When I was out for a walk the other day, I spotted a sign (pictured left) in the middle of Kelvingrove Park, where the University of Glasgow’s ‘Quidditch Club’ was holding an open session. The sight of the cavorting students made me stop and think. I wasn’t sure what to make of it; was this a good thing or a bad thing? Upon returning home, I told my 19-year old son about the Quidditch Club. He drew a look of disdain and uttered four words, the first two of which were “that is”, the fourth of which was “tragic”.
I think I understand why he responded like that. The idea of people investing time and energy in a game that was made up by an author, a game made for flying wizards on broomsticks, does seem quite silly. Those students were only pretending to play a pretend game because they are not wizards, they don’t have broomsticks and they can’t fly. It’s obviously not a ‘real’ game, so they must be a bunch of losers. Well … perhaps not. According to my internet machine, there is a governing body (founded in 2010) called the International Quidditch Association. The version being played by those students is sometimes described as ‘Muggle Quidditch’, because it accepts that the participants aren’t wizards, don’t have actual broomsticks and can’t fly.
After making that discovery, I reviewed my impulse to pass judgement. What is the difference, after all, between running around with a stick between your legs and, say, pretending –as I sometimes do- that a tricky putt on the 18th green is actually for the US Masters?
Lots of young folk prefer to get their kicks sitting in front of a computer, so we should applaud the fact that the Quidditch Club members were out there having fun, taking part in an activity which involved physical exercise and social intercourse. There are worse things those students could have done with their time. They might have joined some ‘triggered-by-inappropriate-words-in-literature’ group and, instead of 'Quidditching' in the park, been out demonstrating their belief in equity and diversity by burning books or pulling down statues.
This made me think a bit more about the extent to which fantasy should be a legitimate part of an adult life. Is playing a game invented by an author a less authentic fantasy than some others we could name? Are students running around with broomsticks any more tragic than those who escape into works of fiction or those who follow football teams around the country or those who pretend that their tricky putt on the 18th hole might win them a major golf championship? (Don’t answer that last bit, because you’ll just hurt my feelings).
Some would argue that there are plenty of problems in the world for us to solve and that frivolous pastimes just distract us from the serious business of improving the lot of the poor, the disadvantaged and the oppressed. But people who can only talk about serious stuff are, generally speaking, the sort of people that you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with.
The game of Quidditch is nonsense on stilts (or at least nonsense on a pretend broomstick), but a life lived without fantasy, fun and frivolity would, I think, be far less rich than one concentrated on purely utilitarian concerns.
This topic is probably worth exploring in some depth, but I’ll leave it for the moment. I need to get back to practising my golf swing, because the US Masters is only a few weeks away.