Creating Passionate Users: Creating playful users...

In her excellent article "Creating Passionate Users: Creating playful users...," Kathy Sierra arrives at a pithy point in her discussion of playfulness and computer users:
"But playfulness doesn't have to mean games.

"Helping people feel just a little more playful, especially if it's connected to their work, or with anything they do that's more typically associated with words like painful, tedious, boring, stressful (as opposed to words like 'fun'), doesn't have to mean giving them a game. Even something as simple as making your documentation more compelling (and even a little whimsical), can make a huge difference."
To which I can't help adding yes, and yes again. Helping people feel just a little more playful is what it's all about, isn't it? Helping them feel a just a little more playful means helping them feel a little more positive and a little more empowered and a little healthier and a little stronger and a little more together and a little more alive.

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When Was the Last Time You Played?

Marc De Bruin asks: "When Was the Last Time You Played?:"

I quote:
"Firstly, find out where you are hanging on to seriousness. Where is your life governed by doubt, worry, anxiety, fear of the future, etc. Where have you suppressed playfulness in favour of gloom? Be honest with yourself!

"Secondly, define for yourself what 'playing' means to you. I may have a completely different definition of the word than you, and therefore my "playing" will be different to yours! What would you do if you decided to play? Go to a musical, play chasings with your partner, go to a footy game, play hide-and-seek with your kids, buy a super-soaker and squirt cars in the street, etc.?

"Thirdly, find examples in your surroundings of people that "play" the way you would like to. What are they doing? How often do they do that? What sort of people are they? What can you learn from them?

"Lastly, take action!! Find at least two occasions in a week in which you can play out full. Go past your own boundaries, act a little crazy, do things you would never do before, make a fool of yourself, and laugh out loud! If that is too much, do something that is less "out there," but still is a stretch in your model of the world, and then do a little more the next week.

"Seriously...we need more fun and play in our lives. You will not only feel great, you will have an enormous influence on the people around you also. Just try it: walk past somebody and give them an honest smile. You will make their day."
And when you are ready for some advanced fun, might I suggest perhaps a Pointless Game or a round or two of Mondo Croquet?

FunCast: of Fun and War

Today's FunCast is an exhortation. I exhort in virtual print here. I quote:

"A Frisbee, in the hands of people in business dress in a public park, is a weapon against fear. A basketball dribbled along a downtown sidewalk, is a guided missile aimed at the heart of war. Playing with a yo-yo, a top, a kite, a loop of yarn in a game of cats’ cradle, all and each a victory against intimidation. Playing openly, in places of business, in places where we gather to eat or travel or wait, is a gift of hope, an invitation to sanity in a time when we are on the brink of global madness."

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The Way of Fun

I was clicking my way through a site called "Singlenesia." Amused and bemused by the "The Barry Bittwister Cabal" and all that it apparently stands for (more later), I conceptually limped my way to a tract called The Way of Fun.

I read it. I laughed. I cried. "Wait a minute. Isn't this something I wrote? Isn't this the very core belief of that which I have publicly proclaimed to be the Playful Path?

And, behold and lo, it wasn't and it was! Written, in apparent fact, not by me at all, but by a seer named "Baba Bar Ran" and prepared by the "Universal Church O' Fun" (whose motto is: "One Faith Fits All"). I found this downloadable, printoutable, foldupable piece of playful pith completely corroborating and confirming, and maybe more.

There are only three steps. Allow me to present Step Three:
"When we achieve oneness with Fun, we no longer need to have Fun or make Fun.

"Instead of doing things for Fun, everything we do is Fun naturally, without effort.

"Do not become discouraged in aspiring to be one with Fun. At first, the experience will be fleeting. Perhaps coming unexpectedly while making Fun.

"With faithful practice, we are able to hold on to the feeling longer and longer. We become Fun for hours - then for a whole day. In time, our entire lives can become Fun.

"And Fun will become us."

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Think outside the mouse

Let Jefferson Han help you think outside the mouse.

Click this. And call me in the morning.

