Video Games Are a Playwright’s Muse, Not Her Hobby

The writer Bekah Brunstetter is decidedly not a video game aficionado. Her personality type — “psychotically obsessed with productivity,” as she put it — has sealed off all gaming rabbit holes for the past 25 years.

And yet Brunstetter, perhaps best known for her television work on “This Is Us” and the book for the current Broadway adaptation of “The Notebook,” has now written not one but two plays about the ways that video games can hinder or facilitate human connection.

“The Game,” which is currently having its world premiere, is about a fictionalized version of Fortnite Battle Royale, a third-person shooter where each round ends with only one survivor. It comes seven years after Brunstetter’s “The Oregon Trail,” inspired by the game that condemned countless 1990s middle schoolers to an array of awful deaths (cholera, dysentery, snake bites, etc.) as they tried to replicate the grueling 19th-century passage west from Independence, Mo.

In “The Oregon Trail,” Brunstetter paralleled the modern-day struggles of a young woman with the higher-stakes perils of her video game counterpart. With “The Game,” she is taking the outsider perspective, focusing on a support group of wives who decide to withhold sex to get their partners off Fortnite — or The Game, as it is called here. (The play is a very loose adaptation of “Lysistrata,” the ancient Greek comedy in which the sex strike is designed to end the Peloponnesian War.)

Brunstetter, 41, spoke over a video call about “The Game” the day after its final dress rehearsal at Playmakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, N.C. She discussed the two plays, her learning curve and the TV show that might lure her back into the world of gaming.

Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Megan Ketch and Lucas Dixon in “The Game,” in which a group of women try to get their partners to stop playing a video game that resembles Fortnite.Credit…HuthPhoto, via PlayMakers Repertory Company
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