A Message from the Oaqui: Fun and the or a Force

(This is a collaboratively drawn representation of a or the Oaqui, produced by several as yet unnamed players during a game obviously known as Redondo. This site and those associated with it claim no actual correlation between the embedded, self-justified image on the left and anything having to do with the or a Oaqui.)

The following was not faithfully transcribed:

Dear Other:

We temporarily interrupt this blog for a message from me and/or us, the Oaqui. We had other choices, but we preferred this one, because we (royal and not) are and is personally in touch with a vast and powerful force. We (royally speaking) don't know if it's THE force. But it sure is a. A force of such power that it could almost completely absorb the Royal we by and into.  We have discovered that we have royally, and for some time been joining something larger than ourselves. Something that makes the royal us go beyond ourselves, and into the world.

And now we are told that you have experienced the same thing!

Which is why we have to interrupt this blog. So we can share. With you. Personally.

You and your dog know already know about the force of fun, for example.

When you are having fun together, you are both absorbed by the same force. Your dog manifesting sheer doogy energy, absolute doggy joy. You, in your turn, joyfully, breathlessly running after the ball. Playing together. Absorbed in something you both understand as "fun."

This force of fun is one that we are royally sharing in, and that is sharing in us - parents and children, neighbors with strangers, animals with humans. This force of fun that we join and are joined by is available to us just about anywhere we look or listen to or breathe deeply in or lie on the ground to watch.

If you were a psychologist you might classify the Fun Force as something like "intrinsic reward" or "intrinsic motivation." If you were a philo-mathematician, you might call it "autotelic" - something we do that rewards the doing of it.

It's not like we really have to win or finish even. When we are having and had by what we all know as "fun" what more could we ask except to get to do it over and over, get better at and in and with it? It's the play what is the thing. The play of. The play between.

Now, if you happen to be one of those people who is, in fact, making things more fun, or if you simply care about making things more fun, if you are even dimly aware of the force of fun in your life and world in general, well then, might I royally suggest that you make yourselves known to your other selves as soon as possible. Because it could very well result in more fun. For me and/or us

We everso royally recommend that you add your name to The Fun Force. A Facebook Group. 

Yours, mine and ours,
The Oaqui

Oaqui Linguistics - a Primer

The Oaqui ("oa" is probably pronounced "wa", "qui" is most likely pronounced "cky", as in "wa cky") was or were first introduced to the world through the virtual writings of the person currently identified as "Major Fun."

For all Major FUN actually claims to know about the actual identity of the Oaqui, Oaqui could refer to a singular and/or plural, male and/or female and/or cosmic being. This is because: 1. the Oaqui communicate only by email, and 2. the Oaqui language make/s no distinction between singular or plural, masculine or feminine, young or old. It is the Oaqui apotheosis to be seen as not only one with the many, but also many with the one. In this manner, the Oaqui is/are oft considered the true manifestation of me\we-ness.

And for all we know, there might be no such person or group as the Oaqui. Major FUN might have made the whole thing up, just for the fun, and the depth of it.

 - also by The Oaqui

as told to Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Jesse Schell, conceptual optician

Dear Jesse Schell,

I know, I know, you sent me a copy of your book and your card deck. Me. That was no business card. It was a sizable gift. And by it, I am honored you thought my opinion worth the investment. And I’ve been honored now for maybe a half year and I still have written barely anything about your work. Not about how deep it is, how thorough, how it touches the very same things I would hope to touch upon if I were writing about the art of game design. How it goes further, even, instantiating and substantiating, almost tangibly building the sensibilities that are central to the art of designing for fun.

The Art of Game Design, a Book of Lenses. Exactly. A book of ways to look at games, through different perspectives, through different paradigms, like, for example, fun.

