Dennis Zuev

Moving into pandemic overtime: playing and learning new tricks

While my friend  and his son are being chased by a pig with a baseball bat, I am figuring out how to fortify my defences against the player with the white stones. Trying to avoid getting into a dumpling, and trying hard to keep my stones connected.

In both cases we are playing. Playing online because we can not play in real life with our kids. We are separated by double thickness walls – we are separated parents and we are separated by lock-downs as well as border and quarantine regulations.

Moreover, not all parents were even able to see the kids or reunite with their families across the world, especially in China, where many foreign migrant workers and expats were cut off from their families. Now for months. And due to different local regulations, it was sometimes impossible tro travel or to see kids also because of the two-week quarantine measures that would make any short break a lasting nightmare. So many just had to accept and stay put.

While some parents during lock-downs were desperate about sharing their gadgets and mobile phones with their kids who also needed often a single home-computer to participate in online classes most of the parents had to cope even on a grander scale with the anxious boredom or anxious immobilities themselves and of their kids. Some parents even reflected, how much they appreciated the school now, that they saw it being taken away.  To keep the kids alert at home playing new games was a constant and evolving challenge

I have not seen my daughter during the summer, as planned and perhaps will not see her for Christmas and New Year either. Losing a job due to being unable to return to my teaching duties would be a big trouble for me as I would not have any means to send.

So after exhausting my repertoire of games and activities during the Spring lock-down I had a short break during the summer. And now I have to prepare for a new play “zoomester”, as one of my friends in Israel termed it, with my daughter.  Not only i want to keep her busy, I want to keep her interested and connected.

So from Chinese characters learning (quite successful – kids like to compete with other kids in things they can do) to drawing together, reading stories and doing pantomimes we are moving into a pandemic overtime. I am learning new tricks, new games, new rules of engagement.  Being quite excited about learning the game of Go[1] myself I hope she likes it too. She played chess with me already when she was 2, we simplified the rules and she could easily stay attentive for almost 15 minutes. That was already a big achievement.  Go is not a simple game, although the rules are quite simple. But one fact is enough – it is the last board game that surrendered to the artificial intelligence, as it requires quite a bit of patience, human intuition, endurance and strategy. I never played it before. So before i even figure out I first want to learn to like it myself. My inspiration is my other friend – mentioned above, who has played with his son for a long time – games online they really work.

Being more inteligent than us – our children however do not entirely understand the cyberworld and the notion of privacy. Being born with more trust in technology, in the sense that there is no technofobia, but rather a deep technological acceptance they see technology as a natural extension of their lives. While we still get worried that they spend more time with TikTok or games,  they are actually able to make profiles and connect with people online without realizing the implications and safety concerns that, we parents have and understand. So not only we learn new tricks to maintain connected, we see this evolving relationship of technology, outsider world, our children and ourselves. Fascinating and demanding to read ahead.

[1] Go (Chinese. Weiqi) is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. The game was invented in China more than 2,500 years ago and is believed to be the oldest board game continuously played to the present day.


Dennis Zuev is a sociologist, currently based at the City University of Macau, Macau, China. He has done research on different forms of movement, transportation and visual methodologies. He is also a researcher at CIES-ISCTE, Lisbon, Portugal and has taught different courses in sociology in Russia, Austria, Germany, Portugal and China.