Humaginarium customers are people with a chronic illness who enjoy video games. This begs the questions: what people, what illness, and what video games?
My people are 18 and older. They’re “regular folks,” a denominator I borrowed from Chris Anderson. Diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, community, socioeconomic class, vocation, and education. That sounds like everybody, but it doesn’t include children or puerile adults. Cognitive and emotional loads of Humaginarium are for the types of people Ralph Waldo Emerson called “man thinking” and Johan Huizinga called “man playing.” Fully realized human beings, imperfect and aspiring.
These regular folks have a chronic illness; or believe they have or risk developing one; or empathetically care for somebody who is afflicted. Approximately half the population of the United States has a debilitating chronic illness; many individuals have more than one. I don’t know how many more worry they have something that hasn’t been diagnosed; nor do I know how many healthy people care for others who are chronically ill. Still, the total population of my people is very large and is projected to grow about 1% annually. At this point it’s fine to leave it at that.
What chronic illness am I talking about? Well, there are many. Humaginarium has nine portfolios to cover them:
My starting point in conceiving Humaginarium was immunological disorders, for personal reasons, but I switched to endocrinological for technical reasons. In line with that choice, our prototype project Diabetes Agonistes simulates type 2 diabetes. There will be several more Humaginarium games for customers concerned about this dreadful malady; and eventually there will be hundreds of games across all nine portfolios helping millions of people come to terms.
That said, we can advance to the final question: what video games? I bifurcate the lot according to the ways they’re used: streaming and downloading. Streaming refers to PC games but I expect the PC to subsume game consoles while Humaginarium is breaking away. So think of these video games as all that stream from the cloud to a screen. In contrast to streaming, downloading refers to games retailed by Apple and Google; and probably by Amazon and Microsoft before long.
My streaming video game is long-form in the strategy genre. Hours of thoughtful and engaging entertainment in each portfolio with themes, stories, characters, immersive aesthetics. In contrast my downloading video game is an itty-bitty app in the casual genre featuring mind-bending puzzle forms. Customers may play downloading games that unlock content in their streaming adventures. They may likewise collect clues and tokens in streaming games that solve some of the thornier problems in downloading titles. Streaming and downloading both promote escapism and catharsis.
Thus Humaginarium customers are people with a chronic illness who enjoy video games. Even accepting that, however, it’s reasonable to wonder something like this: Why would any customer want to play video games about chronic illness? Well, a similar question has been asked about popular games that depict violent crime and warfare. After all who enjoys rape and murder, pillage, pain and suffering? The answer (I hope) is nobody; but the timeless function of art is not to purvey sadistic pleasure. It’s to reframe and overcome horror in ways that are gratifying and empowering. Grownups use all of the arts – visual, literary, dramatic, cinematic, musical, and interactive – to face the terrifying mysteries of life with curiosity and courage; and use that experience to beautify and make better sense of living in the real world.
I’ve noticed that some critics who question the utility of games for people with a chronic illness neither have a chronic illness nor love video games. Not surprising. Moreover they haven’t considered the therapeutic affordances of art or the developmental impetus of play. That being the case, they can relax, they’re off the hook, because Humaginarium is making stuff for the other half of humanity. Skeptics are not my customer.
Scientific entertainment. Variation on Male Nude Study, by Gustav Klimt