Six Reasons Not to Have Fun

On the occassion of his 35th birthday, Jay Michaelson, chief editor of Zeek A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, shares with us a rather deep meditation on 6 reasons not to have fun - just in case:
"As I approach my 35th birthday, I wonder if I'm having too much fun....Granted, what I call 'fun' is not what most people do. Here I use the term in a broad and intentionally self-deprecating way, to refer to anything my heart deeply wants, from meditation retreats to writing a novel...I think that, when push comes to shove, I have made these choices because I deeply wanted to make them. Sure, these deep yearnings are different from simply wanting to get some kicks. But they are still about 'fun,' I think: about the juiciness of life itself, about experience, about enjoying life, in the deepest sense.

"...Why are we supposed to grow up and stop having fun, anyway? First, at least for me, there is what Anthony Kronman called the 'firestorm of regret.' I am now at the age where peers of mine are not just rich tax attorneys, but also influential politicians, respected professors, and writers and editors at publications (even) more well-known than Zeek...These pangs of regret occur because of an underlying anti-fun value: that one should make something of oneself. This is a particular, Western value that is not shared by all civilizations. Probably the most obvious counterexample is the Rastafarian (or pop-Rasta) value of spending an entire life delighting in the pleasures of Jah -- working, to be sure, to better social justice, but never losing sight of the gifts of creation, which are here to be enjoyed.

"A third reason to stop having fun, along with regret and the value of achievement, has to do with dignity and maturity. It's just undignified, isn't it, to be the balding guy on the dance floor.

"A fourth reason to stop having so much fun is, of course, that life isn't always fun.
Pleasure, even in its deepest form, is only one of the important aspects of life. In a long-term relationship, for example, pleasure waxes and wanes, but if the pursuit of immediate sensual pleasure (affairs -- fun!) is placed above commitment (less fun), the end result will likely be sorrow. Or in terms of health: the burger is fun, but heart surgery is not....

"Fifth, if life is only pursued for the delights of the self -- even highly refined delights like reading post-structuralist theory or creating art -- it becomes a dead end. It's too easy to keep searching for the next thrill; this is how people become addicted to drugs, like an acquaintance of mine who died, at age 38, because of his years-long crystal meth addiction. At first it's fun; then it's less fun; then you need to do it to have any fun at all. So, too, with spirituality. The first meditation retreat is such a high! You think you'll never come back down. But then you do, and you start searching for the next high: samadhi becomes a narcotic.

"Finally, I think we're meant to stop having fun, at some point, because of a sense of deeper responsibilities, most importantly to family and community. Of course, since I've defined 'fun' to include anything that provides a sense of joy in life, family is fun too. But I think it's distinguishable, in that the intention of the family man or woman may be less 'I am doing this to taste the joys and sorrows of life' than 'I am doing this because it is my role, or my duty, or my responsibility.' Likewise for career; it may be fun, but it's mainly responsibility."

Of course, Michaelson's six reasons not to have fun: "...regret, achievement, maturity, truthfulness to life, avoiding the dead-end, and taking responsibility" are, at the same time, of course, six very good courses to take, actually, to bring more fun into your life: try letting go of regret, the need to achieve, the illusion of maturity, the belief that you could be anything other than true to life, try letting go of dead ends, taste responsible fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The fun that tastes as good as it tastes when you figure something out

There's a taste of that fun you get when you're doing puzzles - solving them, completing them, breaking them back into pieces, putting them back together again, putting them away - a complex, varied, many-textured taste.

The computer has proven to be a highly nurturing environment for the flowering of experiences that taste like that. Puzzles built on puzzles, fantasy, logic, art, music all put together to serve us that particular kind of puzzle-solving fun, over and over again.

neutral provides a good demonstration of the state of that particular delicious art of puzzle-solving, for those who can taste the fun of it.

from Metafilter

by way of Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Top Ten Tips for Run-of-the-Mill Players to Enjoy Outstanding Games - from Craig Conley, guest blogger

There's nothing so comfy as mediocrity. Indeed, our culture teaches us both explicitly and implicitly that "okay" is good enough. But when it comes to fun, the middle-of-the-road game players cheat themselves out of something precious. Lackluster players miss out on the special spark that characterizes outstanding game play. We're not talking about the thrill of victory versus the agony of defeat. An outstanding player will have more fun losing a game than an average player will have winning a game. The fact is that mediocre players cannot, by definition, get caught up in the lighthearted spirit of the game.

