Roger Greenaway on fun and "reviewing"

Roger Greenaway writes:

"I got this feedback from a recent programme:

'Many thanks for the two days last week. If there is a ratio between fun and learning then I have nothing to worry about. I now move forward having had a breath of wind put into my sails. Thanks again.'

"This comes from one of the stars of a 10 minute game of 'no ball football'. But his falls following tackles did not get noticed by our unobservant referee - whose unsurpassable qualification for the role was that she didn't know any of the rules. So when we got to 'no camera action replay', my choice (we all had choices) was to replay his falls in slow motion and from different angles so that the viewers could judge whether he was 'diving' (pretending to be fouled) or whether he really was fouled. All totally absurd and surreal because the whole game is one of pretending, and the replay just brought out even more over-acting.

"I still have fun with my game creating process (which teaches creative and appreciative decision-making along the way). It will be difficult to outdo the philosophers who created a game of three-legged three-goal football a couple of summers ago, but last weekend a group of corporate trainers decided to rope themselves in a group bundle and hop a slalom course while emitting a Maori-like war chant. The audience (a two year old girl attracted by the noise) joined in by jumping in time - just another play day for her. This event (as always) creates plenty of material for review which in this case was action replay, a guessing game (requiring intuition and empathy) and creating an invisible person to join the group.

"For my purposes, it doesn't matter too much if fun doesn't happen, but it is quite likely to, and things are much better when it does. As well as your own influence, I am grateful for you introducing me to William Glasser's theory which includes fun as one of 5 needs. I 'work' with this a bit. The idea that reviewing can be fun is a revelation to many people, but overall I find that good reviews go through a whole range of moods and that the groups who have most fun also tend to get most profound. I guess I like good portions of both (fun and serious) and prefer this to a whole meal of either one or the other."

Note: not being familiar with Roger's use of the word "reviewing" I asked for an explanation. Roger responded: "I would say that 'debriefing' is generally what trainers do and 'reviewing' is generally what learners do. But common usage of both terms is to collapse the trainer-learner distinction and create a badly drawn area of common ground that is quickly conquered by the trainer trying to impose their own picture of the world."

There are so many connections to draw between Roger's approach to reviewing and my approach to "deep fun" that I just had to let Roger speak for himself. And myself, too.

Why do people want to spend their time "killing" each other as a pastime?

A reader writes:

Dear Major Fun: Why do people enjoy meeting in cyberspace to engage in simulated warfare, with games like Halo and War Craft? Why do people want to spend their time "killing" each other as a pastime? I just don't get it. Are these games really an outlet for aggression, or do they perpetuate even more aggression in our society? What do you think? Please share. No one has been able to answer these questions for me, maybe you can.

Major Fun responds:

- we play war because we need to play with it - there's no other way to integrate such an awful reality into our understanding of the world. it is too ugly, too irrational, too stupid for us to grasp in any other way.

- we know we're not really hurting anyone or anything, we know that we can't really die, and without that knowledge, we couldn't have fun

- we can trust each other if we all know that we're trying to kill each other, that the very worst in us is not hidden or subsumed by any other attempts at being human, so when we meet, we can meet above all that

- it is remarkably clear, war imagery. we don't have to worry about double-meanings, about the "real" agenda. nothing else is as vivid. no interpretation required

- play fighting is fun, as long as it is play. it's a very basic form of play, in all playing animals. it's safer and clearer than sex play, but in many ways, even more intimate

Major Fun, the reader continues, do you think it's hardwired into our genes?

Major Fun continues: I do. The capacity for violence, as well as the capacity for love. I think they are maybe necessary to each other. We also have the capacity to choose. And therein lies the fun of it all.


The Playful Presence

I try to avoid getting too lyrical or mystical about play. That's why I decided to focus on plain old, trivial old fun.

Recently, I came across a novel by Dean Koontz, called One Door Away From Heaven. Near the end of it, he talks about dogs and their connection to a "playful Presence." Here's the quote:
"Every world has dogs or their equivalent, creatures that thrive on companionship, creatures that are of a high order of intelligence although not of the highest, and that therefore are simple enough in their wants and needs to remain innocent. The combination of the innocence and their intelligence allows them to serve as a bridge between what is transient and what is eternal, between the finite and the infinite.

