Adventures in fun raising

I found this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, called "Adventures in fun raising." Which was somewhat kismetical, as I had just been meditating on how most of my game events are really what you might call even more accurately "fun raisings," because that's, in fact, what they do, and what they're for. Raising fun. Raising the spirit of fun. Like a barn raising, you know, everybody pitching in. Except for fun. Anyway, the article was about Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. And it starts by saying that Rodriguez's "priority is to have fun." Nice. Already I like this man. I read on.
Rodriquez, whose films include El Mariachi, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, says he "has expunged the word 'work' from his life. "I changed it to 'play.' And I play all the time. Every night I play!' Not that his idea of play would be everyone's. On Spy Kids, he decided he would do his own special effects and set about learning how to do it. 'I like stacking the deck against us so we have less time and less money and I'm forced to be more creative. That makes it a lot more fun and it makes the movie better.'"

"So often people say to me, 'I don't like those violent action movies, but I like your [mariachi] movies for some reason'. And it's got nothing to do with the dialogue or the story, but with the spirit that infuses them...You can tell we're having fun."
Less time and less money. More fun. Who knew?

Edouard Martinet Sculptures

Edouard Martinet is one more artist of the found, so to speak. Click on his home page, and read: "The work represented on this site consists of metal sculptures created using found materials which are fixed without welding. Edouard carefully selects his raw materials found in brocantes (yard sales) and junk yards. The finished pieces achieving a life of their own."

Found materials fixed without welding. Once again, the playful heart of a junk-inspired artist revealed! Who else would have such an appreciation for the parts of his art that he would actually hesitate to make the connection too permanent? And yet, the works themselves seem so complete that you can barely distinguish the components. Barely is key, here. Because in getting a hint of the junkly origins of his art, the viewer experiences the ingenuity and playfulness of the work, and finds herself everso much more in awe of the artist's ability to capture the living essence of his subjects, birds and insects, frogs and fish, in junk.

funscouting by Neatorama

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Don't let the humor escape you


Of Art and Fun - The Game/Play Blog

Game/Play: "Playful interaction and goal-oriented gaming explored through media arts practice" is a "networked national touring exhibition focusing on the rhetorical constructs game and play." Before you go much further, let me stress the phrase "rhetorical constructs." I think it should tell you everything you need to know about the focus and flair of this particular exhibit. It's, well, art.

Let me give you an example. The image of the giant joystick is from a work by Mary Flanagan. A "work," mind you. Here's part of Christiane Paul's text describing the work, as it were:
"Inviting users to play classic arcade games by collaboratively moving on and controlling a 9-foothigh joystick (modelled after the 1980 Atari 2600 one), Mary Flanagan highlights the spatial and social role of the interface. The joystick itself becomes a social sculpture and territory for inter-personal communication. Mary Flanagan’s work has consistently focused on the exploration of the cultural and sociological effects of technology, in particular, the merging of the private and public sphere in commonly used technological tools and products – from interfaces to games. The tension between private and public is an underlying narrative of her projects [collection] and [domestic], a game engine modification that transforms the scripted, shared narrative of the public game environment into a narrative space inscribed with personal memories. [giantJoystick] takes the investigation of everyday technological tools to the next level by subverting a common interface and highlighting its function in both a social (public/ private) and physical/ spatial context."
OK. OK. It's a different perspective on fun, I'll grant you that. Focusing on significance and nuance and socio-cultural stuff. Nevertheless, you have to admit, playing a game with a 9-foot joystick sounds like fun, regardless of what it portends or pretends. And for me, that's the point, that's what makes this kind of exhibit something worth paying close attention to, maybe even getting excited about: follow fun deep enough, you find art.

funscsouting by Pat Kane

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FunCast: The Kinds of Fun

The text for today's FunCast can be found here. It beginneth:
"According to the Oaqui, originally, before it all got started, before the big banged, everything was, in its total entirety, dimensionlessly and unadjectivably fun. Hence, any attempt to distinguish one form or dimension of fun from another invariably leads to excessive silliness, like the following.

"But, that's neither here nor there.

"In answer to your question, yes. The Oaqui currently distinguish/es between 613 different kinds of fun, Interestingly enough, Partial fun is considered a kind of fun (#417), even though it can never be as Total or Complete or Entire as Whole fun (#423), synonymously speaking."


Giant Girl Puppet

"On the morning of Sunday 7th May the little girl giant woke up at Horseguards Parade," reads the description, "in London, took a shower from the time-traveling elephant and wandered off to play in the park." The little girl giant of which they speak is a puppet, if you can believe it. A giant puppet. I mean, really giant.

But you can see the strings!

