Mission Impossible Becomes Possible Through Play

Play is our brains favorite way of learning.
Diane Ackerman, Contemporary American author

Perhaps Steven Nachmanovitch says it best in his book Free Play: "Play cannot be defined, because in play all definitions slither, dance, combine, break apart and reconnect. ... In play we manifest fresh, interactive ways of relating with people, animals, things, ideas, images, ourselves. It flies of social hierarchies. We toss together elements that were formerly separate. Our actions take on novel sequences.  To play is to free ourselves from arbitrary restrictions and expand our field of action.  ... Play enables us to rearrange our capacities and our very identity so they can be used in unforeseen ways.

"Play" is different from "game".  Play is the free spirit of exploration, doing and being for its own pure joy.  Game is an activity, defined by a set of rules like baseball, sonnet, symphony, diplomacy.  Play is an attitude, a spirit, a way of doing things, whereas game is a defined activity with rules and a playing field and participants."

I find joy whenever I read  Nachmanovitch's words. His words emulate his thesis of free play.  My mind does its own dancing and hopping, connecting, and enjoying new spaces, new possibilities. 

Play has played a vital part in all of my work, which began with seven and eight year olds in public education.  It wasn't what I learned from adults that set me on my search for meaning, but what these young minds offered.  When given the opportunity their play was incredible and wonderful.  They learned very serious things from play, in their own time, with their own rules and with each other.  More than anything else, play is about relationships that provide pure pleasure and meaning through interactions that surprise and delight and deepen understanding of our humanness, as opposed to the rules that constrict and close us down.  

Through the unfolding of The Learning Exchange, MG Taylor Corporation, and Tomorrow Makers I have learned how easy it is for adults to engage together in collaborative play.  Simulations, Inventions, Design of the Impossible are modules that are built into this work and people find themselves shedding inhibitions, assumptions, and engaging in new and remarkable ways. The art of creating together and collaborating in ways long forgotten resurface. Change happens. 

So I was delighted to see Jane McGonigal's Ted Talk on how games can make a better world.  I have now finished reading her book, Reality is Broken, and am convinced that Jane is on to something important.  Nachmanovitch invites us to play with him on every page of his book.  McGonigal provides research and a deeper understanding of why games could help reconceive and rebuild our world. 

Jane researches and explores such things as:

* Why games make us happy and what exactly is the happiness factor
* Stronger social connectivity
* Becoming something bigger than ourselves
* Reinventing reality
* How very big games can change the world
* The Engagement Economy
* Saving the Real World Together

In 1979 Matt and I created a long now scenario 25 years into the future.  Our scenario ended with "Rebuilding the Earth as a work of Art.  The real adventure begins." In deed, this is Jane's proposal and the promise of games.

In 1979, when we proposed our vision, there was no Internet, let alone any understanding of social media, virtual games, global citizenry, paradigm shifts, etc.  Over the years, all of this has come to be.  The adjacent possible is available and waiting. 

Anyone want to take part in creating the next great game? Let us know. we can do it together!