One moment we’re drinking coffee and the next we’re watching children walking past, turning the sidewalk into a game of Don’t Step on the Cracks.
“They’re always playing, aren’t they,” said my friend, smiling.
Children are always playing. This afternoon I watched a two-year-old turn a restaurant table into a play area. She picked up the sugar sachets and emptied them out onto the table. She spent the next hour placing them back into the cup. I joined the game, changing it slightly. I slowly began to steal a few of the sachets from her. After a while she understood the game and her initial upset turned into us both cackling as we through the packets into the air.
So how is it that children can find games wherever they go and adults can’t?
Why is it so hard to play games the older you get?
Most cultures only have rules about games when we get older. Before that, we’re allowed and almost expected to play whenever we get a chance. As we age and mature, we’re expected to exercise self-discipline and understand that people are watching us and expecting us to behave a certain way. The closest we get to acceptable games are sports. But don’t confuse the two. While they’re related, they’re more like siblings than twins.
Gamification is the ability to make games. It’s in my genetic makeup. It might be in your’s too. Where some people hear music and see a chair, I see an Interpretive Chair Dance-Off unfolding. Where most people see a display of shoes for sale in a store, I see an opportunity to test how high I can jump.
As you can imagine, I was single for a long time. Unwilling to compromise on this need to turn moments of propriety into games and fun, it was difficult to find someone to stand this in public. Needless to say, I’m very blessed to have the fiancé that I do. She allows for these indulgences, even if she doesn’t join in on them.
The real problem that I’ve had over the years is that people have reprimanded me, as if I have caused damage to property or hurt people’s feelings, by playing. Not once has any of this happened. But the need to be a silent participant in the flow of social norms has made some people so wounded in their embarrassment for the things that I do quite naturally, that it pained me to see them in that state of shame.
To me, I see it as insanity.
What are we after in our lives?
Or enjoyment, laughter and excitement?
Spending most of my days with children has allowed me to discern what I really want from life. Yes, acceptance may be part of it, but I’m after enjoyment, laughter, fun and joy even more. I’m after the liveliness of being in a moment of energetic sincerity, shared with other people.
Society may put labels on play, but I think it’s time we removed the labels and started exploring fun with more imagination.
In order to play a game you need to stick to a set of rules. People agree to these rules beforehand or during intervals in the game. When people follow the rules that have been laid out in a game, they’re most likely to be invited back to the game.
The true test of the relational quality of play is when you’re invited back for another game. That’s when you know that trust is growing.
If you’re not invited back, it’s time to reflect on the experience. What worked? What didn’t work? And do you even care? Sometimes, it’s just comes down to a personality conflict.
Plato, the great Greek philosopher, once said that he could learn more about someone from an hour of play than from a year’s worth of conversations.
It’s easy to hide in conversation. It’s hard to hide in play. In play, emotions erupt. In those moments of high emotion, we make decisions that show our deepest fears and yearnings.
The more intense the game is, the more we will learn about the people we’re playing with.
The fastest way to build up a relationship is through play. It doesn’t have to be a physical game. It can be a board game, or something that you do while you’re driving somewhere. There’s always going to be a handful of minutes you can dedicate to playing a game.
But how do you play when you don’t have the tools to play? Let’s look quickly at some ideas on how to create a game.
When you look at it closely, and pull it apart, every game has a similar structure. The best games are often the simplest ones. They have a set of ideas that can be communicated quickly to new players and get everyone on an even playing ground quickly. Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself when you’re creating a game:
These are enough questions to get you started playing just about anywhere. When you’re making up a new game, be willing to stop the game and adapt it while you’re playing it. There’s always a way to make it more efficient, fun and enjoyable.
Until next time…
© The Brilliance Quotient 2018