“The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.”
Stuart Brown’s book on play promises a lot; it’s not just a description of play, but play’s role in society and necessity in social and cognitive development. He traverses the animal kingdom to make his points in the first half and in the last half he veers off track and becomes totally anecdotal.
First of all the whole animal thing could be science sure, whatever, but there is no way of telling, because there are LITERALLY NO SOURCES IN A BOOK WRITTEN BY AN ACADEMIC.
Okay, so Brown should just have stayed in the anecdotal track. I’ll be kind and accept the premise that this is a motivational book rather than an academic read.
I was going to say more about what the book was about, but I totally forgot. As in I just finished it today and uhm…play is important? It’s a way to form and test social structures and it’s basically the reason for all good in humanity according to Brown.
Whatevs. Take that or leave it. No, the really cool thing is not necessary that play is important and we should enjoy life or whatever (but by all means enjoy life if that’s your thing). The brilliant thing that Brown does (and I wish it was the only thing he’d done) is he defines eight different types of play.
- The joker: play revolves around nonsense, practical jokes, and puns. (also known as the worst)
- The kinesthete: the person who finds joy in movement without any specific purpose
- The explorer: the person who finds joy in discovering new things, either physically or emotionally by engaging with emotionally stimulation things like music, movement, flirtation.
- The competitor: the person who enjoys winning stuff (aka the other worst)
- The director: people who find joy in organizing things, e.g. making systems or planning social events.
- The collector: Stamp collectors (also applies to other things)
- The artist/creator: people who find joy in creating stuff. Or fixing engines
- The storyteller: people who enjoy putting narratives onto seemingly random stuff.
No one person only engages in one type of play, but people definitely have a preference. And you guys, I swear I had a lightbulb moment. You see, I’ve always loved organizing things. When I was a kid and played with barbie dolls the joy for me was organizing the game, setting up the house, the job, the clothes. Once everything was decided upon I lost interest. I always thought I was boring and terrible at playing. Turns out I’m not boring! I just play boringly.
And anyways this is the heart of the matter for me with this book. These eight types of play means that play is not a thing you do, but a feeling. A state of mind that transcends your current performed action. Brown goes through all this work set up eight types of play, but never really explores the full impact of the framework. Furthermore almost all of his examples are about movement and while he briefly mentions a relationship where the types of play differ he never really dives into the issues of all the terrible play people have to enjoy because competitors set it up or jokers deliver yet another endless pun – or when the jokers and competitors team up and instigate a pun-based competition #killmenow.
The last chapter is devoted to exploring your own play preferences and it recommends looking into the different types of play you enjoyed as a kid and finding ways to translate that into your current life, either by taking up a new hobby or maybe switching job so you can control people like dolls and be happy forever. And never having to suffer through a goddamn pun again.