Cables, actually. And cranes and uncounted puppeteers (I didn't count them). All of which makes it, well, that much more fun, to see the art of it, to see the trick and how it's done, and still almost believe.

funscouting by Noise

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The Junkyard Sports Foundation

Apparently, during a giglag (giglag - time spent between jobs), I decided to form a one-person Junkyard Sports Foundation. Really. A foundation. A genuine, grant-making organization - except that what the Foundation grants is fun, and the organization is pretty much me.

Though the Foundation is newly organized, it has self-funded and maintained several online publications for years, including this weblog. One of the Foundation's most recent grants, also self-funded, is the worldwide, online distibution of the complete instructions for conducting the Junkyard Golf Course and Community-Building Event with Potluck.

For more Foundation activities, stay tooned to this weblog, and associated Foundation-supported weblogs (Junkyard Sports and Major Fun).


This one's for my father, who didn't live to see it. My father who used to sit in bed with a small peg chess set on his lap and a chess book in his hand. My father who used to lie in the tub with the same small peg chess set and another chess book in his hand. My father who didn't live to experience the Online Chess Games Database.

Dad, I tell you, this one's worth coming back for.


Introducing Arvin Gupta and his Toys from Trash

The Pencil Spinner, also known as the Incredible Magic Hooey Stick, or, perhaps equally as familiar, the Gee Haw Whammydiddle, is, in itself, a wonderful thing, a thing of wonder, a toy to amaze.

And it's only one of I don't know how many very cool things you can probably figure out how to make yourself at the equally amazing Toys from Trash website. Toys from Trash. One more essential and generous resource for anyone who takes junk and fun seriously. Like, for example, Arvin Gupta, teacher, physicist, maker of toys from trash. Dr. Gupta comments: "I work in a Children's Science Centre in the City of Pune in India. I have been making simple science toys for children for over 25 years. The Internet provided me with a tool to share them with children all over the world." On behalf of the children of the world, Dr. Gupta, allow me to express our online gratitude.

thanks for the superb funscouting, Grow-a-Brain


FunCast: Passing Humanity - A Walking Game

In today's FunCast, we find myself talking about a game I play when I go walking. I call the game "Passing Humanity." For some reason, when I first introduced the game, in writing, only, I got some very deep, fun, and publish-worthy responses, all of which you can find here.

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Dirty Car Art

Who cannot recall the artistic conundrums raised by last month's posting on buttery goodness of Temporary Art? Butter sculpture? Lovely perhaps, but clearly destined to be spread away by the toast and crackers of the evanescent. Hence, temporary. As in ephemeral and oft even edible art.

And yet, who, then, could have anticipated the temporariness and yet artistic achievement of Scott Wade's Dirty Car Art?

Mr Wade writes: "These images drawn in the dust are obviously quite impermanent. One of the cool things about them is how they change over time. More dust accumulates as the car is driven down the road. Early morning dew streaks and dots the image, creating a patina. A light shower creates a deeper patina..."

Not just temporary, but a veritable celebration of impermanence. Which is, in fact, what you might call "fun."

funscouting by Shikencho


The Frog of Enlightenupment Faces Forward

As those of us who know the Frog of Enlightenupment know, the hand frog faces its maker. You make the frog talk. The frog talks to you. It's a one-man/one-frog kind of thing.

Today, my son the research scientist showed me a Forward Facing Frog, as it were. Somehow he had figured out how to make a frog that, in true puppet-like-fashion, faced away from its maker. Finally, the Forward Facing Finger Frog can claim its rightful place on the cosmic lily pad of universal, uh, liliness.

As for how to make the Forward Facing Frog, my son writes, cryptically:

1. Start with your thumb and forefinger
2. Interlace just like you do with your pinky and ring finger when it's the other way around (see The Frog of Enlightenupment)
3. Wrap middle finger around forefinger
4. The other fingers are the mouth

Funny Games

I used to call them "Pointless Games" because they were the kind of games where the score didn't matter so much, where just playing is winning enough. Now I call them "Funny Games." Yes, I know. There's a horror movie of that name. But that doesn't scare me off. Funny is too good of a word, because, from maybe an even more relevant perspective, it's not about the pointlessness of these games, or the lack of scorekeeping even - not as much as it is about the sheer funniness of it all.

They aren't comedies, these games, and we aren't expected to be comedians in order to play them. There are no punch lines, there is no applause. But there is laughter, all right. Rollicking, eye-tearing, panty-wetting laughter.

It's not so much that the games themselves are funny - as it is that when we play these games, we, ourselves, become funny.

Being funny. Not acting funny or saying funny things or even making people laugh, but being funny, funny in the very fullness and totality of our beings and the beings with whom we be being funny. As funny to ourselves as we are to each other. Naturally funny. Unselfconsciously funny. Almost helplessly funny.

Not silly. Not out of control. Funny. Like how we are when we all try everso hard to sit on each other's laps. Or when we find ourselves passionately debating the relative merits of choosing to become panthers, persons, or porcupines. Or wandering around with our eyes closed saying "prui."

Funny Games. Not silly at all, actually. Funny in the way each game manages to make light of and shed light on the human condition.


SEÑOR FUN and the Occasional Newsletter

The last issue of Bernie DeKoven's Occasional Newsletter seems to have been just a wee bit catalyzing for an even weeer bit few (those who've been bit by a weeer). I must admit that I am one of those few.

First I ported all my newsletters (almost all - I managed to lose the first 3) onto a weblog, as described above. And at about the same time I decided that I actually have created a close proximity to what can only be called "a SEÑOR FUN" award program, a program which in deed fairly reeks with win/winning. (Win-winning - I like that - good way to define coliberation - and vice versa.) Win-winning? Yes. For the present and future seniors of the world, for the game companies, and for all the organizations and institutions therein implied. And then I found myself inexorably led to the world's first known online depiction of SEÑOR FUN, himself, and mine, too. And then I wrote this.


We dedicate today's FunCast to the game of Prui?

As partially described here and below:

Clear the dance floor (living room, kitchen, back yard). Get more or less everyone together. (For any game to be fun, participation has to be optional). When the mass is about as critical as it will get, everyone closes their eyes and starts milling around. When people bump into each other, they shake hands, while saying prui. If the person they encounter is not prui, they each go off to find someone else. On the other hand (as it were) when someone bumps into the actual, pre-appointed prui, shakes hands and says prui, the prui shakes hands, doesn't say anything, and doesn't let go. Now both people are prui, remaining prui until the end of the game. If either of them is encountered by anyone else, more people are added to the prui. The game continues until more or less everyone has become prui. Then they can open their eyes. There are some exceptionally fun moments as more and more people feel their way towards pruiness. It gets quieter and quieter. The plaintive sounds of the unpruied few mingling with the invisibly giggling many.

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Brian Jungen

I'm thinking there's something inherently fun about the junk-art connection. I'm thinking that if you, in your virtual way, toured the Brian Jungen Gallery you'd come up with virtually the same conclusion. Nike art. How, well, artistic. And how, let's see, how
clever, how effective, how well-crafted, how unique, how ecologically sensitive, how commercially potent, how politically relevant, how, hmm, fun.

And perhaps even more spectacularly artistic and funny, his Plastic Chair Whale Skeleton.

So what I'm beginning to conclude is this: the junk-art connection is a big one, it connects this part of our brain with that part, this part of our culture with that, truth with beauty with profound silliness. Look for it. Nurture it. Enjoy it.

funscouting by neatorama.


Chance, Humor, And Self-Importance

Stowe Boyd "Internationally recognized authority on social tools and their impact on business and society; editor, /Message; contributing editor, Conferenza. Formerly president of Corante" writes:
"As we become ever more aware of the importance of creativity to business success, we should embrace spontaneity, humor, and the serendipitous opportunity to do something new and different. Not only is it good for your health, something profoundly great may arise from it.

"I often respond to the question 'who do you work for?' by saying that I am unemployable. Behind the wisecrack is a deepseated aversion to self-important business tyros ruling in Cubeland, who manage to suck all the life out of life at work... Basically, it boils down to a belief in playfulness, and an openness to the unusual and random. If you think you have all the answers, you won't be interested in running through the fields with a bunch of wild kids, searching for new questions."
You go, Stowe!

Tragic Magic

On his website, Peter Callesen explains:
"Most recent I have started to make white paper cuts/sculptures inspired by fairytales and romanticism exploring the relationship between two and three dimensionality, between image and reality. I find the materialization of a flat piece of paper into a 3D form as an almost magic process - or maybe one could call it obvious magic, because the process is obvious and the figures still stick to their origin, without the possibility of escaping. In that sense there is as well an aspect of something tragic in most of the cuts."
Obvious magic. Somewhat tragic magic. These are deeply playworthy concepts. And are found everywhere in Mr. Callesen's art - from paper structures to paper performances.

It makes me muse thus:

Magic, for it to be magic at all, has to be obviously magic. We know it's going to be a trick. The art of the magician is to fool us anyway. It's fun knowing that it's going to be a trick, and then getting tricked. Otherwise, we get angry or religious about it.

