can be deployed to help us reach a higher level of consciousness.

Ultimately the force is neutral, and it is our consciousness which decides how we are to understand the force and either work with it or be consumed by it. Humanity is in a global crisis, and it is only through both studying our myths of legend and by creating and living new stories that we will be able to be able to live in harmony with complexity and chaos, and the diversity of human experience which can enrich all our lives, if we chose to see with wisdom and not selfishness or fear.

Related Links

Dialogue on Leadership: The Transition of Organisations in Brazil with Mônica Picavêa

Analogue Stories

For those of you in Brazil and/ or interested in developing the dialogue here you may also be interested in this article: The Necessary Evolution: The Strategy Execution Summit, São Paulo – August 2013

6 responses to “Star Wars and the Intersection of Game Play with Storytelling – Changing Our Collective Stories

  1. Reblogged this on Vibrant Bliss and commented:
    Another fascinating post, which again relates to more than just the transition towns movement and storytelling. (Click through to the site to view the article properly.)

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