Following are ten techniques for transforming yourself into an outstanding player of your favorite game.

1. Seek your game's hidden source of entertainment, its heart of fascination. In Classical times, Greek and Roman games consisted mainly of running, wrestling, jumping, riding, and racing. On the surface, these games were nothing out of the ordinary, yet their players made them the world's most extraordinary entertainments, exciting the enthusiasm and awakening the spirits of the spectators.[1]

To find your game's heart of fascination, observe those moments when players become carried away, when they exclaim joyously, when they leap into the air or rise off their seats as if suddenly weightless. Notice those moments when teams cheer one another, when the thrill of the play dissolves rivalry. When you identify the dynamic at play—the true spirit of the game—you can foster it, prolong it, and take it to Olympic heights.

2. Improve your flexibility and agility (whether muscular or mental). To stretch your gray matter, a Web search for "lateral thinking exercise" will offer puzzles unsolvable by traditional step-by-step logic. To increase your physical flexibility, the "sun salutation" of Yoga is a 12-step series of poses that exercise every muscle and joint of the body. Do a Web search for "sun salutation" to find free pictorial guidance.

3. Use drills to work on weaknesses (whether muscular or mental). If another player is one step ahead of you mentally or one second faster than you physically, that's a winning edge. A single increment of improvement may be all you need for success. Set simple goals and work one step at a time.

4. Better your memory. A good memory is a boon to virtually any game. A Web search for "memory game" will yield hundreds of free online resources for exercising your powers of recollection.

5. Dispel falsehoods that hinder you. Are you convinced that golf isn't a woman's game, or that softball is a young person's game, or that pinball is about making lights blink with a rolling ball? Educate yourself about your game. Read books, explore websites, talk to other players. There's always more to learn.

6. Sharpen your concentration. This is the age of the eleven-second attention span. Being easily distracted is ruinous to game play. Sharpening your concentration takes conscious, prolonged, repeated effort. Keep a journal about your game. Thinking and writing about your game will help to increase your power of concentration.

7. Manage your stress. Stress management techniques will help you improve virtually any game. A Web search for "stress management" will yield hundreds of free online tips and techniques. One marvelous stress reducer is laughter. A Web search for "laughter therapy" will inform you about how laughter reduces stress hormones, boosts immunity, promotes a positive attitude, and engenders a feeling of power.

8. Practice solo. If your game involves two or more people, don't let that fact discourage you from practicing any aspects you can work on by yourself.

9. Embrace change. "Change is necessary to improve your game. You must not be afraid to risk giving up the known for the unknown if you wish to play better."[2]

10. The final tip is too specific to apply to just any game. You already know what it implies, or will soon discover it through your ongoing self-education. Perhaps this tip will require the help of a coach or the advice of a teaching pro. Perhaps it will involve visualization techniques, or the use of a video camera, or familiarization with quantum physics. This final tip may be the ultimate key to your fullest enjoyment of your game.


[1] Lewis Henry Morgan, League of the Ho-dι-no-sau-nee or Iroquois, 1904, p. 303.
[2] Philip B. Capelle, Play Your Best Pool, 1995, p. 383.

Craig Conley is an independent scholar and author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins) and Magic Words: A Dictionary (Red Wheel). His website is One Letter Words. His Zen version of Rock-Paper-Scissors is called "Moon, Fish, Ocean."

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Ze Frank's Virtual Color Wars

As you know, I am a great fan of Ze Frank's work. No, make that Ze Frank's play.

As you might also know, I am a Twitter dabbler. Recently, Ze once again launched something new into the cybersphere. Something oddly like a giant, world-wide game of Virtual Color War. I'll let Ze explain:
We used to play color wars at summer camp. Near the end of the year the entire camp would split up into colors, red, green, black, blue, etc... and compete in a series of events: tug of war, egg toss, basketball - sort of like the movie Meatballs, except all within the same camp.

During the summer we were divided into discreet units, older kids here, younger kids there, Hiawathans by the lake Tawasenthans by the ropes course, etc... But when it came time for color wars you had no idea who would be on your team. It was a release, and it was viciously fun.

So, for a while I've been thinking about how a color war might look online. How would you play tug of war, or other group games that were silly, time limited, and awesome... and more importantly how could you create teams within an already functioning environment to have that same people-mash-up effect that we did at camp.

Twitter seemed perfect. So yesterday AM I posted this tweet, this tweet, and this tweet.

And now it has gone haywire. I regret having caused a day of spam...but...

