The Pass the Spoon Game revisited

Overheard on NPR:

The origins of "Pass the Spoon" are unknown to me. I only know that we continue playing it with a strange sense of daring, as if we are going to get caught, or become "the chosen one."

Pass the Spoon is a game played with the all of the Thanksgiving guests right after the gathered group has finished dinner (pre-dessert) and the food remaining on their plates has turned into scattered debris. The person to start the game is also the loser from the previous year. This person is given a fresh serving spoon upon which he places a piece of food from his ravaged plate. The spoon is passed to the person next to him or her and food is placed ever so carefully on the spoon. It continues to get passed in this manner. Food piles up on the spoon, creating a precarious load of disgusting gruel. This is the critical point of the game. Should a piece of food fall off the spoon on your turn, you must consume the remains of the spoon's content to the chanting and clapping of the savages with whom you just ate Thanksgiving dinner.

One eats the heaping mound of once tasty morsels with gagging disgust and wonders why this game exists. It is at that moment we all decide to forgo this tradition … until next Thanksgiving.

From Mary Weberg, Denver
So, I say to myself and yours: Surely we can make this game more fun for more people. Surely we can make a more universally thankworthy Thanksgiving ritual. There has to be a kind of gag that makes everyone laugh, and no one gag.

How about if we played this game with dessert instead? How about if we all had a spoon, and on our plates we each had a different dessert, or, better yet, a different ingredient. You have the pie, I have the cherries, she has the vanilla ice cream. And we all pass our spoons to the next person at the same time, and each person adds their ingredient and passes the spoon to the next, until someone yells "reverse" (or something of that ilk). And then we pass the spoons, trying everso hard to get the spoons back to their original owner without dropping anything. And then we see if we can get further next time. And when we think we absolutely can't go any further at all, we start over in the opposite direction. And then with the wrong hand, maybe. While singing, non-stop, mouths empty and full: "we gather together" or a round of "row, row, row your boat" or "over the river and through the woods" or perhaps engaging in the singing ritual of Estray Bonajour.

I guess it's all about what kind of fun we're trying to have. And whether it can be just as much fun when it's for everyone's profit instead of at someone's expense.


from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Four freedoms of play

The Playful Learning Wiki, four theoretical models of play, includes Ralph Koster's Theory of Fun for Game Design, Brian Sutton-Smith's Ambiguity of Play, something from the National Institute for Play (a.k.a. Stuart Brown) and Scot Osterweil's brilliant Four Freedoms of Play.

Scot Osterweil: The Four Freedoms of Play

Scot Osterweil (MIT Comparative Media Studies, Education Arcade Project) has observed this truth: play has no agenda. Freedom is central to the experience of play. To understand the anatomy of play, Scot has identified four components that he calls the "four freedoms of play." If these freedoms are not respected, the play experience is severely compromised or even ruined.

  1. Playing with a tireFreedom to Experiment

    The player's motivations are entirely intrinsic and personal. The process is open-ended.

  2. Freedom to Fail

    Losing is part of the process.

  3. Freedom to Try on Different Identities

    Players aren't necessarily limited by their bodies or surrounding physical context.

  4. Freedom of Effort

    As described in Peter and Iona Opie's classic ethnography of playground culture, children may scramble around in a game of tag, avoiding being caught for twenty minutes, and then suddenly stop and allow themselves to be tagged once they have reached a certain degree of effort or perhaps want to move on to another activity.


I deeply appreciate this perspective, this idea of exploring the "freedoms" of play. In many ways, it's what play is all about.

Watch his talk on YouTube



from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Thanks

I was looking for a way to share a moment of thanksgiving with you. It seemed suddenly to me that if we, for this moment, took Thanksgiving away from its history, and put it in the context of what we are actually sharing with each other this very day, this very meal, maybe we'd find in all this deliciousness a reason to take the time, the way I found it in myself to take the time, when I wrote this:


On my way to work I stop my car, and look.

It's dawn, and the full moon is setting, the light more intricate than I could possibly describe, more real than you could possibly imagine.

And I actually ask myself:

"Why now?"
"Why such wide beauty?"
"Why such an especially glorious present?"
"Why such a gracious gift?"

Or is it really always so? Is such grace really always given?

And is it just that I suddenly have become gifted enough to perceive this moment of light, gifted enough to receive this moment's present?

And
"Who, exactly, is the Giver?"

I ask myself, stunning myself with theocentric implications.

And
"What really is being given?"

I ask myself again, slapping myself with scientific significances.

And
"Who am I that I suddenly get to receive all this?"

The moon pales in the breaking day.

"Why ask?"
I asked.




from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

Restoring Recess in DeKalb County

Found this:
The DeKalb County Board of Education supports supervised, unstructured break times as an integral component of a child’s physical, social, and academic development. Schools shall schedule time for all students in kindergarten and grades one through five to have at least 15 minutes of supervised, unstructured break time each school day. The school principal shall determine the timing and location of breaks at each school.

The school principal shall consult with school-level and system-level instructional staff as appropriate to ensure that students in kindergarten and grades one through five receive maximum instructional time to promote increased academic achievement and that breaks are scheduled to support the learning process. The principal also shall issue directions assigning responsibility for supervision of students so that break time will be a safe and positive experience for students.

