We used to play a game called something like Paper Golf. I was a kid then, so that makes it a folk game, at least. It was a great little game - you draw something that looks like a golf hole. You take your pencil and try to get from tee to hole in the fewest number of strokes. If you hit something (a tree, a rock) or go into a sand or water trap, you lose strokes or have to start your next shot from that point. And that's pretty much it. Except you have to do it with your eyes closed!
It was such a good game that, ever since I first played it, I wondered why someone hadn't come out with a commercial version, one that takes the game as seriously as it deserves. I am happy to inform you that someone has. And it's called "Par Out Golf." And it's, as I might have imagined, most definitely MajorFUN.
Par Out Golf is played on a set of spiral bound, laminated pages. Special "wet-erase" markers are used so the line is easy to draw, won't smudge, and very easy to erase. The rules are very, very close to the game of golf, complete with sand and water traps, obstacles and slopes. So close is it to "real" golf, you can play each of five classic variations of golf: stroke play, match play, tombstone play, and pro play.
Of the several skills you practice while playing Par Out Golf, a fascinating, and, to any golf player, significant challenge is learning how to visualize your shot. The more observant you are, the more capable you are at remembering the lay of the land, the more effectively you can imagine the exact amount of drive to put on the ball, the better you'll do. This, of course, is the essence of Par Out Golf. Like "real" golf, Par Out Golf challenges both mind and body. If you want to know more about the physical and cognitive aspects of the game, take a look at the thoughtfully included essay: Par Out Science 101.
If you want, you can practice on the Driving Range (on another page) or use the 19th hole (on yet another page) to design your own. You can add your own obstacles, changing the difficulty of each hole, essentially making the game something you can play for-just-about-ever.
Par Out Golf is recommended for 1 to 4 players (it comes with four different wet-erase markers). If you must try before you buy, you can download the first three holes here.
If it's June 28th, and you're somewhere near Venice Beach, CA, then come on down to the Venice Eco-Fest 2008, where you will find:
• Over 100 exciting Eco-Exhibitors with important planet preservation tips • Sun-powered Sound Stage - All day music, dance, poetry (see schedule below) • Kid’s Explor-o-rama with exotic animals, and interactive stories, music and FUN for all ages • Graffiti Artists at work using eco-friendly paints on the world famous Venice art wall • Food Court with delicious vegetarian delights • E-Salvage Recycling Truck in Ross Parking Lot for LARGE e-waste Bring your used: Computers & Monitors, Laptops, TVs, Stereos, DVD & VCR Players, Scanners, Fax Machines, all kinds of Electronic Accessories, computer and cell phone batteries, etc. • E-Salvage Recycle Bin on the Beach for SMALL e-waste **Bring your used: Cell Phones & Accessories, Cell Phone Batteries, Laptop Battery only • Filtered Water Stations - BYO reusable water bottle! • Million Trees Campaign Tree Give-away • Green Outposts for recycling/waste/and compost • PLUS-- Free Bike Valet on the handball court!
If only they had thought about including a JunkFest, it woulda been perfect.
Were you to click this link, this entire, interactively graphic Deep Fun site would look impressively like a Microsoft Word document. And, should worse come to even worse, and you have ample reason to suspect that the person looking over your shoulder is in fact your boss, simply click on the "Boss Key" as herein illustrated, the site itself would appear to disappear entirely, and be replaced by a Word document about how to increase your job efficiency and avoid procrastination.
The fact that someone would go to the trouble to program such a thing, however tongue-in-cheekily, bears evidence of a certain kind of fun that one might call "sneaky." It is the fun that has a definitely sweet flavor of "being clever," yet possesing more than a hint of bitterness, don't you think?
This is an actual work of play. As much, at least, as it is a work of art, exhibited, actually, at the städtische galerie, in nordhorn, some time in 2007.
Especially given the artistic statement, a statement that doesn't conclude until at least this.
Balloon art, performance art, funwise, it has a taste that is predominantly artlike, yet suffused with an aroma of playfulness, whilst exhibiting an aftertaste reminiscent of swords-into-plowshare-making fun.
