Making Time for Play
I was chatting with some of the NYMG folks the other day, and it occurred to me that everyone, even game scholars, need to be reminded of the value of making time for play. This summer I’ve been playing a ton of sports (mostly disc golf), but I haven’t been playing many video games (which is likely why it’s been so difficult to whip up my weekly post, sorry readers). Even my board game play has been lacking, probably due to games not always being easy to play outdoors. Plus, summer are busy as heck! How summer got the reputation for being “relaxing” and “laid back” is beyond me. It is in the spirit of getting back to play that I write this post. I want to remind all readers about the importance of keeping play alive in your life. So here is a short list of reasons why:
3. Play can lead to more innovation than anything else
If we think we can save our society through technology, then a playful attitude may just be the best way to do that. Researchers, like Steven Johnson, have shown that not only have our ancestors invented things because of necessity, but that just as many important things have been invented because of a deep need to play. For example, the computer, whose evolution has been attributed to the military may have a more playful reason behind its evolution. From the flute, to the typewriter (aka. the writing harpsichord), to the programmable organ the idea that things could be “programmed” was what led to some of the breakthroughs in computer technology. Ironically, without music computer science may have never existed.
2. Play leads to a more tolerant society
That’s right. Picking up that new copy of Crash Bandicoot just may save civilization. Primatologists who study bonobos, one of our closest living ancestors (unless you’re like me and believe we came the from the sea not from apes) have found incredible things in this playful society. It’s believed that play is the reason their society is significantly less violence and more equal than that of their sister species the chimpanzee, who are “well known for their aggression.” The bonobo society is one that is both matriarchal and highly tolerant; there has not been a single witnessed incident of fatal violence among them. What is responsible? It may just be play. Would our human society be more equal and less violent with more play? I certainly think so.
1. Not playing could make you a murderer
Scientists believe there is a connection between a lack of play and extreme criminal deviant behavior. Charles Whitmore, also known as the Texas Tower Sniper, killed more than sixteen people. Researchers believe that a lack of play, particularly developmentally appropriate play, played a role in his evolution as a killer and in his lack of empathy. At the very least, play made him “more vulnerable” to the activities he eventually carried out.
While I am not saying that playing will necessarily make you more innovative, more tolerant, or less prone to criminal deviance, I hope that this list inspires you to take a break from writing that paper, pulling those weeds, or cleaning your house, and just play a little. If you’re on board, I’d love it if you commented on what kinds of games you’re playing this summer, particularly if you have any “must plays” that could get me out of my play funk!
*If you liked this post, check out my inspiration for it. This is a great nine video playlist on TED about the importance of play.