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As my independent activity only consists of individual therapy, it is not possible for me to work with the dynamics of a therapeutic group.
Frankly, the question did not arise with the use of Sims which is not made to be used other than by an individual, but Minecraft lends itself particularly well to participation by several people. By staying only in an individual mode I lost access to one of the game’s richest potential assets in the context of its use in therapy: the live relational dynamics which allow access to verbal exchanges, postures, and particular attitudes generating a whole emotional range to be exploited.
I therefore had the choice between 4 options:
- have the client play on servers at the same time as other players,
- move to group therapies,
- drop the multiplayer issue, or
- create a therapeutic situation to get as close as possible to the multiplayer aspect.
As described earlier in the article with regard to the therapeutic framework, the question of the framework itself is always a central and omnipresent element, and as soon as it is a question of affecting the framework currently in place, the psychologist is the guarantor of it in order to protect his client.
Thus, reflections on the four options to be studied in order to introduce multiplayer in therapy have always revolved around the therapeutic framework—what questions would it raise, is it opportune to adapt it, and if so how?
- The idea of having the client play on a server soon came up against a major problem: it meant opening up the framework to something that was not controllable; in fact, two worlds would meet, the therapeutic space and the outside. Because the framework had an uncontrolled opening, the safety of the therapeutic space was no longer guaranteed. The only possibility could be to create a server with other psychologists in which the clients of each one would evolve, each psychologist intervening and contributing to the good maintenance of the setting.
- This is an interesting idea, but it requires equipment, space, and the purchase of several game licenses or possibly clients taking turns to play, with the game being projected on a large screen. This would be difficult to accomplish as a independent, but it would be more practicable for an institution.
- It crossed my mind because these thoughts were generating too many questions, most of which had not been answered several weeks after the idea had appeared. Too bad—at that time a working scheme could not emerge.
- It was finally after agreeing to give up this option that the idea was able to emerge. Starting from an existing schema, I locked myself into a function, adapting the multiplayer to liberal practice, but by giving it up I was able to make room for a creativity emerging from my practice, and from the therapeutic framework put in place. Therefore I was constantly in contact with it as this mode of play developed, which I called the Community mode.
The Community Mode
Since I started my practice, what exactly has it been about? The clients follow one after the other, sometimes they encounter and observe each other when I open the door to let the parent in and the two little ones, curious about the patient who is finishing their session and the next one, look at each other with this sense of questioning: ‘what does the one who is going to evolve in my space look like when I am gone?’, and for the other ‘what does the one who invested this space before me look like and what will I have to invest in my turn?’.
For temporary constructions such as the wooden train, kaplas, or playmobils, since the beginning of my practice I have decided to give the client the choice to leave their construction intact or to tidy everything up at the end of the session before leaving. The idea is to give the client the opportunity to leave a trace of something that they can feel proud of; for me, for the relative who has come to pick them up and who necessarily enters the therapeutic space, and for the patient who will come after them. In any case the client has the chance to make something of themselves continue to exist after they leave.
I started from this same idea; the proposal to leave a trace for another client who was going to temporarily inhabit the same therapeutic space as the previous client. Thus, I had the idea of creating two parts that I called ‘Community’, one in Survival mode and the other in Creative mode. These are two parts where the clients use the same Minecraft character but make their own creations, like the clients who use the same kaplas box for their own creations. The major difference comes from the fact that in the Community part of the game, the clients’ constructions remain, and they are not just temporary structures which last the length of the session.
- The “Community Survival” part
I set up very specific rules to govern these particular areas where clients would come across the presence of others in their therapeutic space.
The instructions for the game are to make a house knowing that the client is going to see the constructions of other clients. They are free to set up near a house, without being stuck there, therefore respecting a certain ‘privacy’ or further away by walking a little to keep away from it.
I chose to set the part at low difficulty (‘peaceful’), specifically without the monsters or hunger to combat. Indeed, what was interesting to observe was the management of the presence of the other and the impact on the client’s decisions. Managing monsters and hunger would have added two other parameters that would have greatly slowed down the construction of the house.
Before taking their first steps in the part, the client is introduced to the rules governing the Community part (which will also serve as a reminder of the therapeutic framework and thus act as a reinforcement of the therapeutic system as a whole):
- It is strictly forbidden to touch a player’s creation.
- It is forbidden to use the resources of another client.
- It is possible to visit and even look in the safe, but it is impossible to take anything. However, making a donation is allowed. The chest symbolises the property of the other when the construction of the house is not very advanced, or not started at all with just a chest placed somewhere.
- The boxes in the character’s inventory belong to the client who is playing. If any items or resources remain at the end of the game, they will become the property of the next client. It is entirely possible to voluntarily leave resources and/or tools in the inventory so that the next player can dispose of them.
- These ‘restrictive’ rules bring a major element: the fact that the therapist is the guarantor of respect for these rules, of this framework. A lot will be at stake around this question, the relationship of the client with the framework and its limits, the trust in the adult, and the question of transgression. Some clients will test my ability to maintain these rules by getting very close to transgression and for the record only two clients have needed to act . This complex and very interesting issue will probably be the subject of an article later on.
II. The “Community Creative” part
The rules are exactly the same as for the Survival part, but there is an additional instruction: it is proposed that the client participate in a common effort, the creation of a town. I needed something quite vast on an imaginary level, but not too much to prevent some people from becoming confused by too many possibilities so that they could get lost in them. Before being able to play, the client is invited to verbalise what they want to achieve and how they are going to do it. Surprisingly, no client has ever asked to see the achievements of others in order to propose something consistent with what had already been done in the game, or in order to avoid the presence of two identical buildings.
To conclude, choosing the Community mode is not insignificant and clearly marks a willingness to dare to expose oneself to the eyes of others since the clients always have the choice of the game they are going to play.
For some, moving to one of the Community mode after a solo game is experienced as a step forward and this never happens at any point in the therapy. The therapist’s awareness of this dynamic will allow the client to further enrich their understanding of the conscious and unconscious psychic mechanisms that animate them.
Thus, while remaining within the framework of individual therapies, I have succeeded in adapting the use of Minecraft so that at certain moments it is possible to work with the presence of another in relation to oneself, another with whom there will never be direct contact. The client only exists only by the trace of what they have actually left in the game, activating the fantasy of what the other clients are going to be able to think and say when they see what the client has done (the most anxious seek to reassure themselves constantly by asking my opinion ‘it’s good what I’ve done, eh?’, ‘it’s a good idea, isn’t it?’).
The hundreds of sessions carried out have already shown the relevance of these Community parts for young clients whose interaction with the other was very difficult to approach through verbal exchange. The use of Minecraft video games has made it possible to add this dimension to individual therapy without affecting the therapeutic framework. Minecraft also has the feature of numerous Youtube channels allowing players to share their achievements and games with the community. I have noticed that the most active clients on Minecraft Youtube channels overwhelmingly choose, as a matter of course, the Community mode.
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