There are dozens of teams, some of which are hundreds of players deep. Many of the players don't really know what they joined or why, but for me and the wonderful coders that are working on this, it is a perfect implicit structure that can be used to start setting up the colorwar events. And beyond this, it is an idiom that can be used to create rapid affiliation and action models in the future.
For more virtual Colorwar stuff, see Colorwar 2008 and this collection of ideas for color wars.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Exploring the Wisdom of Games

Once I learned to see the connections between theater and children's games, I began to understand the wisdom contained in their playful dramas.

Once I started sharing this wisdom with adults, it became the thing I liked to do best - more, even, than designing games or reviewing games or writing about games and fun and stuff. I first discovered this when I was leading a workshop for teachers at the Durham Child Development Center in Philadelphia, and rediscovered my joy in ths at the Games Preserve and at the Esalen Institute.

I play with grown-ups, especially playful grown-ups. We play a kids' game together. I talk a little about the theater of the game - the play and interplay of roles. And then everyone talks about the "drama" of the game, as if the game were really some kind of theater piece - especially about the drama they experienced, personally. Not so much about their own, personal drama, but about about the drama of the game itself, about relationships, about the way of things in gameland.

I like what happens as we play and talk, play and talk - some kind of healing, playful, loving wisdom starts manifesting itself. Because we are grown-ups playing these games. Because of the growing honesty and openness and depth of sharing we are capable of, just the act of playing each game reveals to us a depth, a drama more profound, more personal, a truth more mutual, more freeing.

"I have learned to see children's games as scripts," I write, "for a kind of children's cultural theater. I see them as collective dreams in which certain themes are being toyed with - investigated and manipulated for the sake of sheer catharsis or some future reintegration into a world view. They are reconstructions of relationships - simulations - (myths) - which are guided by individual players, instituted by the groups in which they are played or abstracted by the traditions of generations of children."

I like to do this best. Teach people to see this. The artistry, the clarity, the wisdom of games.

And frankly, I'm hoping that by telling you about it, I'll get to do this more.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The socialization of virtual

Clive Thompson, a contributing writer for The New York Times, writes:
...By the looks of it, we're entering a new golden age of social, face-to-face game playing. Consider that in the last year, the biggest breakout hits have been music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and the Wii's sporty and casual titles.

Each of these games explicitly encourages social playing -- people hanging out together. (Here's a revealing cultural moment: I was walking down the street in the East Village last month and overheard two female college students complaining vociferously that they hadn't been invited to their friend's Rock Band session.)

Perhaps we're simply going back to the roots of gaming. Though you wouldn't know it from the perennial hysteria about games turning kids into walleyed, anti-social zombies, videogames were originally a social pursuit, because the best games were available only in arcades, and those places were as convivial as Irish pubs. You'd watch one another play, you'd share techniques, you'd talk trash, gossip.

In the late '80s, the rise of home consoles broke up that sociality, making gaming a more solitary pursuit -- something you pursued alone in a basement or a bedroom. But 10 years later, the rise of multiplayer gaming brought the public vibe back to games. That was particularly true of world-games like World of Warcraft, where players log in often for the sole purpose of chatting.

So maybe it's no surprise that we're coming full circle. We don't want to play alone. We want play dates.
Playing alone is fun. There are puzzles and solitaire and running around trees and stuff. Playing together is funner.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Word Making-Up Fun - An Introduction to the LexiFUNnicon

And then there's that flavor of fun you get when you're making up new words, when fun becomes, shall we say, defining.

The LexiFUNnicon is a particularly good sample of this taste of fun, because, as in every taste of fun we have so far defined, we are having fun with fun itself. For example, the following LexiFUNnicon entries:
  • biofunology - the study of the biological origins of fun
  • cofunnication - shared fun
  • defunnication - taking the fun out of something or one or many
  • delightenment - a temporary experience of permanent delight
  • entercation - beyond infotainment, not so much making learning fun as making fun educational
I find myself particularly intrigued, for example, by the notion of, as one might put it, exploring the experience of cofunnication, in far more, shall we say, depth.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Spirit of the Game - from guest blogger Craig Conley

The "Spirit of the Game"

by Craig Conley

Without the spirit of the game,
what would the game be?
—Nevin H. Gibson,
The Encyclopedia of Golf

Arabian folklore tells of a wish-granting genie imprisoned in an oil lamp or bottle. Might players innocently conjure such a spirit in a game of spin-the-bottle? Indeed, every game has a motivating force at the heart of it -- its own sort of soul. Whatever we might call it -- essence, atmosphere, intention, or ethos -- it's that special spark that distinguishes the game from all others. Like a genie of folklore, the Spirit of the Game grants good sports a wish -- the ultimate wish. (We'll get to that in a moment.)