"...For those who despair that their lives are without meaning and without purpose, for those who dwell in a loneliness so terrible that it has withered their hearts, for those who hate because they have no recognition of the destiny they share with all humanity, for those who would squander their lives in self-pity and in self-destruction because they have lost the saving wisdom with which they were born, for all these and many more, hope waits in the dreams of a dog, where the sacred nature of life may be clearly experienced without the all but blinding filter of human need, desire, greed, envy, and endless fear. And here, in dream woods and fields, along the shores of dream seas, with a profound awareness of the playful Presence abiding in all things..."
I've been so touched by this idea of dogs as being messengers of some kind of playful Presence that I even tried to write Mr. Koontz, only to find myself enrolled in his fan club. But it makes a kind of wonderful poetic sense. Dogs are so endlessly playful, always inviting us to celebrate life. And to think that there is a "Presence" - and a playful one at that - to which they are attuned, well, it's almost enough to make a guy get religion or something.

Love and Play

Beloved lovers, I have yet another gift for you to give each other this Valentine's day. And no, there's nothing to buy or subscribe to or wrap up. It's free. And freeing. I call it: "Loving Fun." It's something I've been playing with and teaching for years. And I'm hoping that it's something that will bring you the same, deep, restoring, loving joy that it has brought to the remarkable many who've played with this with me.

There are a few other articles described on the Loving Fun page. They're all gifts for you to give each other. If not today, tomorrow, or next weekend, or the rest of your lives together. For today, I'd especially recommend a piece called "Intimate Fun" for some loving thoughts and silly games you can play with, lovingly. And for tomorrow and the next, when you're ready to share the loving fun you've rekindled in each other with family and friends, this collection of silly, little loving games. And next week, when you find yourself thinking about bringing your love of fun and each other to the rest of the world, an article I call "Love and Play."

A Playset for the Office

Yes, now you, too, can "build your own corporate labyrinth, one cube at a time." It's The Cubes, a complete, expandable, grown-up playset. "Each set has one 2-3/4" posable plastic figure and all the necessary plastic parts to build a classic corporate cube: four walls, desk, chair, file cabinet, in/out box, phone, and computer. Comes with a sticker sheet of decor for your cube, complete with graphs, charts, screens for the computer and pithy office posters. Also includes a job title sticker sheet so you can create a convoluted and meaningless position for your employee."

Need help creating your own convoluted and meaningless position? With the aid of the online " Job Title Generator," worry no more. Here are a few, randomly generated samples: Junior Personnel Administrator, Domestic Financial Associate, Level B Communications Processor.

This is a phenomenon worthy of much contemplation - these dolls and playsets designed for people who work in an office. It's what Christopher Noxon might classify as another example of rejuvenila. For me, it's yet further evidence of the power of play, and the need.

Thanks for the find go to Pat Kane, Boing Boing et al

Dolphin-Made Toys

This is a bubble ring, a genuine, dolphin-made, dolphin toy. According to article, "The dolphins dive down deep, and then they blow a beautiful round air ring through the blowhole. It looks like a hoolahoop of air. They would use it to swim through, or try to keep the ring down, or they would just look at it for fun."

This is the first I've read of an animal making a toy for itself. There are many intelligent animals that use tools. And many more that play. But apparently dolphins make bubble rings for only one reason: so dolphins can play with them.

According to this source, dolphins "... blow underwater bubble rings by injecting air into water vortices, about the thickness of a straw and 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The rings don't rise to the surface! The babies play with these underwater toys by moving them around with their rostrum, or biting them. They even bounce the rings off the wall, and elongate them with a flick of their dorsal fins into 15 foot corkscrews."

Here's another quote, from pre-eminent dolphin scientist Don White: "The young dolphin gives a quick flip of her head, and an undulating silver ring appears--as if by magic--in front of her. The ring is a solid, toroidal bubble two feet across--and yet it does not rise to the surface! It stands erect in the water like the rim of a magic mirror, or the doorway to an unseen dimension. For long seconds the dolphin regards its creation, from varying aspects and angles, with its vision and sonar. Seemingly making a judgment, the dolphin then quickly pulls a small silver doughnut from the larger structure, which collapses into small bubbles. She then 'pushes' the doughnut, which stays just inches ahead of her rostrum, perhaps 20 feet over a period of up to 10 seconds. Then, stopping again, she regards the twisting ring for a last time and bites it--causing it to collapse into a thousand tiny bubbles which head--as they should--for the water's surface. After a few moments of reflection, she creates another."



Question: How do you get a large audience, seated in a theater, to play cooperatively?
Answer: Squidball

I quote: "Squidball is played with several...large (approx. 4ft in diameter), helium-filled weather balloons in retroreflective jackets -- these are the input devices for the game. By throwing, batting and bouncing the balloons throughout the playing field (which, in this case, was approximately 400x200x40 cubic ft), the audience plays to eliminate the on-screen targets, which are represented on a giant 40-foot video screen that also displays scoring and timers. As a result of this unusual motion capture application, the audience sees the balloons move across the two-dimensional video projection screen as they simultaneously interact with them in the 3-D space. Winning the game inspires and requires collective cooperation among the entire audience."