Swing-Ball, a game played with a soccer ball, and, well, swings, thusly: "...the Red Team in the field (players 1 and 2) and the Blue Team on the swings (players 3 and 4). The game is divided into two halves, with each team spending one half on the field and one half on the swings. The two players on the swings have the option of choosing which direction to face and whether to swing in tandem or in opposing directions...The goal of the Red team is to pass the ball between the two poles of swingsets without the Blue team making contact with the ball. Each time this occurs, the Red team earns one point. Each Red player is allowed just two touches of the ball before their teammate must touch, or the ball is given to the Blue team. The Blue team, meanwhile, will attempt to block and gain control of player 1's attempted pass. They have an unlimited number of touches and may tap the ball to each other to set up a preferable kick."
I'd most definitely call this a Junkyard Sport. The designers incorporated what for soccer players would be deemed "junk" - a swingset, in this case - and used it as the pivotal, so to speak, focus of the game. This is the kind of thinking that transcends boundaries, that integrates the real world into the world of play, that engages new skills, and creates opportunities for the expression of excellence, and the frequently actually fun opportunity to fall off a swing.
Behold this remark-worthy animation designed by Joaquin Baldwin (UCLA Animation Workshop).
My remarks: There's a certain flavor, shall we say, of fun that comes from the synergy of artistry and technology. A certain flavor of awe-inspiring. Then, there's the flavor of fun that comes from watching this particularly artistic narrative. It is a flavor of being absorbed, utterly, combined with the bitterly beautiful flavor of self-sacrifice. This flavor seems to be most appreciated when the self that is being sacrificed is not your own, and even more delicious when the bitter beauty is completely pretend.
By deep study of the Codex of the Lost Ring, we hope to gather insight into the mystery and vasty significance of the The Lost Sport of Olympia. We seek further guidance from Ariadne, who says of herself: "I woke up in a Labyrinth of Feb. 12. They call me Ariadne." Ariadne, should you consult the Wikipedia deeply enough, also refers to: "Ariadne's thread, named for the legend of Ariadne, is the term used to describe the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding - such as a physical maze, a logic puzzle, or an ethical dilemma - through an exhaustive application of logic to all available routes." Ah. Ariadne's thread.
The mystery deepens and at the same time widens. What actually is the Lost Sport? Where is Olympia? Who lost it in the first place?
ARG, don't you know, stands for Alternate Reality Game. Ah, so we are not speaking of an actual Lost Sport of Olympia, but something of a fantasy, something perhaps made up?
Perhaps in deed. But, reality-wise, the reality to which the alternate reality is an alternate, what we actually have is a quite fun game, which, as my colleague, covisionary and general friend Celia Pearce is quick to point out, is very much in the spirit of New Games of yore and ours. See, for example, this.
This is a picture of my wife, 49 years ago. This is exactly how she looks to me now.
Today is her birthday. I'm not with her. I'm definitely doing something wonderful. I'm in Denmark. I'm running a day-long play session with some of the people from Lego. It's like a dream opportunity, getting to work/play with people who are so committed to making things fun. What could be better?
A Million Ways to Play Marbles, at least, was originally published in 1978, as an appendix to The Well-Played Game. I wrote it because I've found - in these many years of showing people how important, healing, inspiring fun can be - that it is extremely helpful for people to see games not so much as "things" but much more as "processes."
Generally, we think of a game as having a certain set of rules involving certain objects and aspects of the environment. But, if we take the time to remember, we discover that most games, especially the "good" ones, can be played in many different ways, with many different combinations of things and surroundings and people. Once that is understood, any game can become something that brings people together, regardless of the range of ages and abilities, because there really is no one way to play it, because we can change it in, well, a million different ways.
If you'd rather not read the whole thing, you can listen to me read it here.
My keynote address at the NASAGA conference (2006) was called "Deeply Played Games."