The Spirit of the Game is not necessarily spelled out in the rules. Indeed, "There are situations in which adherence to the so-called letter of the rules can be taken to violate the spirit of the game."[1]

The Spirit of the Game is a distillation of the intent of the rules. It has been called "a self-regulating set of norms without which some games would degenerate into anarchy."[2]

It is a frame of mind, not a commandment carved in stone. It's a point of view, a sense of humor, a strength of character. Novelist Richard Le Gallienne summed it up perfectly: "To be whimsical, therefore, in pursuit of a whim, fanciful in the chase of a fancy, is surely but to maintain the spirit of the game."[3]

Because it is typically undefined, the Spirit of the Game can be abused. Unsportsmanlike conduct (like taunting and intimidation) is one indication of abuse; bringing the game into disrepute is another.[4]

When honored across the board, the Spirit of the Game turns opponents into equals. Most importantly, it engenders fun. While camaraderie is jolly and competition is stimulating, "the real spirit of the game is all about having fun."[5]

Though each game has its own unique Spirit, there are some universal characteristics. The Spirit of the Game is:

• even-tempered
• self-possessed, yet unselfish
• levelheaded
• well-balanced
• untroubled
• either easygoing or animated
• motivated
• spontaneous
• committed
• earnest
• disciplined
• wholehearted
• courteous
• honorable
• responsible
• idealistic
Ultimately, the Spirit of the Game "is the only thing in the game which is lasting."[6]

Corporate trainer Julius E. Eitington makes an interesting observation: when players become caught up in the Spirit of the Game, they "become themselves."[7]

What is one's true self, but that of a player on the grand game board of life? Edward Clark Marsh once described being enlivened by the Spirit of the Game: "If it was not for a moment real life, it at least made you wish it were."[8]

Other signs that the Spirit of the Game is present include:

• both sides wish each other good luck
• both sides cheer one another (winning or losing is secondary; the game itself is a victory for all [9])
• everyone plays fair (no cheating, no bending of the rules)
• players celebrate the game's tradition, safeguard its precedent, and carry on its legacy
• players supervise themselves.
Game scientist Andrew Thornton notes that "There is no agreed upon definition of the Spirit of the Game, but there is a pervasive sense that one should play by it. The Spirit of the Game is the Police" inside each player's head.[10]

But we've neglected the quintessential sign that the Spirit of the Game is present. And that's when the ultimate wish is granted: the firing shot that sets play into motion. When the game is afoot, all else is inconsequential!

Fun Facts about the Spirit of the Game:

• In Ultimate Frisbee, where there are no referees and no penalties, the Spirit of the Game is the underlying philosophy. "The Ultimate player will always praise and support successful actions on both teams. It is a normal thing to introduce yourself to the opponent at the beginning of every point and to wish him a good game. And after the game both teams stand in a circle talking about the game and singing a song for the opponent team. So it is a lot more than just a short handshake after a game."[11]

• The Spirit of the Game comes into play "before the game has even begun."[12]

• "Soccer is unique among sports in that the official's job is first and foremost to maintain the spirit of the game as well as the safety of all concerned; this concern outweighs all other laws of the game."[13]

• The Spirit of the Game of soccer has been traced back to the early to mid nineteenth century, when the game developed from its folk roots into its modern form.[14]

• The Spirit of the Game of curling "demands good sportsmanship, kindly feeling, and honourable conduct."[15]

• The Fighting Spirit of the Game of American football is persistently aggressive in nature: "Throughout the history of football, the violent spirit of the game has endured, even as other elements of the game have changed."[16]

• The Spirit of the Game of lacrosse "is a feeling of honor and dignity."[17]

• The Spirit of the Game reminds players that not everything is a matter of life and death, that consequences are temporary, and that results are not critical.[6]

• The Spirit of the Game teaches players to "accept success with grace and failure with restraint."[18]

• The Spirit of the Game of golf is characterized by disciplined conduct, courtesy, and sportsmanship at all times.[19]