It's kinda brilliant, you know, taking that balloon Thing they do at events like Jethro Tull concerts and making that the interface between audience and game. That Balloon Thing is probably the only play-if-you-want-to, nobody-hurt, not-really-interrupting-anything-important, genuinely pointless, large audience game in circulation. And it's fun, too.

Superbowl Halftime Tabletop Shuffleboard Carroms M&M Football

I just received an anonymous commission to design a game that would be suitable for Superbowl Sunday halftime break. Actually, it wasn't so much a commission as a request. And it was from my son.

Be that as it may (now that I think of it, how else could that be, maywise?), here's my thought:

Start out with 22 M&Ms of two different colors. Eleven, of course, of each, color-wise. And a popped popcorn kernel. And clearly demarcated section of table or floor. Create goal posts at either end of the playing field - a straw, for example, balanced on the tops of two glasses.

The offense kicks the football (a.k.a. popped popcorn kernel) downfield by means of a finger-flick, as one might finger-flick a carrom. Players on either team then take turns, shuffle-sliding their assigned M&Ms in the manner of tabletop shovelboard (a.k.a. shuffleboard). That is, one touches the top of one's M&M with one's finger, and then imparts momentum to one's M&M in the desired direction. Obviously, one must not keep one's finger on one's M&M. Players on the receiving team attempt to shuffle their M&M into the erstwhile football, in the hopes of striking it in such a way as to cause it to move towards the opponent's goal. Players may shuffle their M&M into another M&M or into the football itself. One shuffle per turn.

As soon as the football is struck by an M&M belonging to the offense, the ball is considered downed. As in traditional football, teams then position their M&Ms in scrimmage-like fashion, and the game continues, pretty much as abovementioned. Kicking or passing the football is accomplished by direct flick. Moving the football, however, can only be achieved by means of the M&M shuffle.

The game ends just as halftime is drawing to a close. The losing team gets eaten.

Wheelbarrow Freestyle

It was the turn of the century. A few enterprising Englishmen gather to create a new X-game - one requiring as much grace and death-defiance as skateboarding, and yet, because of certain cultural stigma and the apparent refusal of major sporting chains to carry the required equipment, doomed to a short, but spectacular existence. They called it: "Wheelbarrow Freestyle." Yes, yes, the very concept of a sport based on wheelbarrowing of any sort is, at best, difficult to entertain as X-worthy. And yet, as these gentlemen show, with practice and devotion, it can reach the very extremities of X-ness.

For example, there's the "Pop Jump (with optional Fly-over)" where you "Sit with your barrow for a moment, check your mood, become calm. Feel your barrow's mood - encourage it. Hold the barrow gentle and loosely in both hands. Keep hold of the handles but push the barrow away from you for full arms length - KEEP HOLDING ON - then quickly and sharply, before the barrow knows what's happening, pull back and push down ever so slightly. The front of the barrow will now flick up. To retain height lift the back end up to meet the front and thrust forward to hold it even longer."

As silly as it may seem - and as silly as I often am - to me, Wheelbarrow Freestyle epitomizes the spirit of junkyard sports. It manages to embrace silliness and seriousness so closely together that it becomes something very much like a paradigm for the Playful Path.

Thomas Armstrong On Playfulness

Dr. Thomas Armstrong has done some remarkable work on Theories of Multiple Intelligence, but it is in his description of playfulness, from Awakening Genius, that he reveals the heart of his innovative and extremely valuable perspective on the life of the mind:

"Playfulness...extends far beyond the kindergarten. It's really an attitude toward life that informs the behavior of the 4th grader who dances his way into the classroom as well as the playful manipulations of an l1th grade 'wise guy.' Teachers sometimes mistakenly think they're bringing play into the classroom by having kids play 'games.' Ironically, the formal rules and competitiveness of structured games often force playfulness into hiding. Playfulness is more likely to come up unexpectedly during the classroom day-for example, in the middle of a geometry lesson (the kid who starts walking around the room in a triangle pattern), while lining up to go to the lunchroom (the student who mimics the gruff lunchroom lady), or during sustained silent reading (the kids who create a 'burping' symphony). When truly valued as an important component of students' genius, playfulness can find its way into many parts of the school day in an appropriate way."