More? More? You have to have more, don't you. See then this and aspire.



Link-gratitude to Noise.

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The Connector Chess Set

BNC Chess. Why BNC? The authors explain: "50 ohm BNC, SMA, and N terminators with various BNC, SMA, N, APC7, F, UHF connectors and inter-series adapters; or any other RF connectors you can find around the house. White gets nickel or stainless steel and black gets gold top pieces. p.s. Dad lost the first game."

Aside from the beauty and functionality of the design, and the amazing feat of playfulness required to re-envision the form and function of electronic findings into a chess set, what I like best about this achievement of junkish art is the playful appropriateness of what the inventors named it. The Connector Chess Set.

Yes, yes, it's made out of connectors. And they had to find new connections between the connectors in order to make the connection between connectors and chess pieces. But imagine the connections forged when they created the chess set together. Dad lost the first game? When you imagine how deeply connected both father and son became, making this beautiful set together, out of findings. When you think of how wonderfully connected it feels when your son is successful, more successful, even, than you. Well, that's the kind of loss we all should suffer.

Mass Pillow Fight

SAN FRANCISCO / Hundreds attend mass pillow fight Yeah. Apparently, that's what happened all right. Hundreds of people. With pillows. It's kinda wonderful and everything with the spontaneity and surprise and hitting. But I dunno, I think maybe helmets with face guards might be required to make the event more fun for the hit-upon, both young and old. I guess the memory of a pillow fight with my sister 55 years ago, and the subsesquent bloody nose, still stains my affection for games that involve whacking people with anything.

Odd, though, when you think how central the idea of "Soft War" was to the founding of the New Games, uh, Foundation. Googling for Soft War, I came across this moment of clarity from "Kellee: "Soft War was a way of allowing people to relieve tension by realizing that it was okay to release primal energy into the air without anybody getting hurt. But, if both sides agree that physically hurting each other is okay, then maybe they still get away without hurting in other ways...Because sometimes, we are still animals that pretend to be civilized."





Thanks for the find, Noise

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The Daily Game

I was recently revisiting the idea of "The Daily Game" and, musing amongst several significant implications thereof, realized I had written a poem again. And that it needed to be heard, like all poems do. And so, with this week's FunCast, I get to read it to you.

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Playfulness and Stress

I somehow clicked my way to Johnson City Press: Playfulness Article from Dr. Kathleen Hall, within which I read:

“It has to do with playfulness. Other than meditation and yoga, playfulness is the best stress reliever we have.”

Need I say more?

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Thing-a-ma-bots

"Thing-a-ma-bots" is a silly game, naturally, because I designed it. (So this is not a review, even though I personally happen to think that the fun to be had is most clearly Major FUN variety.)

Built completely from parts of other games, the parts I Iike best – Thing-a-ma-Bots is a 'junkyard approach' to card game design. A unique, new game, built from a combination of rules from other, older games. A card game designed to challenge everyone equally, kids and adults, based on collections of rules that make people exercise both mental and social abilities. Rules that are often very surprising, and most important to me, rules that make people laugh. Like, for example, that bit from the game Steal the Old Man's Bundle where "If you play a card that matches the top card of an opponent's bundle, you steal their whole of their bundle and add it to the top of yours, placing the matching card that you played on top." Very fun little bit. Makes it impossible to know who's going to win until the very last minute of the game. (more)

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A Valentine's Moment

Beloved Lovers,

Considering the vastness of the commercial and historical forces moving you towards doing something to show someone your love, here are a few more honest, genuine, loving ideas and resources that you might find of special significance.

To start, here's a quote from an article by Fred Donaldson, called: "Peace is Child's Play."
"We have lived life as if it is easier and safer not to love. But it is our ability to love that...more than anything else heals our hurts and helps us find our way back to peace. J Glenn Gray (1970, p. 213) realized this at the end of his tour of duty in World War II when he wrote in his diary, 'And this morning when I rose, tired and distraught from bed, I knew that in order to survive this time I must love more. There is no other way . . ..' Chris Hedges (2002, p.184) finishes his examination of war with the same feelings. He writes that, 'To survive as a human being is possible only through love.'