If I hadn’t been so busy with moving and traveling and redefining my pschyo-ecological niche, I’d have told everyone about what you have accomplished here, how even the “game” you made up, with that beautifully rendered deck of cards, each acting as a “lens” (very deep concept here, lens) through which you can see and even judge the nature of the game, as it were. How you actually made an genuine game that can truly be played for fun. And yet, with serious import and surprising value…A game that can be fun to play and still border everso closely on what one would call “serious” – full of purpose and significance and learning objectives and messages, even – fun of a very useful kind.

This in itself is an accomplishment that would send especially me into paroxysms of praise and public cavorting. And yet, until now, I remained silent.

Alas for the exigencies that kept me from this for so long. I embrace thee, Jesse Schell, with gleeful noise, and hereby, for as long as the connection lasts, bestow on you the Defendership itself.

Jesse Schell. Author of the Art of Game Design, a Book of Lenses. Designer of The Art of Game Design: a Deck of Lenses. Industry veteran. Leader of a "highly talented group of artists, programmers, and game designers." Defender of the Playful.
from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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When the city is your canvas....

So they saw this building, these people from Urban Screen, and they worked and played and played some more. And they used their computers and a very, very powerful projector. And made public art (and art public). This one called 555 Kubik.

Of course, my most mentionable honor goes to their PinWall creation - a building-sized computer pinball game, with live music and real people at the flippers.... Fun, engaging, as obtrusive as you want it to be, walking past, sitting down and watching, or hitting a giant flipper-button.

Which reminded me, of course, of Defender of the Playful award-winner Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
and makes me begin to realize that it's time already to welcome yet another new game to town, a building-sized, pubic performance, computer-enhanced, environmentally and socially transforming invitation to play.

via Bill Daul

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Meaningful Fun

Both the Social Security people and my accountant are telling me that I'm officially unemployed, hopefully for the rest of my life. I've had less than half-a-year to understand what this all means for me and the world, and I'm beginning to get glimmers.

Today's glimmer is what I'm calling "meaningful fun." Where I used to be focusing on the idea of "profitable fun" (and the fun profits thereof), now I'm beginning to think about "meaningful fun." When I used to have as my mantra the goal of getting paid to play, now my mantra is talking to me about "acts of meaning" and "getting to do meaningful things playfully."

And it strikes me how much of the fun I've been having of late online has been that for me, especially here, in this blog, meaningful.  And, more recently, the fun I've been having at my local library volunteering once a week to play board games with bored teens. Playing with people 50 years younger than I am, playing the same game together, learning new games together with them. It gets deep, I tell you. We get to know each other deeply, safely, lovingly, playfully, meaningfully.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Bill Doran on being "loose"

When I first met him, he and his wife Linda had a pizza and sub store in northeast Philly. Later, he not only helped me conceive of, develop, realize the Games Preserve, he lived there. He and his family with me and my mine. And we built together and grew together. And what we grew, grew into the Games Preserve. For ten years.

Then my family and I moved away from the farm, sold it, literally, to the person who sold Bill and family that same farm. And then Bill and family eventually built a hugely successful (ask anyone in Mertztown, PA) restaurant called "Snuzzles." In the mean time, my family and I moved to the heart of Silicon actual Valley. And lo, it was the beginning of the 80s, and I was one with the very thin ranks of people who designed new play principles for computer games, designing games in 8K for Coleco and Atari and the PC. A world at least a way from the Games Preserve and Bill.

And one day, I think Rocky and I were on the front lawn of our Palo Alto house, Bill drives up, from, basically, nowhere, having crossed the bulk of our considerably bulky country, and he's just there, with us, suddenly part of our lives again, unannounced, for no reason, not even to to be a walk away from Stanford Uni-can-you-imagine-versity. But just to hang around.

And when ever I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do or see or talk about, he'd say:

"I'm loose."

"I'm loose." As in "Whatever." As in "I'm here, ready to play, or not, with you...to be with you playing whatever we play together." "Or not."

And (is it already more than two years since he died?) I'm thinking about that particular flavor of fun he brought to our lives, teaching us what it "tastes" like to be "loose."