Somewhat tragic, because magic can not be real. Only the magician is real. Only the trick. Only our willingness to be surprised. Only the fun.

funscouting by metafilter


Follow the Fun

In Idle Thumbs, Alex Ashby muses about a presentation by Jonathan Smith, development director at Giant Interactive Entertainment. He quotes:
"...The moment of genius for Giant was to realize that they didn't have to be restricted by either Star Wars or Lego, but could keep the iconic ingredients of both. The chronology of the films would be followed, but elements would be mixed. You could play through episode one as General Grievous if you wanted or episode two as Qui-Gon Jinn. Why? Because it's Lego and that's what you do when you play with Lego, you mix things around, take bits from one set and put them in another. But, conversely, the rules of Lego wouldn't always be adhered to either. Characters can bend and twist and have their capes billow dramatically around them, and dismantling and reassembling objects in the game will be simple one-step procedures. Why? Because that's more fun!"
Yup, that's it in a nutshell. That's what I've been teaching ever since I started teaching games. The wisdom of games, in three words: follow the fun. Lego is a tool used to pretend with. The fun of Lego isn't in being able to do it right, it's in being able to do it your way. And the fun of Star Wars: believing the characters, the stories, the vividly imagined possibilities. And between them, between those two kinds of fun, lies the game.

But how do you play with Legos on the computer? How do you play, Lego-like or watching Star Wars-like? As our friends Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Muska Mosston will tell you, it's got to be as easy as you need it to be and as hard as you want to make it be.

Ashby continues
"...Giant discovered that a game which was more appealing to the children was also more appealing to everyone else. This is precisely the point that Smith has been pushing throughout his entire speech: making this game has been all about giving the player fun on top of more fun. No tortuous dialogue to read though, no exasperating punishments for mistakes made. Simple gameplay for those who want simplicity and deeper challenging gameplay for those who want to be challenged. Lego Star Wars is, by experienced gamer standards, an admittedly easy game, but that doesn't detract from how successfully it has embraced a love of freedom, exploration and generally playing around while maintaining a linear direction."

FunCast - Toy Guns

Today's FunCast is about toy guns and the politics of fun.

Read this for more.


One button games, continued

I read about Timed Climb in the Ultimate Insult weblog. I played. I was pleased. I was especially pleased by the fact that all I needed to use was the space bar. Because, as you so well know, I have a particular fascination with and respect for one-button games, as so previously described in my article "One Button Games."

As I was looking at the aforementioned article, I noticed that there were two comments, and one of them directed us to Globz. And so I went to Globz. And I saw these "minigames" on the top. And I played, o, I don't know why, Twin Spin. And, lo, it was a one-button game, of remarkably fun one-buttonness.

You get these two, well, balls, tied together, one orbiting the other, see, and when you hold down your button down, the other ball does the orbiting. So, with carefully timed button presses, you can actually make it walk. And there's a game called Kayak that uses a similar movement principle, but in a completely different environment - a flowing stream.

And I was again pleased. I was, in fact, deeply pleased.

Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Senior-Worthy Games

Last week, I wrote a piece called "Games Seniors Play.

Spurred to action, I, your local Defender of the Playful, have created yet another Major Fun award. For games that are good enough to interest the grown-up mind, without making too many demands of a somewhat outgrown body. I am calling this award the "Major Senior-Worthy Fun" awards.

So I started with games that have already been recognized in a Major-funlike manner, and singled out those games that don't require too much speed or dexterity. Each and all a genuine challenge to mind and wit, all and each an invitation to mature, skilled, grown-up, fun.

Should you know of any other games that we should seniorly consider, please leave word.

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Beep Baseball

Beep Baseball, according to American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, requires special equipment:

"The balls are large, 16-inch softballs with an implanted electronic beeping device so that players can gauge the location and movement of the ball. Bases are columns of foam rubber, four-feet tall, and at least seven inches across. Each base has a buzzer placed three-feet high that faces home plate and is operated remotely from behind home plate. The buzzer is, again, an auditory indicator for the players."

Beep Baseball is a serious sport, one designed so that the visually impaired can participate fully, passionately, and safely.

"Blindfolds," the AAASP continues, "are also an essential component of the equipment list."


You bet. Blindfolds that "...must incorporate a nose pad to eliminate the ability to peak down the side of the nose; each player must be blindfolded, regardless of the extent of their visual impairment."

Cool. Significantly cool. So everyone's equally handicapped. Which, in a way, means that no one is.

And this: "When a batter hits the ball, they will run to either first or third base, depending on which base has been remotely activated. This is done in random order; the batters are never sure which base to run to until they hear it beeping."

Perfect. A split-second of confusion. Just long enough to make things suddenly fun again. And maybe, as the other team races to field the ball, just the split-second they need to find it.

Sounds like a game that would be fun for anyone.

Seems like a significant achievement, this Beep Ball, the product of a deep understanding of play and sport and humanity.