"This love is an impulse to openness or intent to kindness and compassion. Contrary to what we might fear we are left not in an identity crisis, but in an identity expansion which makes us, not less human, but more humane. I spent an afternoon playing with fifteen street boys one afternoon in Cape Town, South Africa. We all left the park touching and hugging each other; one of the older boys asked me through an interpreter if he could learn to play like this with children. Play's love has everything to do with a willingness to be vulnerable in an unconditional and fierce commitment to another's thriving. In a very real and practical sense this means that as Urie Bronfenbrenner said, 'for a child to develop normally, somebody has to be irrationally crazy about that kid.'"


And here, again, are a few of my articles about loving fun for your Valentenian joy:

Intimate Fun
Silly, little loving games
Love and Play

Flow, CoLiberation, and Headshots: a Halo 2 story

Celia Pearce, game designer, play scholar, and my friend, sent me the link to - Students Blog: Flow, CoLiberation, and Headshots: a Halo 2 story - written by a student of hers. It is profoundly gratifying to be able to share profound gratification.

Here's a good and particularly relevant taste of Nathan McNamara's musings:
"Secondly, when my roommate David joined us, it presented us with a problem. With only 3 people, normal team games like capture the flag would be utterly unfair, because of the unbalance due to the number of people. But the normal 3-player option, free for all, or as the game calls it, “Slayer,” would have been unfair as well because David is not as skilled at the game as myself or Steve. So he would have been killed rather often, and not gotten many kills, and it would have been frustrating for him. And Steve and I would have had too easy a time killing him, which would be boring, but at the same time we would be frustrated that each other was getting easier kills off of hunting David. So both of these scenarios would have ruined the Flow. Doing capture the flag would be too easy and thus boring for one team, and too hard and thus frustrating for the other. And doing normal Slayer would have been both boring and frustrating for all involved. We had to come up with a solution to the situation."
See also my online articles on: Coliberation and The Fun Community

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FunCast: Phantasy Photoshop

I wrote about "Phantasy Photoshop" last May. And now that I'm FunCasting, I realize that I could explain this game even more vividly simply by reading it to my voice recorder. So, that, apparently, is what I did, and what you have here, in today's FunCast.

If you really like the game, it came from another one I invented, of similar creative pointlessness, called "Polaroid" where an image slowly "develops" as people work together to see it.

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Intergenerational Playground Larking

In his article "Finns open playgrounds to adults," David Sillito (I hope that's pronounced "silly toe") recently informed the BBC and the world that the "University of Lapland has been researching how to make activity more playful and pleasurable and is convinced that elderly people would benefit from joining in with the children in the local park."

Turns out that Lappset, a Finnish playground equipment company, makes much of their playground equipment large enough for adults. And this provided the perfect opportunity for the Rovaniemi Polytechnic research project. Sillito explains that a "team at Rovaniemi Polytechnic [Finland] [or is that "Funland"?] studied one group of 40 people, aged between 65 and 81, and found there were significant improvements in balance, speed and co-ordination after just three months of larking about on the climbing frames and play equipment." He concludes:
"The team at Lappset feel that making the playground a cross-generational meeting place will help the generations understand one another better and create a better social feel to neighbourhoods.

"The more we can be encouraged to interact with neighbours on a wobbly walkway, the more we will learn to appreciate and trust one another."
This is wonderful news for all us play and playground, community and intergenerational advocates. To discover once again how readily the play community forms, and how comfortably it includes all of its members, young and old, labeled and not - well it is a such an accessible, so to speak, truth. Build large enough playground equipment and we'll come, all of us, and we'll play together, and we'll exercise, all of us, and we'll share delight, entirely.

By the way, three different people in my community of friends and informers mentioned this article to me. This has never happened before. I think we're trying to tell you something.

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Funjection - Devices for Cold Calling

You can find many joyful musings on The Escape Plan, like for example the one on the Funjection Device. The post begins with a challenge: "The Challenge: Figure out a way to bring some fun into a dreaded task today." This response, from Kim, caught my conceptual eye:
"My dreaded task…two words- cold calls. How in the world do I make cold calls more fun? Well, the first thing I did was I taped an artificial flower (my favorite — the daisy) to the end of my pen. This added some fun to the notes I wrote throughout my calls. I also made up a little game in which I kept track of what type of calls I had. I took a long strip of paper and drew a line down the middle. It was a race. For every good call I drew a heart in the happy row. For every bad call, I drew a heart in the sad row. I used hearts because of Valentines Day. It was fun, but I have to say that it wasn’t SUPER fun. If anyone has any other ideas on how to make cold calls more fun, please let me know."
There was something playfully poignant and profound about Kim's response. Playfully poignant, in deed. And so are the comments. And this is only one of 33 such challenges (to date) from Kim and Jason. And each one is an invitation to play.

In the Beginning


In his Blog on Training, Kevin Eikenberry reflects on a conversation we had, in which I quoted that famed piece of Oaqui wisdom In the beginning, it was fun. Kevin muses managerially:
"Think about the beginning of most anything:

"The start of a new project.
"The start of a new relationship.
"The introduction of a new product or service.
"The time when you first learn something new.
"The beginning of a game.
"The beginning of a party.
"The beginning of a vacation.

"In the beginning there was fun.

"Fun comes at the start from a mixture of excitement, anticipation, wonder, surprise and passion. Often though, like a too-long game of Monopoly, the experience changes, and fun is replaced by a host of other adjectives.

"Why does this profound truth matter to us and how can we use it to our advantage?"

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Animal Behavior, Learning, and Playfulness

In her article "Animal Behavior, Learning, and Playfulness," Myrna Milani, DVM, writes:
"First, I think that all behavioral scientists agree that evolution has primed young animals to learn from play. That tells us that this constitutes the most deeply embedded and thus energy-efficient way to teach animals new things. And because we know that domestication more or less suspends an animal in a physiologically and behaviorally immature state, this link between learning and play most likely lasts throughout a domesticated animal's life."
I know she's writing about animal behavior. She's a DVM, for goodness sake. But, as a deeply domesticated animal myself, I can only concur as well as agree. Though I think the physiologically and behaviorally immature part can be attributed to the play-youth connection (play and you act younger, look younger). As for playfulness being a deeply embedded way for me to learn new things, it is clear that the connections between learning and play in my life have not only continued, but increased in strength, number and kind:
"Second, whatever else play in adult wild animals might denote, in many cases it signals an animal who has established and protected a territory, found food and water, mated , reproduced and raised young with energy to spare. If this weren't the case, the potential for adult play wouldn't exist in the gene pool. That says to me (and I admit that some anti-adult-animal-play scientists don't agree) that a playful adult possesses more confidence and ability to cope with stressful situations than a nonplayful one."
It has in deed been my observation that a playful adult has more confidence and ability to cope with stressful situations. Or, perhaps even more self-evident, the adult (animal or human being) who isn't playful tends to be more easily stressed and often more concerned about his ability to perform. At any rate, all this coincides both fortuitously and non-coincidentally with last Friday's article Playfulness and the Health of the Herd.

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Playfulness and the Health of the Herd

I wrote a new introduction for a webpage called "Journeys on the Playful Path." I liked it so much it actually made me happy. It's not funny or anything, but it captures some essential connection I've been making between playfulness and health and the human experience. So, at least you can understand why I'm quoting myself at such length:
"Playfulness is one of the signs scientists look for when trying to determine the health of a herd of animals. The healthier the animals and the safer the herd, the more they play.

"The same is true of the human herd. Especially herds of children. As long as the kids are healthy and feeling safe, left to their own resources, play is the thing they do.

"Adults of the herd play less, at least observably, because for the most part they are not as healthy and definitely not as safe as they were when they were children.