[1] Allan C. Hutchinson, It's All in the Game, 2000, p. 195.
[2] Lincoln Allison, Amateurism in Sport, 2001, p. 161.
[3] The Quest of the Golden Girl, 1897, p. 35.
[4] William John Morgan, Ethics in Sport, 2007, p. 126.
[5] Richard Carlson, The Don't Sweat Guide to Golf, 2002, p. 205.
[6] Division for Girls' and Women's Sports, Sports Programs for College Women, June 21-27, 1969, p. 23.
[7] The Winning Trainer, 2001, p. 142.
[8] "Anthony Hope's 'Sophy of Kravonia,'" The Bookman, 1907, p. 381.
[9] Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring, 2000, p. 124.
[10] Belinda Wheaton, ed., Understanding Lifestyle Sport, 2004, p. 187.
[11] Jorg Bahl, Ultimate Frisbee, 2007, p. 4.
[12] John Byl, Co-Ed Recreational Games, 2002, p. 205.
[13] Andy Caruso, Soccer Coaching, 1996, p. 29.
[14] Sharon Colwell, "The 'Letter' and the 'Spirit': Football Laws and Refereeing in the Twenty-First Century," The Future of Football, 2000, p. 201.
[15] Gary Belsky & Neil Fine, 23 Ways to Get to First Base, 2007, p. 209.
[16] William D. Dean, The American Spiritual Culture, 2002, p. 148.
[17] Steve Bristol, quoted in Our Game: The Character and Culture of Lacrosse by John M. Yeager, 2005, p. 79.
[18] Hubert Vogelsinger, The Challenge of Soccer, 1973, p. 274.
[19] United States Golf Association, Golf Rules Illustrated, 2004, p. 4.

About the author:

Craig Conley is an independent scholar and author of One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins) and Magic Words: A Dictionary (Red Wheel). His website is His Zen version of Rock-Paper-Scissors can be found at

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More kids/games/violence research

I received the following email from Tom Hanson, editor of
I see where you recently discussed kids and video games on your site (see: Are Video Games Ever Good for Kids?). At we did an in depth review of the topic of violent video games that included an interview with one of the authors of the book. We broke the topic out into three posts:

Shoot-em Up Video Games - The Cause of Greater Anti-social Behaviors in Teens?

Author Reveals "The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games"

Experts State: Do Not Banish - Instead, Manage Violent Video Game Play

The research of Kutner and Olson has caused one critic of such games, this writer, to rethink his thoughts on the topic. If you think the posts would be of interest to your readers I would be grateful if you would share them.
Grateful? No, no, I'm the one who's grateful for this great resource. Someone's been doing a lot of clear thinking, in the name of education and play - the series, and in fact the blog itself, is a gift to all of us: designers, players, families and especially kids.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Cacaphonic Fun: The Really Terrible Orchestra

In an article in the New York Times, Alexander McCall Smith describes what can only be called The Really Terrible Orchestra. He begins: "WHY should real musicians — the ones who can actually play their instruments — have all the fun?" A profound question that set this particular funsmith's heart conceptually aflutter. He continues: "Some years ago, a group of frustrated people in Scotland decided that the pleasure of playing in an orchestra should not be limited to those who are good enough to do so, but should be available to the rankest of amateurs. So we founded the Really Terrible Orchestra, an inclusive orchestra for those who really want to play, but who cannot do so very well. Or cannot do so at all, in some cases."

Similar in spirit to Adam Sandler's Opera Man, The Really Terrible Orchestra completely avoids the question of "good music" by providing its audiences with very human performers who are having a great deal of fun making music that isn't really that terrible.

Smith concludes: "There is now no stopping us. We have become no better, but we plow on regardless. This is music as therapy, and many of us feel the better for trying. We remain really terrible, but what fun it is. It does not matter, in our view, that we sound irretrievably out of tune. It does not matter that on more than one occasion members of the orchestra have actually been discovered to be playing different pieces of music, by different composers, at the same time. I, for one, am not ashamed of those difficulties with C-sharp. We persist. After all, we are the Really Terrible Orchestra, and we shall go on and on. Amateurs arise — make a noise."

Cacophonic fun. But of course. Related, but not to be confused with, Musical fun.

I, myself, am somewhat of a virtuoso on the Cacophone...since I was in elementary school band, and discovered that if I played quietly enough, I could pretty much play anything.

via Alexander Kjerulf

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The fun fed

I have been in touch with the people who've been organizing, running and developing "the Fun Fed" since before they opened their doors in 2005. According to their new website, "The Fun Fed was created with the aim of offering opportunities to adults on the lookout for more joy, upliftment and laughter. We do this by running games, singing, dancing and clowning sessions up to four times a month."