"The games that we play the most deeply, as kids or adults, the games we play hour after hour, day after day, year after year – these are the games that are the 'good' ones, these are the games that affect us most deeply, and in these games we can find the bits of cultural DNA that are most deeply embedded into our collective psyche, so to speak, as it were. In Tag, Hide-and-Seek, Checkers, Football, we develop a common understanding of fairness and cheating, leading and following, winning and losing.
"The good games. The games that get played deeply. The deeply played games. Playing them over and over, we begin to understand the game itself. Playing on different sides, in different positions, we begin to see the whole of the game, the web of strategy and counterstrategy, of trying to tag someone, of trying not to be tagged, of hiding and seeking.
"Deeply played games are games that we, for a time, can almost give ourselves over to completely, just about abandon ourselves to totally, get very close to divorcing from all other realities, embracing entirely, more or less. And the more we, as they say, “give it our all,” the more fun we seem to have. And the better we become at playing them, at understanding them. The more grace we can bring to them. The more of ourselves."
Should you care to read the entire address, you'll find it here.
"Boredom," I explain, "is the mother of playfulness. Desperation, the father. This is one truth that you can explore, in depth, while waiting in line with kids. The particular joy of this realization is the attendant discovery that almost anything goes. The longer the wait, the lower the criteria for gamish acceptability. Even games that are just barely games. Even games that you have to make up as you go along.
Here are some of my favorite creative word games, and several games that are less creative, mildly challenging, and comfortingly time-spanning."
Designed Play is a course in games, taught by Stephanie Rothenberg at The University of Buffalo - The State University of New York. I'm still not sure how I found my way to the site, but once I did, I knew why. Just reading about the course was enough for me. And the more I read about it, the more my faith was rekindled - in the future of games and the future of education, and the future of work, even.
"From early amusement parks to the ‘80’s video arcade craze to the current phenomena of portable entertainment gadgets and mega-leisure-malls, the design of “play” and its seamless integration into daily routine has become increasingly more prevalent in our everyday experiences. Play is being used for corporate team building, retail and museum design and edu-tainment. Advertisers have transformed game logic into a new marketing device. Computer electronics feature not only the latest business software but the hottest new digital games. In the current zeitgeist of ludic behavior, how do we delineate between what is work and what is play? As both consumers and cultural producers, is it important that we still maintain these boundaries? And why?"
There's lots more about what Dr. Rothenberg calls "the cultural use of game-based models" on this site. Scroll through the class schedule for more details and inspiration. Explore the various readings, scroll down to see the class responses. You might even learn something.
In 1972, in a revised version of the Teacher's Guide to Interplay, my very own and only curriculum in children's games, Dr. Vytas Cernius and I wrote an article describing what can happen when an adult joins in children's play.
I republished it here, because we were saying important things, then, revelations, even, like this:
"It is an amazing discovery, one that has to be continually rediscovered, that the attitude of openness and acceptance, the genuine desire of the adult to be present as an equal player within a group of players, are powerful forces which inevitably result in a positive social movement by all participants."
PoweriSers. On the one hand, if you look at their Policy statement, you can not help note how they note:
PoweriSers are safe to use, however we must state that www.powerizerz.com, its affiliates, owner / owners, supplier, or any other organization associated with it will not be held liable for any loss, injury, or death resulting from the use or misuse of PoweriSer / PoweriSers. You are advised to wear protective gear when you use your PoweriSers and you should also be in good health to use them. Use caution and rational judgement when operating the PoweriSers. PoweriSers are not suitable for small children nor are they recommended for children under age 10. Always supervise your children when they use their PoweriSer/PoweriSers. "
On the other, hand, you get a toy that gives you the possibility of whole new ways to play, new games, new sports, new track and field events; you get the opportunity to perform amazing displays of gravity-defying strength and grace, like this:
Robots. Robots made from junk, like these, from Lockwasher.
I was first introduced to the wonders of junk robots by the artist Liz Mamorsky when I was developing the prototype for Thing-a-ma-Bots.
My fascination with the play value of junk in general, and this junk art form, in particular, has just taken one more small step for Berniekind.
