“Play is the highest form of inquiry.” Albert Einstein

The word ‘Play’ is a concentrate of paradoxes:

  • It is an understandable concept, but indefinable;
  • it is a simple phenomenon, but with complex dynamics
  • it engages creativity, but requires a great logic;
  • it supposes rationalism, but appeals to empiricism;
  • it is a framed activity, but it leaves a lot of freedom;
  • we play for fake, but we really play.

Above all, playing is a free choice:

if we do not accept to play, there is no game, only constraints. It is however choosing to submit to constraints (rules) often superfluous in ‘real’ life.

When we agree to play, we enter the ‘magic circle'[1] of a world with more rules and more important than those of the real world. In the game world, it is about making decisions to overcome unnecessary obstacles and achieve unnecessary goals.
And yet we are happy to do it! Why spend hours playing tag, hopscotch, Monopoly or chasing Pokemons?

It’s not just a hobby, the game is a metaphor for life:

Within the limits of the game we can interact, exchange and confront each other, develop ways of doing and being that are close to everyday life.

We learn to evolve without risk, because at any moment we can leave the ‘circle’ and return to reality. In the end, it is only a game, there is nothing at stake…

Playing is also transformation:

it is to make simple something complex, to make interesting something boring, to make acceptable an obligation. The ‘magic circle’ of the game can transform the hardest reality: to build the pyramids, the teams of workers threw playful challenges to each other; to work in the rice fields, the Italian mondine played to improvise songs to the rhythm of the work.

Today there is a term for this: ‘gamification’.

If we can’t change the task, we have to find strategies to make it more acceptable, even motivating.

Most people think that creative playfulness is the privilege of artists and creative people. Neurosciences explain us that it is the capacity of each brain, it is enough to train them.

Hence the love for play: it gives meaning and dignity, it allows us to progress and to be better in spite of everything, it allows us to find our place and to prove our value.

However, since school, we have heard that play is not serious: play is ‘childish’ and when you play ‘you are a clown’. Or else it is sport, competition, seduction, betting money.

Fortunately, mentalities have changed since then, [2] because the Internet and computers have revolutionized everything: today video games have become the leading leisure market; the ‘digital natives’ [3] are now company executives; globalization is so complex that it is better to face it as a game to understand it [4].

Today’s world requires managing paradoxes and making 1+1=3. More than ever we are in the age of the game.

So…”Playing is serious business.”

[1] Concept borrowed from anthropology by Johan Huizinga, in his book Homo Ludens, essay on the social function of play, Gallimard, 1988.

[2] 2010 is recognized as the official year of disclosure of the concept of gamification.

[3] Generations that have grown up with digital tools and video games. The average age of the gamer is 30 years.

[4] In reference to the diffusion of simulation games or strategy games in companies.

 


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