Throughout the writing of this dissertation, the process of redrafting has led to significant new insights. Sometimes this begins with the unpicking of a single awkward sentence, other times I read entire sections with the sinking feeling that a sledgehammer is the only way through. When wholesale destruction is implied I always pause, as hesitant to revise history as I am eager to enhance the story with my new understanding. For I am aware that my chosen approach to delivering this narrative is akin to high school maths: show your work. And so I have attempted to do just this, while still editing for clarity of thought and a coherent progression of ideas. This is why I have made such a laboured journey of arriving at what follows: my unified theory of the tinker toys.

Only eight months away from submitting, I swung my sledgehammer at this chapter’s entire second half — and found something glinting in the rubble. It was, most unexpectedly, the answer to my koan. It looked like a small child lost in play. She spoke only to herself, as she tinkered with her playthings. As this inner dialogue grew louder, she grew less brittle and transparent. She was becoming real again.

I cried when I first saw her. I cried again while writing these words. I would exclude such a confession, but for this: to make a game that’s real, I have to be real too. Here lies the answer to my koan. Risk as method; reflexivity, performativity, process. No mere academic buzzwords, but signs pointing the way. A riddle challenging me to dissolve the subject-object divide. Researcher, researched: the nature of my inquiry was requiring me to be both. And I had to do more than just remember how to play — I had to play for real. For ‘what if is only charged if it is grounded and connected to what is. There’s no chance of transformation otherwise’ (Stevens 2013, para 5).