There are few things that function well without tension—most musical instruments wouldn’t work without it! Ironically, we spend so much of our time trying to remove it when we should be leaning into it.
I had the pleasure of taking a class (or two) with Ian Bogost as an undergraduate and I thought he was pretty smart then.
Apparently, I was wrong—he’s actually a genius and is, at the very least, sub-culturally famous. Or… maybe he became famous since I was a student of his back in 2001/02.
In a recent interview, Ian shares some wisdom via the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement:
You can’t have art without resistance in the materials.William Morris
This is the fundamental premise of any good game and, more acutely, the agreed upon social contract between the player and the game:
We agree that the world (inside the game) is broken and that you (i.e. the player) is going to fix the problems that I (i.e. the game & creators) have built for you to solve.
It’s a neat relationship that, when done well, feels like an authentic and genuine relationship. But, don’t miss the point: Without tension, the relationship simply cannot hold.
In other words, good relationships often times feel like they are on “auto-pilot” or “cruise control” — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and we all need a few folks in our lives that we can “just chill” with.
Great relationships, in contrast, seem to almost always have tension as a fundamental part of the dynamic, either naturally based on personality differences or because of a commitment to help one another grow.
In the former you don’t have to manufacture tension because it’s already inherent in the system while the latter requires intentionality, resolve, and perseverance.
In other words, it’s an explicit decision to stay in the relationship because both parties know that real, authentic, and sustainable growth happens within the tension as the two parties show up, together, day after day after day after day.
I’m always on the lookout for more of these types of folks in my life. Sometimes, on a very rare occasion, they feel even closer than family.
[BTW: I’m launching an intensive, 5-day workshop on Community Building soon where I hope to make more of these types of life-long relationships: http://yen.camp]