In a way, in Bill's way, to "be loose" is to be in a state of something like perpetual play, it's the path itself, the playful one, the genuinely playful path that I have for so many years been teaching and learning.

"I'm loose," he'd say. As if he were saying: "I'm that taste of fun that you get from being free, at no one's beck or call other than whoever or whatever happens to beckon. I'm living that deeply freeing fun that comes with feeling free."

Bill taught me this. Was this. A flavor of fun called "Loose." The kind of fun that tastes like freedom.

And now, when I think of it, this idea of letting myself be "loose," when I feel myself feeling the fun of feeling it, Bill is still with me even though he isn't.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Clap You and Higher Five

Clap You

Clap You is based on a spectator activity similar to the act of clapping, or applauding, in which approval is signified by bringing hands together forcibly and repeatedly in such a way as to produce a maximally resonating sound.

Only you can't clap your own hands.

you can't clap both hands with the same person.

Similar rules can be found in the related game, Higher Five.

Higher Five

Get together in groups of three. In a matter of minutes, create a new version of High Five suitable for three people.

Higher Five, not unlike Clap You, is a non-spectator activity signifying collective approval by the bringing together of hands in rapid and soundful affirmation.

However, unlike the Clap You activity, Higher Five is based on the proverbial High Five, which is the same as a normal applau (applause, singular) except that it is performed with the arms extended overhead...hence, "High."

And, unlike High Five, the Higher Five is performed with both hands, and two different people, simultaneously.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Kids Play, Water Pumps

More photos of the amazing Play Pump.

 What a perfect demonstration of the healing power of play!

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Ten more games receive Keeper status

Seven strategy games, a word game, a party game and a toy have been added to the Major Fun Keeper Collection. 

Every game that receives a Major Fun award is, in some way, exceptional. In addition to the quality of its design, manufacture and packaging, in addition to its playability and replayability, to the ease of learning and understanding the game, there's something about it that proves to be uniquely fun, absorbing, memorable. Some of these games prove to be even more exceptional. They keep on being fun, even after months of play. They keep appealing to new audiences - parents, kids, friends you thought didn't like games. They keep on being requested, talked about. In sum, they are Keepers.

Of the strategy games, three came from the Gigamic collection, available in the US from Fundex Games: BatikQuoridor, and Quixo. Each of these games is of "heirloom" quality, each make you enjoy thinking, each is exceptionally easy to learn and inviting, each worthy of a permanent place in your game collection. The other 4 strategy games all have demonstrated similar qualities, elegance, and extended replay value: Six, Tylz, Abalone, and Trango.

The word game Bananagrams proved to be exceptionally flexible, simple enough in concept to allow endless variations and accommodations to different kinds of word-playing interests.

The party game Funny Business consistently provokes laughter and mutual admiration - bringing players closer together in both hearts and minds. And finally, the Bilibo Game Box, a unique children's toy/game that invites players to design their own games.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


So, you want to be a game designer

I was tweeting around my virtual nest the other day and found this link to perhaps the first online service for people who want to design and publish their own games. It's called The Game Crafter. OK, so I was more impressed by the fact of its existence of such a service than I was by the service itself. They had to make a lot of compromises in order to get as far as they did, and though I can't recommend them to you yet, I can share my genuine excitement about the very first vanity game publisher that has crossed my virtual portal. The company is quick to let you know what kind of quality you can expect and how your profits get shared. And though you're not going to get custom-designed pieces, and your board and cards are not going to be, shall we say, commercial grade, and you can't, by law create a game to be sold to children 12 or under, the fact is that, despite all these limitations, this Cafe Press for printing games on-demand should prove of real value to many different audiences.