Speaking of giant leaps for mankind, I am now imagining a Terracotta Army, you know, like all those statues of soldiers in formation they found in China? - only made of junk art robots. Huh? How's that for something you'd go to a museum to see (and be proud as heck to see) your very own home-made junk robot join the ranks of?
Bomomo is my jeut du jour - a sweet invitation to mouse artistic whilst bemusing myself with the graphic splendor of it all and simultaneously pondering the connections between mystery and mastery, between mouse and movement, chaos and control, and line and color and things.
Designer Philipp Lenssen writes:
"I live in Germany and maintain and create my websites full-time, since 2005. I'm especially interested in the intersection between art and programming.
"Here are some other sites I did that might be interesting:
All interesting, each deep, but none explains Bomomo, the invitation to play, to learn, to make something beautiful. Perhaps not such a giant leap for the likes of Mr. Lenssen, but clearly one more small step for Playkind!
If it's June 6-8, and you're in New York, Come Out and Play
If it's June 6-8, then it's the Summer Come Out and Play festival in New York City, where there will be played, for example, amongst the remarkable range of games that sound new and fun and delightfully pointless, you will find:
Did I mention that "Public Fun" has a definite taste that tastes different from all other kind of fun. And when it's really fun, it tastes potentially what this kind of event might taste like - just about as fun as fun can taste.
"Sometimes I get religious about the whole thing, sometimes I think of fun and laughter as a spiritual experience. Our lives have become increasingly fragile, our world increasingly harsh. It is a miracle that we can laugh at all. And that's the whole point."
New Tic Tac Toe was published in 1977, under the auspices of Herb Kohl. It was very exciting to me to be even remotely associated with Herb Kohl, and I was honored in extremis when he asked if I could write something for him that he could publish and distribute through his Center for Open Learning and Teaching. Herb, for gosh-sake Kohl! So honored that I didn't really actually totally mind that someone misspelled my name ("Big K in DeKoven," I told 'em, Big D, small e, Big K, small oven." But did they listen?).
This was in 1977. 31 years ago, comparatively speaking. I only recently found a copy of it in my "trophy file" along with magazines that published articles of mine and newspapers and stuff that I've been keeping for historical reasons beyond my ken. I was about to consign it to eternity (e.g. recycling), when I thought to read it again, and, by golly, I kind of liked it. I think I was almost able to understand what Herb had seen in it and me all those many years ago. So I scanned it and uploaded it.
If you want, you can download a pdf file of the scanned booklet, here
I finally found the source for a particular insight that has been bothering me for quite some time. Apparently, "Dr Fry, a psychiatrist at Stanford Medical School, found that children laugh an average of 300 times per day, while adults only laugh between 15 and 100 times per day (reported in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients August/September 1996 p. 10)."
This particular observation has been echoed almost endlessly by just about everyone who is pushing happiness, humor, laughter and all those positive things we so desperately wish we were feeling.
My observations, though not conflicting with Dr. Fry, are based on at least 10 years of grandparentage, and 40 years of parenthoodness.
Children cry at least as often as they laugh, if not more.
Oddly, as I get older, I find myself crying more easily, and more often. And I kind of like it. I'm not sure if I laugh more often. But I've always been a laugher.
If we are to take any message from Dr. Fry's research and my personal findings, it might be that adults would probably laugh again the way they laughed as children if they let themselves cry more often, as they did when they were children.
The title of the collection of images is Extraordinary Art from Metal - another remarkable collection from the remarkably collectible people at Dark Roasted Blend. Of this particular collection, the Dark Roasted Blenders comment: "Todesfee has collected in this set whimsical sculptures made from not so funny material: scrap military metal, left from the Yom Kippur War (Mount Bental was the site of large-scale tank battles in 1973)."
Thus, we uncover yet another fun flavor, one which I find myself impelled to name "ironic fun." Scrap iron, don't you know, from tanks and stuff of military horror, transformed into a funny, junky sculpture of two cartoon-like figures, trying to shake hands, and yet, because of their very ironically iron-like nature, doomed to fail.