How We Play

On Wednesday I mentioned that I’d ask people on Facebook how they played. Not when they’re working in their studio, but just in regular life, as regular adults. And I told you that many of us seem to play in specific ways: with children or as a part of exercise and/or outdoor activities. Maybe as games with friends, as Cody described: “I love to play card games with my friends. Artist friends and I like to play exquisite corpse.” Zeborah said, “I have weekly table-top roleplaying games with my children and friends.” Deborah added, “I love beautifully designed adventure and puzzle computer games. I play most on my iPad, but some on my desktop computer. Some of my favorites are The Room, Botanicula, Machinarium and Year Walk.” Several others mentioned Scrabble and games like ping-pong and tennis. Kim says she and her daughter “like to make up our own songs while we dance, make snowmen, cook supper, or color. Just now she prank called me from a friend’s house trying to sell me exploding pantyhose and we talked for about 10 minutes about the benefits of owning them. Imagination is pretty easy with a curious kid around.”

As an introvert, I have always played mostly by myself, so what about solitary play? That gets tougher. When we’re kids, it’s easy (at least it was for me) to go in our room and entertain ourselves making up stories and building stuff out of Legos or blocks or empty boxes. When someone asked what we were doing, it was easy to say, “Playing.” But when you’re a grown-up? Have you ever given that answer when asked what you were doing? Still, some of us do play by ourselves. Lynne says, “I put up music and dance, dance, dance when I am alone. I play with Barbies, sew their clothes, make gardens and greenhouses with real little tables of dirt.” Debbi says, “I make up songs for my cat and cast pretend musicals in my head. It’s so much fun to try and figure out who would play in something like Grocery Store: The Musical…and what the big Love Ballad would be…you know, something like “Strawberries in Season”…or whatever.” This sounded like a *lot* of fun to me, and I realized that I play mostly in my head, where I play a *lot.* I tend to think of it as my brain entertaining itself rather than me playing, but it’s play, nonetheless. One frequent game while we’re walking (this “we” being me + my brain) is imagining a huge monster appearing on the horizon. And I mean really, really huge, like the size of the tallest downtown building. It’s hairy, like Sasquatch, with feet bigger than Texas-sized trucks, and I have no idea how threatening it is but can see the destruction being left behind it, whether or not that is intentional. I imagine one of its huge, hairy feet landing right beside me, shaking the ground, and I climb up on top of the foot and hang on. What’s next? Do I climb up and try to get close enough to its ear to talk to it? Do I just hang on for dear life and go on a cross-country adventure clinging to the fur on a monster’s foot? What would a giant hairy monster smell like? What is it going to eat? Me, maybe? Or will it be tame? Maybe it’s lost its glasses and has no idea it’s crushing everything below it, and maybe I can keep it as a pet.

I was beyond happy to find out that other people indulge their imaginations well into adulthood, too; I’m so glad I’m not alone. Ellen says, “My husband and I are intellectual types, in our 50s. He brings me the laptop on a breakfast tray in the morning (yes, I’m lucky!), but instead of a pillow under my knees as a support, I use a teddy bear. We’ve gotten into the habit of having 2 teddy bears that dress up and act out scenarios before Beige Bear “goes to work” under my knees. (You’re the first one we’ve told, and yes, you can quote me.)” Elizabeth plays in the dirt, and Linda (who’s 57) and her friend (67) make up games like Winter Bowling: “Fill water bottles with water set up as pins and use a horse ball to knock them down. Down the sidewalk hitting the ball off the snowbanks, all while playing keep away from the dog. Just one of many games we made up.”

Our next discussion about play will be how creative people played when they were kids. I’m wondering if there will be a common thread. Maybe? Come back Monday and we’ll find out—

Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


Art Journal Freedom 160For more creative play check out Art Journal Freedom by Dina Wakley.







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