But, before you get too carried away by the promise of it all, if you're going to spend the time on producing your own games, you should also spend a lot of time learning about what designing games is really all about. Luckily, some remarkably clear, well-constructed, and insightful guides haave been published in the last few years. Go to the library and see if you can find a copy of Jesse Schell's The Art of Game Design: a book of lenses, for example, or Tracy Fullerton's Game Design Workshop, Second Edition: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, for another, or Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman's Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Thumb through any of these books. If you learn nothing else, you will at least begin to develop an appreciation for what, thanks to companies like The Game Crafter, you are suddenly being given to play with.

As my friend Garry Shirts says - the person who stands to learn the most from any game is the designer.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Sock Marble Soccer

My daughter Shael, my wife and I were visiting her brother and his family (4 kids). She had discovered that their clean sock collection had far outpaced their sock-pairing efforts. Shael, shall we say, "invited" us, en famille, to a half-hour or so of collective sock-pairing.

She didn't have a game for us to play, but she sure had a reason. And she also knew us well enough (like family) to assure her that we would not only get the job done playfully, but if there was a game in it, we'd find it, and we'd get the game played, too.

So we approached the task in precisely that manner - out of love and fun, of wanting to help and wanting to play. It was a sock mass of considerable size. Finding an actually matched pair was clearly going to be a daunting task. Daunting enough that the finding of such never failed to merit massive praise from fellow match hunters. 

One of us, I can't remember which, began sorting the socks into colors (an admirably practical thing for us to have done). Eventually, we all joined in the task. It was a lot easier to do, and hence a lot more general fun. Ultimately, we each claimed dominion over a certain color, or two, or shared a pile, like the black, brown and blue (one pile) or white (yet another). It took us at least fifteen minutes before the first sock ball was launched. I think it was then that we invented sock marble soccer.

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Fun in the Hospice

The Frog of Enlightenup-mentYour local funsmith is happy (and I do mean happy) to answer any questions you have about making things more fun. Take for example this one, in which a fun-follower asks how to make it more fun to visit someone in a hospice.

People who are beyond healing are most definitely not beyond fun, or a good laugh with someone they love. I don't know if games can help people face death. But they can definitely help them affirm life. And perhaps that is the best we can do for them.

I'm not planning to take the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" approach into the hospice with me. Though I admit guided fantasies can be powerful tools for helping people embrace the inevitable. And I'm sure that for some building a shared fantasy about death and the afterlife would be a rich source of very deep fun. Especially if it weren't taken seriously. In fact, how about making it a shared process, you know, each of you take turns adding a sentence.

I can tell you this about me. I think, if I were dying, and still had the energy, I'd prefer the life-celebrating silliness of it all. I'd want to play just those kinds of games with you, the one's I call Pointless.  If I wanted to play with fantasy, maybe we could play with something like the Frog of Enlighten-upment . If I wanted to get morose, I'd try It Could be Worse, but I'd more likely play something openendedly insignificant, like Plenty Questions, or a good game of Redondo, each of which is fun enough and loving enough to lead the living and dying wherever they want to go together.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Facial Tissues that Care - from Trader Joe's - via Bruce Willilamson

Bruce Williamson writes:
"I have always appreciated the whimsy, fun, and general laid-backness that I feel whenever I shop at Trader Joe's. So I was not really surprised but rather delighted when I recently discovered this redesign of their standard tissue box. It just impressed the heck out of me. I mean it's a box of tissues, right? But someone, somewhere within that corporation decided to have a bit of fun with something that is totally invisible and non-consequential to most people, and this was the result! It's almost like reading a funny series of greeting cards. Some might say it's trivial, but I maintain that nothing is trivial that gives a person even a momentary smile, laugh, or enjoyment of someone else's wacky sense of humor."
See this

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Garry Shirts - Defender of the Playful

I've known Garry Shirts for at least 35 years. I first became familiar with his presence in my particular universe when I was running the Games Preserve and writing for a rather esoteric publication called Simulation/Gaming/News.

When I was early in the process of gathering a rich enough collection of games to give people a direct experience of the scope of all things gameful, Garry was kind enough to send me two of his simulation games: BaFa' BaFa' and Star Power. These games added a playfully profound dimension to the entire collection and purpose of the Games Preserve. I and the people who came to play with me learned so much from experiencing each of these games - not only about a very important genre of games (now known as Serious Games), but also about the depth and truths that can be revealed in a well-designed invitation to reflective fun. So Garry became a valued resource and friend. And later, when I moved to California, even more valued.

Very recently, Garry happened to be in Indianapolis. He was here as part of a multi-leg tour, teaching his Ba'Fa Ba'Fa game to help people understand a little more about the underlying dynamics of diversity. He invited us (my wife and myself) to breakfast, and our meeting was delicious in every sense. I brought him a copy of Junkyard Sports, as a gift, a token, a tribute to our long-standing friendship. He thumbed through it for a few minutes, and then looked at me with such love and understanding, and said: "You know, Bernie, the person who learns the most from a game is the designer." And in that one sentence summed up pretty much everything I've been teaching about games and play for the last 40 years.

This insight and understanding suddenly coalesced for me. I was able to put all those years of knowing him together, and give his remarkable presence in my life a title. Garry has been, and is, in every sense, a Defender of the Playful.  He plays from the heart. He teaches from the heart. He is as wise as he is loving. His games have taught and touched the hearts of thousands of students and teachers and business leaders - vividly, playfully. His presence is a gift to all who receive it.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


The Major Fun site is getting even more major

There's a lot of attention being paid of late to "serious games" or "gamers' games." There are games that teach or persuade or train people. There are intensely competitive games with complex rules and hours-long playing time. There are tournaments and championships. There are professional games and gambling games.

They are all games. And all noteworthy. And all too often overshadow the importance of light-hearted "casual" games - games that are designed not to be taken too seriously, not to played in globe-spanning, money-making tournaments, but to bring people together, to give kids, families, grown-ups a brief, sweet hour of something that we all need a lot more of - clean, healthy, good fun.

For years, the Major Fun Award has been one of the few award programs dedicated to recognizing just these kinds of games - the easy-to-learn, well-designed, lovingly produced "games that make you laugh."
Now, with new award logos, a new website, more frequent award "Tastings" with more diverse groups of Tasters, and increased distribution of reviews, the Major Fun Award (http://majorfun.com) is poised to help publishers of casual games introduce their games to the very players they want to reach - people who just want to have fun.

With artistry of Michael Weidenbach and the technology of Outrider Creative (http://outridercreative.com/), the new Major Fun award logos graphically reinforce the promise of fun. The new design for the site screams fun, while the reviews on the site help readers understand what makes the award-winning games so award-worthy.

To find out more about the program, to learn how to submit games for review, or to contact Bernie (Major Fun) DeKoven himself, see http://majorfun.com/awards.html

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


"Calls to Action" from The Summit on the Values of Play

The Summit on the Values of Play produced the following "Calls to Action"

From the list of attendees, "create a Coalition for Play to communicate and advocate for a new play movement"
  • Strategically grow the Coalition for Play by "targeting others from related professions" and organizations in areas of needed emphasis
  • "Mobilize youth and young adults as key players in developing a play movement"

Begin "synthesizing existing research on play as it affects a person's lifelong cognitive, physical and affective development"
  • "Identify the costs to society and individuals that result from lack of play"

"Develop a robust national communications campaign" on promoting a play movement
  • "Inspire families to change their perceptions and behaviors regarding the essential value of play"

Develop the capacity to "Advocate for legislation in support of play"
  • "Change liability laws to be friendlier to play"

"Develop national guidelines for healthy play and healthy communities"

    Let us wish them every success.

    See this for more.