This is a good and much needed thing, this Fun Fed. To catch a bit of the goodness, click your way to their collection of games. See, for example, Stick Swap - a game of exemplary silliness, and purposefulness. I better let them explain:
"Our sessions offer physical activity, laughter, joy, creative opportunities, stress relief, a space to meet new people and the chance to let your hair down and your selves go.

"Most importantly, they offer you a natural high and a feel-good factor without the morning after!

"A question people ask us all the time is 'What kind of people come to your sessions?' – which is so hard to answer. The sessions are aimed at anyone and everyone who would like to be play games and have fun. They are not 'therapy' although of course having fun always makes you feel better, think clearer and smile more. In terms of the demographics, about half of any session is likely to be 28-38 with the other half spread throughout the other ages groups. And people come from all walk of life. The other week we had a session with 20 people, here’s what they did: Student, Coach, Managing Director, Massage Therapist, Recreation consultant, Marketing, Media Buyer, IT Consultant, Fundraiser, Photographer and Unemployed – and we had a fantastic time."
The Fun Fed - yet another gift to all playkind.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Orbitwheel: Invented Fun

Orbitwheels - yet another small step for playkind, especially for the kind of players who like to skateboard, and can appreciate the heightened maneuverability, the vast array of potential tricks, the back-pack-fitting portability, and, of course, the opportunity to be the bull of the skating herd.

I found out about the Orbitwheel from one of my more reliable online sources, and someone whom I can actually call a friend - the Presurfer. Following his lead, I Googled around until I found myself at a site called The Inventist, where one can also purchase, for example, the significantly cool-looking AquaSkipper that allows you to bounce your way across the water- that's right, bounce; the Stepster, demonstrating how much more you get when you "combine a bicycle, a scooter and a Stairmaster;" and even the Leantisserie - the "world’s first free-standing rotisserie inside an oven."

All of which leads us to the fun flavor of the day: Invented Fun. The flavor of fun you taste when you make something up, something new. Anything new, really. Even, or especially, a free-standing rotisserie. But it is a fun flavor that is exceptionally delicious when the thing you are making up is some new way to have fun.

Invented fun.

Hence, for example, Junkyard Sports.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Personalized Fun

There's a certain flavor of fun that can be tasted only when making something for someone else - someone in particular. I call this "personalized fun."

And so we find ourselves at Festisite, a modest collection of well-made tools for making fun things, each with an intuitive-enough interface to ease our entry into a world of computer-assisted personalized momento-making.

I have taken very few pains to represent a small segment of my first project in the image accompanying this article - my face on a dollar bill. Which, of course, could be your face, on a Philipine peso, or a Malaysian Ringgit, or even a Ukranian Griven.

I had fun making it, partially because it was very easy, partially because it is always amusing to find one's face depicted on the local currency (in my case, also somewhat ironic), but mostly because I had a great deal of fun just thinking about all the people for whom I could be making fake, personalized dollar bills.

Festisite is a treasury of essential tools for making fun, personalized things. I must admit, I found myself having even more personalized fun with something called the Party Printer. Especially with that which led me directly to the speedy creation of a most amusingly novel sentence maze and also a most graphically splendiferous rebus.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Remembered Fun - - classic Nintendo 8-bit games online!

Remembered Fun is the taste of fun you get when you are playing something you used to have fun playing. It's a complex, many-layered taste, this particular flavor of fun, because the fun you are having tastes different than the fun you originally had, when it was all new, and that's fun, and at the same time, it's remarkably delicious, using our sophisticated online access to play these comparatively casual, naive little games that we once thought to be the ultimate and most profound statements of the art. serves up a delightfully varied buffet of Remembered Video Fun.

Go, therefore, play. Remember, replay, rediscover, rejoice.

via Im4mador

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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"...just another kind of fun."

It is something of a testimony to something to discover I have friends like these, who think of me so lovingly as to send me something like this:


Thought of you as I just finished reading Alan Alda's memoir, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed And Other Things I've Learned. (Highly recommended for anyone with a theater background!) The back story on this quote is that in October of 2003, he was in Chile working on an episode of Scientific American Frontiers. Filming at a remote mountaintop observatory he came within probably an hour or two of dying from an obstructed bowel but through a wonderful series of events involving both grace and luck was successfully operated on and is still thriving.

[page 218] Chapter 21. Golden Time.

