In Defence of the Personal Imagination

2020.11.13, by Yumeka
Filed under Creativity, Essays

Think of a grown man. Think of a grown man having imaginary friends—think of a grown man without imaginary friends. Most people would look upon the former as pathological, if not a bit odd…

But I have to ask, why? What makes a personal imagination more absurd than someone else’s imagination, marketed towards you? Why is it socially acceptable to drop $400+ dollars on a video game console, then $60+ dollars on individual games, but you can’t make up games in your head yourself and play them all on your own? Why is it OK to pay for movie tickets to watch other people’s pretending, but if you want to write a story it has to be “fiction”, and exist on a medium somewhere, to prove that it “exists” as a “work” (a product of labour) but you’re not allowed to invite these same characters into the real world, not engage with them in reality?

You can play in a fantasy world like Skyrim on the computer, but you’re not allowed to play in a fantasy world in the park. The original Legend of Zelda game stemmed from the creator’s experiences make-believing adventures in the Japanese countryside. Then he, as an adult, adapted those adventures for an electronic medium—and suddenly his make-believe became socially acceptable.

If one were to charge for imaginary friends, would that suddenly make them respectable in capitalist society? Because you put “work” on them, you expect to be “compensated” for that work in a market context—is that when it’s OK to imagine, make-believe, play out stories with people who don’t exist? At what point does make-believe become LARPing?

Because you’re supposed to “turn off” LARPing, the session comes to an end and you return to your existence as a worker making somebody else profit.

Why isn’t that mindset considered pathological? “Oh, don’t mind me, instead of exercising outdoors and exploring my surroundings whilst engaging my intellectual faculties of creativity and empathy I’d rather—sit at my desk, be yelled at by customers, and listen to my boss talk about metrics and what they mean for this financial quarter. God, that’s what being human is all about, right? Market share and market cap and—”

Oh, stuff it.