Full post on play: Play to Win: A Post-Work Society

Play: the intentional activity of doing the thing you would want to do.

Source: Joyful Subversion in Kernel

”Play allows us to create and share ownership of spaces in ways which competition cannot. Have as much fun as possible along the way. Turn life into a canvas, rather than a graph with checkpoints. Welcome everyone.”

In a world were we seem to be locked behind these little rectangles, how can we escape? Play is adoption of strong rules and beliefs, loosely held.

Creating spaces not products

”Creating a space for change does not necessarily mean you’re doing it yourself; you’re just making it possible for others.” (a lot of similar ideas in Design Justice and a new DARPA)

Shifting the nature of work/education

Can we shift education system away from just assessing students to letting them explore the magical worlds themselves? A more Mindstorms-esque constructionist view on education.

Magic Circles

Source: Magic circles by Gordon Brandler

A “magic circle” is the space in which a game takes place. When we step into the magic circle, the we suspend the rules of ordinary life, and allow the rules of the game to mediate our interactions.

We often mark the boundaries of a magic circle through ceremonies:

  • Playing the THX deep note before a movie
  • Singing the national anthem before a game
  • Ringing a gong before yoga practice
  • Walking down the aisle at a wedding

A lot of concepts similar to The Grasshopper, Games, Life and Utopia, the lusory attitude as a boundary

Animals and Play

Graeber on What’s the point if we can’t have fun?

Why does the existence of action carried out for the sheer pleasure of acting, the exertion of powers for the sheer pleasure of exerting them, strike us as mysterious? What does it tell us about ourselves that we instinctively assume that it is?

  • Animal cooperation often has nothing to do with survival or reproduction, but is a form of pleasure in itself
  • ”Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man” (Friedrich Schiller, 1795)
  • But what would happen if we agreed to treat play not as some peculiar anomaly, but as our starting point, a principle already present not just in lobsters and all living creatures, but also on every level of emergent behaviour of self-organizing systems?
  • Free will of electrons (a panpsychist-flavoured approach to play)?
    • ”Is it meaningful to say an electron “chooses” to jump the way it does? Obviously, there’s no way to prove it. The only evidence we could have (that we can’t predict what it’s going to do), we do have. But it’s hardly decisive."
    • "If an electron is acting freely—if it, as Richard Feynman is supposed to have said, “does anything it likes”—it can only be acting freely as an end in itself. Which would mean that at the very foundations of physical reality, we encounter freedom for its own sake—which also means we encounter the most rudimentary form of play.”
    • Interesting implications for materialism — consciousness does not arise as it is already present? Potential application of Gall’s law
  • Philosophy as a form of play :)) see also Jestermaxxing

Against Irony

The playful person is neither dogmatist or ironist, but, as Lugones puts it, an easy traveller between, and an explorer of, different normative worlds.

Play involves lightness with rules — the ability to lightly step away from but also the ability to lightly adopt.

To be serious about a game is to play it under the idea that its goals are really and genuinely important — as an Olympic athlete does.

An ironist — a spoilsport — by openly refusing that shared commitment, destroys the communal development of shared moods in play.

To be playful about games is neither to be utterly serious, or utterly ironic, but to move easily into and out of commitments to rule-sets. To be playful is to bring oneself to care, for a time, about the specified goals of the game, and to adopt, for a time, a temporary but absolute obedience to a set of rules.

To be playful with a game is to wear the game’s cares and norms lightly

Consider, for example, the shared mood of tabletop roleplaying games. The players have to commit, temporarily, to the rules of the game and a kind of (absurd) sincerity of purpose. The players have to really go all-in in pretending to be in character — of really being, say, fantasy elves and dwarves on a quest to save a village. As is often remarked by dedicated role-players, this shared mood is often wrecked by the pure ironist — who mocks the activity, who follows the rules mechanically but without real commitment, who breaks the illusion by calling attention to the arbitrariness of its rules