"On a movie set, after the crew has worked twelve straight hours, they go into overtime pay in which every hour is worth two. It's called golden time. After Chile, I was on golden time. It was clear to me that everything I did was something I couldn't have done if I'd checked out in La Serena. Now, at last, there was no pressure to succeed. There was nothing I needed to prove to anyone. There was only the chance to have another day and to have some kind of fun with it; trivial fun or deep fun, they were both good. I still wanted to get better at what I knew how to do, but that was just another kind of fun."


"There was only the chance to have another day," says Alan Alda, "and to have some kind of fun with it; trivial fun or deep fun, they were both good. I still wanted to get better at what I knew how to do, but that was just another kind of fun."

What a wonderful connection. What wisdom. What a good friend Bruce is to have remembered me with this. What fun. What a fun way to embrace all 54 flavors of fun.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Improvisational Fun - The Imaginary Text Adventure

Here is what one might call a relatively perfect example of a central, oft-overlooked, and yet genuinely delicious flavor of fun: Improvisational Fun. Follow this imaginary text adventure as improvised by "Double Fine's Tim Schafer, designer of Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and upcoming god of gwar epic, Brόtal Legend. Prior to the release of those games, he worked on The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2 and Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, as described in the Joystick article Return to Quest Quiz - Tim Schafer."
You peer into the glowing red eyes of the mechanical bear, curious about the purpose such a dangerous contraption could possibly serve. You briefly wonder if there are any robot trout nearby.


You see a rusted mailbox marked "T. Girtlebee." Behind it lies a quaint cottage surrounded by (seemingly non-hostile) garden gnomes. Several puffs of smoke escape the home's crooked chimney. You smell bacon.

>open mail box

The mailbox contains ... mail. You don't know why you were expecting anything different.

>examine mail

"You may already have won* ONE MILLION DOLLARS!"

*an opportunity to be eligible to win a chance at winning the possibility of winning.

>examine sealed manila envelope

You open the envelope and reach deep inside. Like, really deep. It seems the interior of the envelope, err, envelops a magical and infinite amount of space. You could pull anything out of this thing, you reckon.
Try playing it on your next car trip, or with the person behind you in line, or online.

Improvisational Fun. One of my favorite flavors.

via Metafilter

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The Chididerod Urban ididarod

"The Iditarod is the famous long-distance race in which yelping dogs tow a sled across Alaska. Our Chiditarod is pretty much the same thing, except that instead of dogs, it's people, instead of sleds, it's shopping carts, and instead of Alaska, it's Chicago."

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Bucket Ball

Bucket Ball
"At the start of the game each player stands facing the other a few yards apart. Both have placed their feet into plastic buckets, one on each foot. For children playing the game a standard bucket is usually perfect – for adult players you may need to search a garden centre for larger specimens. Players hold in their hands an equal number of small balls. The aim of the game is to throw and get as many balls as possible into either of your opponents buckets whilst avoiding too many in your own."

via Strange Games

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Are video games ever good for kids?

Someone sent me this question: Are video games ever good for kids?

I guess it came at a good time, because I actually enjoyed writing my answer:
Are video games ever good for kids? Of course they are. They can be good for adults, and even seniors, too.

Can they be bad? Of course they can. It depends on the games and on the people who are playing them.

Actually, the same can be said for any kind of game. Can chess be bad? It can be, if it becomes an obsession, if the chess players pursue chess to the exclusion of everything else social, physical, and intellectual.

In fact, the category "video games" is itself misleading. The term comes from the arcade game era, and was used primarily to describe games like Pong and Breakout and PacMan. And these games suffered from the same misconception that led to us asking the very same question - are they good for kids.

Currently, kids have access to a very wide variety of things you might call video games, and other games that involve computers that you wouldn't think to call video games, but, in fact, have the same characteristics. Texting, for example, via cell phone, chatting and IMing via computer. Not games, actually, but highly interactive platforms for largely intellectual engagement. And then there are mass multiplayer online environments, like Second Life, which no one thinks of as video games, and yet have many of the same attributes.

I myself have designed games of almost every ilk, including computer games. Some were intellectual exercises, some social. Some were for the Children's Television Workshop, others for dedicated videogame companies, others for board and card game publishers. They all have succeeded in engaging children, in challenging them to solve and master some intellectual or social problem. And, as such, have all proven good for them - except for the few kids who took the games too seriously.

