On New Year’s Eve 2019, my family and I wrote down our plans for the future on pieces of paper, because my little niece insisted on it and neither of us could think of any real counterargument. In the process, I got a little carried away and could already see the coming year ahead of me: professionally, personally, artistically, world domination – oh, what I would achieve! But three months later, it was all over.
The Corona virus hit the world and billions of plans for the future were all scrapped at the same time.
This feeling was completely new to me. Sure, sometimes plans don’t go as they should. But now a situation had snatched the complete script of my life away from me and continued to write it for me. It filled all the pages uninspiredly with the same dull procedures over and over again: Get up, get busy, stay safe, sleep. I felt powerless and envied my other self, who had surely already dusted off the Nobel Prize in a parallel dimension where Corona doesn’t exist.
Brave New World – Storys in the pandemic
Stories have always given me courage and strength, orientation and advice. But art, Netflix and gaming had hardly any stories in store at the time that could be meaningfully applied to the pandemic. I wasn’t a superhero, after all, and my “opponent” couldn’t just be flicked away with Thanos’ infinity gauntlet. But that was exactly my problem, as I later came to understand:
Our favorite stories too often think in terms of “victory” and “defeat” – and a Pandemic is not a story that ends with us taking back the old world after a final battle.
This version of reality as we knew it, is lost forever, but …
… to see this also made me recognize a new world with different possibilities and factors, with which completely fresh plans could be implemented. To give just a few examples from my life: Universities were relying more on digital teaching due to contact restrictions and were thus able to save on the high travel and accommodation costs for lecturers, which significantly lowered the hurdles for newcomers like me. The gaming industry, for which I work as a journalist, had lost years of speed and progress due to the pandemic. But now we were able to use the regained capacity to devote more attention to the stories of the users again and create many new infotainment formats. These examples have encouraged me to be much more flexible and open.
It’s your game – Gamer Motivation Modell
Looking back at my challenges during the two pandemic years and how I dealt with them, my guiding question might have been: What kind of story am I in right now and what character SHOULD I be playing in it? And I take “play” literally as a passionate gamer. Just as there are mentor types in storytelling, there are the different player types in video games, which researcher Richard Bartle summarized in his taxonomy in 1996 and which Nick Yee later expanded.
What I’m getting at is that the Pandemic years made me change my gamer type, so to speak: from dreamer to strategist.
Because he brings the necessary pragmatic optimism that there is a solution to every problem. Because he analyzes the situation to find all the possibilities and sets realistic goals based on them, without letting emotions get the better of him. Which is not to say that the strategist does not continue to incorporate the advice and fantasies of the dreamer.
I know for sure that on New Year’s Eve 2021 I will again write plans on a piece of paper – but with the foresighted ulterior motive that they will be discarded the next day and can be replaced by better ones any time.
How my colleague Stefanie, on the other hand, deciphered her personal motivation code (even without Dan Brown) and what is behind her claim “Empathy for Everyone”, she gives insight about in her blogpost here.