"Adult human beings are different than the adults of any other species I can think of, in that they can choose to be playful, even when they don't feel safe or particularly good."


And when they are being playful, they tend to feel healthier, safer, almost like they did when they were kids, and maybe even better. And even though they are fully conscious adults and even though they can't ignore the danger, the consequences, the very real lack of safety that is threatening their entire health forever, they can choose to be playful, they can even choose to be playful with their own personal safety. And, simply by playing again, reclaim their health, their well-being, the energy of their youth.

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"...less grammar, more play"

Philip Pullman's article "Common sense has much to learn from moonshine" has earned him immortality in my particular world. The article is about a research report from the University of York that concluded: "that there was no evidence at all that the teaching of grammar had any beneficial effect on the quality of writing done by pupils." As he muses on the meaning of it all (what? the teaching of grammar is unnecessary?), he arrives at some rather delicious observations, especially to those of us who wander a Playful Path. One of my favorites:
"The most valuable attitude we can help children adopt - the one that, among other things, helps them to write and read with most fluency and effectiveness and enjoyment - I can best characterise by the word playful.

"It begins with nursery rhymes and nonsense poems, with clapping games and finger play and simple songs and picture books. It goes on to consist of fooling about with the stuff the world is made of: with sounds, and with shapes and colours, and with clay and paper and wood and metal, and with language. Fooling about, playing with it, pushing it this way and that, turning it sideways, painting it different colours, looking at it from the back, putting one thing on top of another, asking silly questions, mixing things up, making absurd comparisons, discovering unexpected similarities, making pretty patterns, and all the time saying "Supposing ... I wonder ... What if ... "
And then there's this:
"It's when we do this foolish, time-consuming, romantic, quixotic, childlike thing called play that we are most practical, most useful, and most firmly grounded in reality, because the world itself is the most unlikely of places, and it works in the oddest of ways, and we won't make any sense of it by doing what everybody else has done before us. It's when we fool about with the stuff the world is made of that we make the most valuable discoveries, we create the most lasting beauty, we discover the most profound truths. The youngest children can do it, and the greatest artists, the greatest scientists do it all the time. Everything else is proofreading."

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Shout About Movies, Music, TV, Fun

Shout About Movies 4 may not be the catchiest title in the world. But, if I know you, it'll probably be the highlight of you next party.

Now, before you get carried away to Amazon.com or your local retail outlet, let me help set an expectation or two. First, it's a consumable game. You can play it three times with the same group of people. And that's it. If you want to play it again, you're going to need a whole new group of people, none of whom has played it before. And that leaves you out. Unless you haven't played Shout About Movies 3, or Shout about Music or Shout About TV. And are willing to spend at least another $20.

In fact, the whole Shout About series is like that. Consumable. Which, in a way, is really quite innovational. In another way, the idea of a consumable game violates a very basic property of every other game we ever played. And I just don't like it one bit.

Except, it's really fun. It really works. The sheer entertainment of it all. The way the remote control is used and passed between teams. The score keeping. The variety. The timing and pace. It can keep a whole party-ful of people engaged for eight entire rounds per each of three games. With some snacks in between, you've got a whole evening's worth of significant and ultimately funny fun for everyone. Each round is different. Oh, it still deals with people's knowledge of movies or music or TV, depending on which of the series you've purchased, all right. But it's a different challenge. And each challenge gets people together, thinking hard, together, team vs. team, in intense, multi-media, animated, competition about knowing really trivial things.

Unless you happen not to know anything at all about, say, music of the 90s. Which explains why the games tend to be even more fun as the crowd gets larger. I and my wife, for example, and a goodly collection fellow Tasters, each of whom was at least 20 years newer to the world than we, tried one of the Music games. While everyone else was clearly having fun, loving the challenge of it, genuinely, but playfully engaged in trying to remember things first, we found ourselves wandering off to the refrigerator and getting snacks ready.

So there you have it. A consumable game, for goodness sake. Major FUN. By a unanimous decision.

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