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Brian Sutton-Smith - Defender of the Playful

    Brian Sutton-Smith (shown here with a passel of his playful progeny) - the same guy who said: "The opposite of play is not work, it's depression" - has been a friend of mine for 35-some years. I first came across his name in a book called The Study of Games that he and Elliot Avedon had co-authored. I was at the time working on my Interplay Games Curriculum, and was in the heat of searching for everything I could find out about games and the study thereof, and this particular book turned out to be a godsend. The next godsend occurred a few years later when I discovered that he was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. I don't remember exactly what the next steps were, but for several years he brought his classes to my play study retreat center, the Games Preserve, and he, his students and I shared some wonderfully deep play together.

    Dr. Brian Sutton Smith, author of The Ambiguity of Play, Professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania where he taught in the Graduate School of Education and the Program of Folklore and Folklife, had this to say about himself:
    "first of all I don't consider myself just an academic. I have reached that point in life where my initial pretenses of being a scholar and of being impersonal no longer serve as a convincing dis guise for myself. I've come to believe that a central issue in understanding life or social science or gaining wis dom about anything that is significant is to determine the way in which one's own internal narrative interacts with their personal scholarship. In New Zealand where I was born, I was deeply influenced by my aggressive and physically active older brother into considering play largely as a matter of power. My father was the Wellington chief postmaster who longed to be a university professor and was active as a storyteller and amateur actor. From him I got my academic interests in drama and in stories. These individuals certainly have influenced much of my life. I wish it was sufficient simply to announce that I have been persistently interested in play and that I think it's important." (from an interview with Dr Stuart Brown).
    Dr. Brian Sutton-Smith, "...persistently interested in play and...its importan(ce)," Defender of the Playful.

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


    The Major Fun Awards

    The Major Fun Award identifies games that are:
    • easy to learn (5-15 minutes),
    • played in under an hour,
    • fun enough to play over and over again,
    • easy to store,
    • made to last,
    • uniquely fun,
    • tend to make people laugh
    • deep enough to withstand a lot of changes.
    Major Fun Award-winning games prove to be easy to:
    • adapt to younger and older players,
    • tune to different play preferences and abilities,
    • make more or less complex, longer or shorter, sillier or more serious.
    In my Deep Fun programs, I use games to help people share and build energizing, supportive relationships - friends, couples, family members, neighbors, communities, coworkers, teams, teachers and students, patients and healers. Games give people a way to do serious things without taking them seriously. Major Fun games are key components of my toolkit. Which helps explain why I developed the Major Fun program.

    There are three kinds of awards that I offer. The Major Fun award you already know about. The award-winning games that I've found to be especially successful in helping people practice principles of playfulness receive the Keeper award. These games have already shown themselves to be Major Fun, but also prove to be exceptionally flexible, easy to learn, and easy to adapt to a wide range of audiences and play styles.

    Finally there's the Defender of the Playful Award. With this award, I add my recognition to other people who have created something valuable, and meaningfully fun, have demonstrated a passion for playfulness, and have somehow been able to make it available to a wide range of audiences.
    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


    DIY Soccer

    boy holding a homemade soccer ball

    From our friends-in-spirit at Afrigadget , here's how to make your own soccer game:
    "Firstly you look for old clothes or blankets. Then you put a few condoms around, which you blow up with your mouth, but not with too much air. Just so it’s the same size as a soccer ball. After this you put either a plastic bag or a piece of old clothing over the condom. Then to make it strong, you tear up the old clothing or blanket into long strips and tie the strips all around the condom to strengthen the shape of the ball and make it heavier. Once you can feel it bounces well, you take a strong plastic bag and wrap it around the ball. Lastly you reinforce it by wrapping strong rope or tire wire around it."Maybe you are surprised but let me tell you about the field. It is not a play ground or a park but it is a field that is full of drains and the half of it has a long grass and some kind of a wetland and a dumping place. And as we all know that when you are playing soccer you need scoring nets. These boys don’t have scoring nets, but take wood or cardboard that is in the carpet and make poles."
    Read the whole article, and be sure to look at the commentaries and links for more, here .

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith