What does it mean to play?
To play, in the most simple of terms, is to engage in an enjoyable activity such as a game, which in itself is a complex definition. Playing is a verb that can be used to describe several different interactions. Playing a sport, playing a board game, playing hide and go seek or playing a character in a play. All these actions are examples of ‘play’, in the most basic forms, but what does it truly mean to play?
The world Karl Marx envisioned for example was one in which there would be no difference between work and play. He saw the benefits that ‘play’ could have in the workplace or even just in everyday life. Some benefits of play include: emotional benefits such as fun, relaxation, release of energy, tension reduction and self expression. Or, cognitive development such as creativity, abstract thinking, imagination, problem-solving, and perspective. Playing can build confidence, self-esteem, and even have therapeutic effects. It can have social benefits like developing cooperation skills, sharing, conflict resolution and leadership. The list could go on and on about the benefits of play but I want to talk about a company that fully understands these benefits and has used ‘play’ and incorporated it into the workplace: Ideo.
Ideo sees play as an approach, an inspiration and a catalyst for engagement with their clients and customers. They build their portfolio around the knowledge of ‘play’ as it relates to both children and adults. They use a direct application of play theories in fields such as video game design, as well as connecting play to workplace creativity to help their clients understand how to leverage play in their innovation processes. One example of how they incorporate play in the workplace is by allowing their employees to design their offices as creatively as they want, and by testing out designs and toys in their ‘Toy Lab’.
When I asked my roommate what play meant to her, it really took her awhile to think about her answer because as children play was simple, it was to play with Barbies or Hot Wheels or to play with our friends on the playground. However, as we get older it becomes harder to identify what play means to us now. She described play as a break from the everyday monotony, it eases your mind, it’s a distraction, something you focus on but you enjoy focusing on it, it’s not forced. You are willing to engage yourself fully and wholeheartedly.
To play, for me, is to escape. It is to get outside the box, even get outside the world for as long as is needed. To play is to release all tension, all ‘important’ thoughts from your mind and fully immerse yourself into something that will give you nothing but enjoyment. It can be addicting, you can desire it, it can be fantastical, and imaginative. It can be anything you want it to be. Play is natural, instinctive and in a lot of cases, social. To play is to open your mind and quiet your logic, and to give in to guilty pleasure.
- “Play definition – Dictionary – MSN Encarta.” MSN Encarta : Online Encyclopedia, Dictionary, Atlas, and Homework. Web. 30 Sept. 2009. <http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861738639/play.html>
- “Play = Learning – Benefits of Play.” Welcome to the University of Delaware. Web. 30 Sept. 2009. <http://udel.edu/~roberta/play/benefits.html>.
- “Kid & Play – Focus – Thinking – IDEO.” IDEO | A Design and Innovation Consulting Firm. Web. 30 Sept. 2009. <http://www.ideo.com/thinking/focus/kid-play/>.
- Salen, Katie. Rules of play game design fundamentals. Cambridge, Mass: MIT, 2004. Print.
- Lila Pine’s ‘What is play’? Blog. Web. 30 Sept. 2009. <https://mpm17fall2009friday.wordpress.com/>.
- Gillian MacDonald’s personal definition of ‘play’.
- Amanda Wood’s personal definition of ‘play’.