Which brings to mind all those concerns about violence in children's games. I personally don't like games that involve people blowing each other up. But I can't tell you that they're bad for kids, because I think most kids are not fooled by the imagery, and focus rather on mastering the intellectual, visual, and physical challenges these games pose. Take, for example, chess. Isn't it all about killing? Killing military figures and religious figures and government figures and destroying their homes?

On the other hand, violent imagery isn't necessary for a good game or a good video game. Take, for example, the many variations of the Sims, or my current conceptual passion - the beautifully cooperative game of Chilone.

But, I can't say violent games are really bad for kids, either. If kids are seeing violence, in their neighborhoods or on TV or in the movies, then it's part of their lives, and it's something they need to play with, to integrate into their world view.

There's a great story from Sara Similansky about pre-school kids who were playing outside, in the school playground, when a car hit a pedestrian. Soon an ambulance came and took the pedestrian to the hospital. It was a potentially traumatic experience for the kids. The next day, they started playing Accident and Ambulence. They continued playing for several days. And then went on to something else.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Education and The Well-Played Game

A colleague received the following note from a teacher interested in attending a session I was teaching about The Well-Played Game:
Do you feel this workshop will work with 10 of our teachers combined with 20 other people from other areas in the community?

I really am not totally convinced of the direct application of this workshop to the classroom, but maybe you can convince me more! I do see the relevancy of having fun, but I guess I am used to workshops for teachers that are specifically geared to the curriculum and classroom.
Here's my response:
As a teacher, hired by the School District of Philadelphia, back in 19 - can you believe it - 68! to write a city-wide elementary school curriculum in, yes, theater - I discovered how remarkably ineffective our schools were at teaching kids how to work together. Theater, as I understood it, is a demanding, labor-intensive, social collaboration. It's all about working together, creating together, acting together. So I wound up developing a 5-volume, 6-hole punched curriculum to teach kids how to play together.

As a teacher, especially as someone who was working inner city elementary school kids, who spent his time playing games like duck-duck-for-goodness-sake-goose, I learned how important play was to human, social and intellectual growth. And how important social growth was to educational growth. And how silly we were to expect kids who didn't even have a chance to play together to become skilled at working together.

And that's what I'm still teaching 40 years later.

Yes, I realize that the ability to work well together is not measured directly, per se. But my guess is that any experienced teacher understands how a kid's ability to play with other kids turns out to be part of everything that we educate for - not just math and reading skills, but intelligence, maturity, esteem, leadership, grace.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Public Fun - "The More the Merrier" principle

There's a flavor of fun that we get when we're not the only one having it. You can call it "social fun" or "shared fun" or even "loving fun." It's a kind of fun that often leads to public fun.

According to the Oaqui, that kind of fun, public fun, when applied to human affairs in general, can prove a most reliable socio-political guide to human ethics. The Oaqui explicate/s:
"The More Merrier Multiplier, in a mathematically articulate manner, expresses the true relationship between the Merrier and the More. If no one else is in this meeting is making merry, OR if you find yourself clearly lacking in measurable merriment, OR if nobody else will be the merrier because we are having the meeting, the whole thing is pretty much worthless. Or, saying the same thing in just about the same way: If you're having fun, and if everyone else is having fun, and if just about the entire world will have more fun as the result of what you're having fun doing, you can be pretty sure that what you're doing is, in fact, a very right thing."

And if there's such a thing as public fun, there's definitely equally such a thing as private fun. The fun we have all by ourselves with ourselves often within ourselves. Fun that we share with ourselves only. And of course there's semi-private fun, like the fun we have with kids and pets and ocean waves and sand and water....

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Private Fun

It took me several many years after the Oaqui sent me the text for what t/s/he/y called "The First Concatenation to compile what became the CD "Recess for the Soul."

The First Concatenation, and everything it led me to, is a product of that very delicious, chewable, renewable flavor of fun that I am now calling "private fun." It's based on the observation
"that you live with yourself, talk to yourself, laugh at yourself, surprise yourself, promise yourself, hurt yourself, fool yourself, trick yourself, reward yourself, support yourself, forget yourself, enjoy yourself - that you can be good and bad to yourself, that you can love and hate yourself, that you can blame and forgive yourself, listen to yourself and try to ignore yourself - that you can exercise self restraint, engage in self denial, self abuse, self pity, self aggrandizing - that you can have self, esteem, loathing, pity, regard - that you can feel yourself - that you can feel not yourself - that you can be self assured, self motivated, self cleaning."
It's the kind of fun we get from meditating, pretty much about anything, but especially from meditating about ourselves. Very, very private fun.

Think about it.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith