The Elevator Metaphor

What's the difference between a team and a group, and how is being a team or a group like being in an elevator, and when? Today's FunCast answers all.



CowParade "is the world’s largest public art event. From Chicago and New York in 1999 and 2000 to Kansas City and Houston in 2001 and London in 2002, CowParade continues to evolve, not just in size, but in creativity and quality of art. While the cow sculptures remain the same, each city’s artists are challenged by the art from past events, inspired by the cultural influences of their respective cities, and moved by their own interpretation of the cow as an art object. CowParade is not meant to be high art, however. It is first and foremost a public art exhibit that is accessible to everyone."

You've probably seen a CowParade in the heart of your very own city. But did you know that
"The collection of painted cows is thought and dedicated to open opportunities to all artists in each city, and along the years, it has turned into a real competition among the best and most brilliant artists around the world.

Painters (some recognized, others only beginners) designers, architects or even fine art students all are invited to participate in this open call of artists, sending your submission and design on paper to Maravillarte* | Art Management Services.

The cow Designs on paper will be selected by a group of local art experts that form the Selection Committee. These selected designs will make up the Official Cow Parade Portfolio.

Out of the Official Portfolio, sponsors of individual cows will choose artists and their designs, to turn them into real size fiberglass cows."
Well, did you?

This message brought to you by Funscout Kris Bordessa.


Parlor Games

Jim Moskowitz has developed an updated, modernized, and sigificantly playworthy collection of Parlor Games. Many of the games are "New Games," which probably explains my particular appreciation of this compilation. Others are college sitting-around-the-cafeteria-table-type games. Most are only sketchily described. Some are just hinted at. But there are treasures aplenty.

For example:


Write lots of comparative adjectives (bigger, quicker, calmer,...) on slips of paper. Draw them out two at a time and try to fit a saying to the words, along the lines of "The Bigger they are, The Harder they fall."

For another:

Plenty Questions

One player thinks of something, any noun from "Niagra Falls" to "a subway token" to "existentialism". Other players try to figure out what it is by guessing other nouns. To the first guess, the player will say "no it's not" (or else it was a very lucky guess; start again!). To all subsequent guesses the answer is either "warmer" or "colder" (or occasionally "same temperature"), depending on whether in their judgement the latest guess is closer, in whatever sense they can figure, to the correct answer than the previous closest guess. We've sometimes taken to saying this more explicitly to make it easier to follow, e.g. [with the noun "oyster"] "Is it a steamroller?" "No, it's not." "Babe Ruth?" "Babe Ruth is closer than steamroller". "um... jalapeno?" "Jalapeno is farther than Babe Ruth." "Possum?" "Possum is closer than Babe Ruth"...


Games that flow from the moment

My son writes:
"I came across this on page 30: 'The real point of the story is that the best games with little children flow easily and naturally from the situation of the moment. We are not likely to get good games by planning them far in advance, but we probably will get them if we play with children just for the fun of it. And whatever the game is, we must be ready to give it up, instantly and without regret, if the child is not enjoying it. It’s tempting to think, "If I can just get him to do this for a while, he will enjoy it." But he won't – and we won't.""
This is a piece of hard-won wisdom. Cherish it. For it not only describes how to play with children. It explains, simply and universally, how to play at all.

Talking about all this flowing from the moment reminds me: Today we've been married for 40 years.


bossaball - volleyball on inflatables and trampolines.

bossaball - volleyball on inflatables and trampolines. And a beautiful site it is. As is the game (sight-wise). As you can see on every impressively animated page.

Bossaball is "a ball game between 2 teams. It's a mix of volleyball, football, gymnastics and capoeira. The court is a combination of inflatables and trampolines, divided by a net. And it takes less than 45 minutes to set it all up and get ready to play."

It is always exciting to see a new sport - it means new opportunities to play, new expertise to develop, and a new invitation to fun. Because the sport is new, there's no need to take it "seriously." There's no world cup, no national teams. The only reason to play is because it looks like something you might actually enjoy. Well, it looks like volleyball, actually. Except for the trampolines, which makes it look like Trampoline Basketball, except it's volleyball.

It's the spectacle of seeing bodies flying, tumbling in an ecstasy of aerial acrobatics. It's the bounce: The bouncing, tumbling players on the trampolines and surrounding inflatable mat. The bouncing music.

Bossaball. It looks like fun.

FunCast: CoLiberation

Hello again, boys and girls. This week's FunCast is about CoLiberation, which is a word I made up for having fun together. You maybe want to read it, too, here.


Robot American Football

Robot American Football is like the Robot Soccer played during the Robot Soccer World Cup and somehow clearly related to RoboCup (being another soccer like game played with robots, only RoboCup pits robots against human beings!), but this time, at last, it's American Football. And it's from, go figure, Japan.

It's fast. It's a bunch of remote-controlled robots. And, if you look at the video closely enough, or often enough, it's definitely not soccer they're playing. You can tell by the way the robots keep banging into each other. And by the football.

OK. Sure. It looks like great fun. And boy, could we make it like way more football-like! But you need ten players. And each needs her own robot. How unrealistic is that? I mean, it's not like a game the poor will ever get to play. At least until they find themselves in the military.

Frisbee Spinning Bees

Frisbee master Gary Auerbach hosts what he calls "Frisbee Spinning Bees" (the "bee" being what you get when you forget the "Fris") - classes and demonstrations in everything Frisbee. Not just, as you might conclude from the name of the site, Frisbee spinning, but in equal measure Frisbee throwing and catching. And, true to the spirit of all those who know the "Way of Frisbee," Auerbach even includes a section on Frisbee Ball Sports, a couple of which bear the marks of true junkyard-sports-like inventiveness. Like, for example, this game, from "Bayview Glen Public School in York Region," where "grade-four students play frisbee baseball or 'Base-Bee'"
  • you need two teams of up to 20 players
  • one team is in the field, the other team's at bat
  • the batting team lines up girl-boy-girl-boy
  • there's a pitcher and a 'bee-keeper'
  • the keeper stays in the middle of the gym
  • the pitcher throws to the batter
  • the batter catches the frisbee and then throws it to the outfield
  • the batter is out if the throw is below the waist, if it's caught by a fielder, or if they're not on a base when the keeper has the frisbee
  • if the batter throws the frisbee through the door by the stage or through the basketball hoop it's a home-run
  • if the frisbee lands on the stage, it's an automatic double
  • when the pitcher is a boy then the keeperis a girl and vice versa
  • more than one runner can be on a base
  • when the last batter in line is up everyone tries to run home
  • you can play inside or out
  • you need a frisbee, an open door, 4 basketball hoops, a stage.


Fun is Fine: Toward a Philosophy of Game Design

In "Fun is Fine: Toward a Philosophy of Game Design," David Kennerly writes: "In the fine game, fun intersects fine art. By fine art, I mean basically great art: fine art is the final art, or the most perfect of the arts. There is a quotation: 'The more I study the smarter Aristotle gets.' In a fine game, the more the player studies the deeper the game gets. Once a player knows the perfect strategy in a game, such as tic-tac-toe, no amount of play will reveal a better strategy. When the game ceases to teach the player a new lesson, the game stops being fun. The mind engages in a process of learning, in an education about a special system when playing a game. When perfected, there is nothing new to learn. Whereas, in Lost Cities, Go, or any fine game, each iteration teaches a new lesson. New strategies unfold. Weaknesses in old strategies appear. This is a kind of wonder that precedes discovery. This shares the impetus of science and art.

"So fun is the art of the game. It is a high goal. It is noble. It is not necessarily base. It is not necessarily a simple pleasure. Whosoever plays earnestly at a fine game ascends an upward spiral of intelligence. Even the strategies for choosing playing strategies evolve. The enabling goals within the span of the game themselves change. And once so involved, one is learning, 'To be able to be caught up into the world of thought — that is to be educated.'"

This idea of the "uppward spiral of intelligence" is very much in consonance with the nature of fun as described by Csikszentmihalyi and myself in my article Sober Doesn't Mean Somber. But clearly we're not just talking about any old kind of fun here. We're talking about the "fine" kind - the kind that takes us always deeper and higher and most often totally by surprise.

ispott - scavenger hunt with cell phones

ispott is "a mobile scavenger hunt game played with cell phone cameras." Read on:
"ispott hosts the world's first and only mobile scavenger hunt games. ...After you join us (it's FREE), you'll be ready to play. ...You'll receive a text alert on your mobile phone as soon as a new game begins. This alert will let you know what items to find. Then, you'll find as many items as you can before the game ends. Snap a quick photo of each item with your mobile camera, email it to us and visit to check your status. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.

"Points are awarded for each item on the list. The harder the item is to find, the more points it is worth. Plus, if the time bonus is active, bonus points are awarded based on when the item photo is sent to ispott. Basically, the sooner you find the item, the more points you get."
So here it is - an actual game, designed specifically for people with camera-enabled, Internet-connected, cell phones. A potentially city-wide, or perhaps even world-wide gathering of admittedly silly people, taking advantage of a coincidence of increasingly pervasive technologies, so they can do something coliberatingly silly together.

It is a good thing.


Sober Doesn't Mean Somber

And for today's FunCast, we hear an introduction to flow and fun and the psychology thereof, and especially to the difference between being sober, and being somber. The article: "Sober Doesn't Mean Somber."

May it prove to be an invitation to a life of fun.


Virtual Chuatauqua

It's free. It's today, and for the rest of the month. It's a Virtual Chautauqua about The Well-Played Game.

Drop by. Read a comment. Make a comment. Ask a question. Answer one. Add to a growing dialogue about games and community, fun and widsom, play and life.

Celia Pearce writes: "This is one of the most brilliant and overlooked books on games to-date. Drawing on practical experience 'in the field,' this self-made game designer/philosopher/educator/ethnographer does an in-depth analysis of the socio-psychological dynamics of (pre-digital) gameplay that is better than almost anything generated in the rapidly expanding academic field of Game Studies. For anyone interested in playing, studying, designing, or writing about games, this should be a perennial and oft-referenced bookshelf companion."

Bernie continues: "Understanding how to play well is a path towards understanding how to live well. With this understanding, every game you play becomes an opportunity to develop your skills at living well. Every game. This is how the search for the Well-Played Game becomes a path to wholeness. A playful path, filled with things like fun and community, spontaneity and creativity, agility and light-heartedness."

Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment

Behold the Extreme Diet Coke and Mentos Experiment and learn, finally, the answer to that never asked-enough question: "What happens when you combine 200 liters of Diet Coke and over 500 Mentos mints?

It is a beautiful thing, this scientific curiousity. Especially when it leads to a genuinely "spectacular mint-powered version of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas."

In case you've never made the science-fun connection before, or never thought about how a thing as uncomplicated as the desire to have fun could take us to the moon, you now have reason to thank the scientific minds of Explanations? Again, from Eepybird:
"..chemists are saying that the primary cause is physical, not chemical. Their explanation: nucleation sites. If you have a liquid that is supersaturated with gas (like soda, which is pumped full of carbon dioxide), a nucleation site is a place where the gas is able to form bubbles. Nucleation sites can be scratches on a surface or specks of dust – anywhere that you have a high surface area in a very small volume. That's where bubbles can form.

"Mentos seem to be loaded with nucleation sites. In other words, there are so many microscopic nooks and crannies on the surface of a Mento that an incredible number of bubbles will form when you drop it in a bottle of soda. Since the Mentos are also heavy enough to sink, they react with the soda all the way to the bottom. The escaping bubbles quickly turn into a raging foam, and the pressure builds dramatically. Before you know it, you've got a big geyser happening!"
Ever wonder what would happen if you drank coke and mentos? Don't miss this cautionary tale.

Now that you're left with all those Mentos and all that Diet Coke, how about a toast to my first and only daughter? Born this day. 39 years ago.

Deep in the Game: The Fun Now Manifesto

From "a blog devoted to the hobby and art of roleplaying, and all that jazz:" Deep in the Game: The Fun Now Manifesto:
1. Not everyone likes the same thing
2. Play with people you like
3. Play with rules you like
4. Everyone is a player
5. Talking is good
6. Trust, not fear or power
7. It's a game, not a marriage
8. Fun stuff at least every 10 minutes
9. Fix problems, don't endure them

Adolescent Playfulness and Well-Being

In their research paper, Adolescent Playfulness and Well-Being, authors Marianne Staempfli and Roger C. Mannell, of the University of Waterloo, discuss what may be key discoveries about the nature of all three: adolescence, playfuness, and well-being.
"...playful adolescents experience high mental and physical health. Less playful adolescents appear to experience problems with their peers and with issues related to self. When faced with daily playful teens engage in a combination of coping strategies depending on the problems at hand. Playfulness appears to function as a positive mediator rather than an antagonistic force in the experience of stress and coping. No gender and age differences were observed

"...Findings from this study are particularly relevant to the field of practice in suggesting the importance of promoting play and playfulness as an asset to positive adolescent development and well-being. The findings imply that playfulness functions as a type of dispositional resiliency during adolescence due to its stress-moderating properties particularly during leisure. Also, playfulness has the capacity to alleviate boredom, release tension and prevent aggression, and to promote group membership and civic engagement, which may enhance positive experiences at school, at home or during leisure."


A Million Ways to Play Marbles, at Least

Today's FunCast is a reading of "A Million Ways to Play Marbles, at Least" - originally included in the appendix of The Well-Played Game. In it's own silly way, it reflects pretty much everything I know about the nature of games. Personally, I think every kid between the ages of 8-12 needs to hear this at least once, and every adult over 30, several many times, at least.

Because, see, it's not really about marbles.

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Top 10 Coolest BBQ Grills

From Neatorama, at last: the Top 10 Coolest Barbeques : "BBQ," explains the Neat One, "is both a rite of summer and a rite of manhood (yes, BBQ is associated with male cooking, probably because any sane woman would not go near the combination fire, meat and beer). In some parts of the USA, BBQ is not just food, it's a religion. The fastest way to start a fight is not to talk politics, but to argue about the virtues of wood vs. charcoal vs. gas. Even the word itself is kind of controversial: is it barbecue, barbeque, bar-b-q, or BBQ? Just don't bring it up with a purist (or the one cooking your burger!)"

A finger has definitely been put on something of searing significance to those who seek the silly. The BBQer, regardless of the shape it takes, is inherently extra-ordinary. It veritably reeks of play. There is nothing necessary about a barbecue. It is a thing of fun, a portal to the not-quite-necessities of picnic and tail gate parties and backyard neighbor-baiting. And, today, thanks to the assiduous scholarship of the Neat-o-Ramans, we get to see the barbecue as the work of playful art it truly is.

Sustainable Fun

Sustainable Fun? In an ecologically-sensitive kind of way. Like, for example, any of these "Possibly Scoring 10 for Non-consuming" activities:
  • the pleasures of breathing fresh air in the country
  • sea-bathing and surfing
  • collecting empty shells or other beach combing
  • hiking (no litter),bushwalking
  • playing most team sports that don't necessarily involve personal violence (which 'wastes people' by damaging them)
  • birdwatching
  • bee-keeping
  • scrabble
  • friendships, love and affection
  • climbing, canoeing, running, horse-riding
  • picnic in the park - the 'park' part of it
  • politics in the pub
I love this concept: sustainable fun. Of course, what I love about it is thinking that there are sources of fun which are, in fact, sustainable. Not your consumable fun. But your sustainably fun kinds of fun. Your always fun fun. And that this kind of fun, this sustainable resource of endless delight, is as natural as friendship and snow.

In fact, so central to fun are these natural resources that, corrolarily speaking, one can say that "if it isn't fun, it isn't sustainable." Which just happens to be, according to this source and Funscout Joey Gray, a central theme voiced by environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki.


Pickup games offer many useful life lessons

Here's a little article by Bob Brandts, from the Amherst Bulletin, May 27, 2005, called "Pickup games offer many useful life lessons." And here's a sample of why I thought you'd want to read the whole thing:

"...I was thinking back on all the little lessons I learned while playing pick-up games – of baseball, basketball, kickball, wiffleball, tag, 4-square, etc. – with all of my brothers, sisters and friends throughout my childhood years. I remember my appetite for pick-up games being insatiable when I was younger (some would claim that little has changed with me), which meant that I was always on the look-out for the “next game” of whatever sport happened to be in season. Looking back now, I firmly believe that all of those informal pick-up games helped to shape me as a person and instilled in me many “life skills” that I still use to this day."
"To be honest, we all strived to score the most runs, goals, or whatever while we were playing the game, but the real attraction was that we were having fun and that was all that seemed to matter. The result of the game was quickly forgotten within minutes of its conclusion. The focus turned to talking about the game – nice plays, good moves, etc. – and casting our eyes to the next game, which would inevitably have different rules, different teams, and different things to talk about. As long as it was fun, nobody cared about who won or lost the game."


Come Out & Play Festival :: September 22-24

Come Out & Play Festival :: September 22-24:
"When was the last time you played in public?

When you were a kid, with a jump rope or a piece of chalk or just your imagination? Or maybe you've heard something about city-sized games before. Maybe you stumbled across a website with a bunch of people dressed as Pac-man, a newspaper article about GPS tag in England, a photo of a giant Parcheesi piece-shaped balloon on a city street.

In the last few years, there has been an explosion of street play, from mixed-reality games that combine the virtual and real to big games that transform cities into gameboards to the time-honored traditions of stickball and scavenger hunts. Collectively, we call these big games or street games, games that transform public spaces, games that you play in the real-world.

Too often, street games are only discovered after they've finished. Come Out & Play is an opportunity for you to experience these games for yourselves.

Come Out & Play is a festival dedicated to street games. It is three days of play, talks, and celebration, all focused on street games. "
Apparently, from their invitation to street-game-producers, they mean all street games, not just the high tech ones. Maybe even this kind of street games.

thanks to Noise for the fun-scouting.

Roll-Over: The Game

Roll-Over is a variation of a number of Numbers games, like Big Booty, The Prince of Wales and Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar

It is one of those deceptively simple games that is as fun to modify as it is to play, and, by sheer happenstance, happens to be the topic of today's FunCast.

If you are so moved, you can also watch us play this game on Google Video.

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