Breaks shall not be withheld from students in kindergarten or grades one through five for disciplinary or academic reasons. Supervised, unstructured breaks may be provided for students in grades six through eight at the discretion of the school principal. The DeKalb County Board of Education does not support an extension of the school day to provide for supervised, unstructured break time for students in grades K-8.

(not-being-able-to-withhold my enthusiasm italics are mine)

I'd recommend you read the whole story including the comments. Take heart, DeKalb county. Take notice, world.

via this

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Playing Playfully

I've posted an article that I thought you might enjoy. It begins like this:

Early in my explorations of play, I observed that people have a different way of playing games that they have themselves designed or modified. They would play with the game as much play the game itself. They would play with the game together. As a shared thing, that somehow managed to take precedent over who won or who lost, who was the better competitor, who was more or less able.

It was especially evident in games played in informal settings, like backyards, streets, vacant lots (as so beautifully described by Iona and Peter Opie) where the choice of game, and the interpretation of rules, would always be in response to the environment, materials at hand, different skills and changing play preferences of players. Bases would be moved, boundaries redrawn, when things didn’t seem fair, players could rely on the semi-magical power of playground law, shouting out things like “interference”, “time out,”, “no cutting,” “do over” or “no takebacks.” Here, in the States, this kind of game became known as Street Games. Played during the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, in streets and vacant lots, informally, with sticks and aluminum-foil balls, these games created and nurtured the urban community.

Much later on, I came to characterize this kind of game play as “playful.”


The rest of this article can be found here.




from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Balloon Bass and Box

First, you need two balloons: your basic round balloon, and your long skinny twistable balloon that magicians use. You blow up your basic round balloon and tie it closed. Then you tie one end of your long skinny twistable balloon to the place where you tied your basic round balloon. Then, you practice and practice and practice. And then you do this:





This kind of music is what I call inspirational. It inspires us to make our own instruments, or own music, to become the musicians we were when we were children and too young to care if we were "good enough" to play. Because play had nothing to do with being good enough, and everything to do with having, creating, being fun.

via Nothing to do with Arboarth

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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The ten funnest games of 2009

Of all the Majorly Fun games we played in 2009 (until November), here are the 10 funnest:


HABA Ball Run

The HABA Ball Track Building Set is, by all measures, a toy to treasure. Made of European Beechwood, the pieces are beautifully finished, and a pleasure to touch, lift, position, reposition. The basic set includes just enough ready-made sections of track and tunnels to make the purpose of the toy immediately accessible, and more than enough building elements to invite curiosity, imagination and endless elaboration. The HABA Ball Track Building set will engage children in hours of play, exploration, design, construction and, above all, experimentation.

Truth be Told - "The Laugh out Loud Pretend to Know your Friends Game

Before we delve too deeply into the nature and wonders of Truth be Told, let me ask you to fill in this particular blank: "The most expensive thing I purchased last month was ____________ " And by "I", I mean "me," majorly speaking, fun himself. Now, on your paddle-like, write-on, wipe-offable, nicely thick True Answer Paddle cards, write the answer that you think was the one I gave. Remember, you get one point for everyone who votes for your answer. And one point if you vote for mine. (If you wrote down my answer, I find myself that much closer to you as well, insofar as I get a point too.) And now, one at a time, in sequential order, everyone, except me, of course, reveals their answers. I then, with great flourish and conceptual fanfare, reveal my "true" answer. Scores are recorded on the convenient, also write-on and wipe-offable scorekeeping card. And then, on to the next Truth Teller.

Dixit - a party game of subtlety, sensitivity and creativity

Dixit is a surprisingly lovely and subtle party game in which players try to guess which image was selected by the "storyteller." The rules are simple enough to learn in a few minutes. The 84 large cards are beautifully and evocatively illustrated. And the whole game can be played in well under an hour. The subtlety of the game comes from the scoring system and from a growing understanding of the art of being a successful storyteller - for art is what it is.

Tumblin' Dice

Think of it shuffleboard with dice. You'd be wrong, but you'd understand almost all you needed to know in order to start playing. There are four sets of dice, each a different colors (and lovely colors they are). Each set has four dice. Players take turns flick/slide/rolling their dice, starting on the top level, aiming towards one of the three platforms on the lowest levels. If your die reaches the third level, you get exactly as many points as are on the top of the die. If your die reaches the fourth level, you get twice as many points; the fifth level, three times as many, and if you reach the lowest level, you multiply the face of the die by four.

Worm up!

There's something gently lovable about Worm up! O, it's fun, all right. Major FUN, in actual fact. But it's funny, too. And so spare in its design that it's what you might call endearing. The colorful little game box contains 5 sets (each in a different color) of 7 wooden hemispheres. These are used to make worms - take a set, put the hemispheres, hemi-side down, in a column, and there you have it, your basic worm. It's good for families whose kids are a precocious 7 or older. It's good for kids. It's a good game to play between more serious games. Gentle fun. A happy little diversion.

Word on the Street

Take all your consonants except for the ridiculous ones like Q, X and Z. Put them on your satisfyingly hefty bakelite tiles. Now, make a long game board, like a 4-lane highway with a divider strip just wide enough and long enough to accommodate all of your happily hefty letter tiles. Next, get together a deck of 216, often surprisingly laugh-provoking, double-sided category cards, like: "The Brand of Clothing Worn by One of the Players," and "Something that is Wasted," and "Something Used by Scuba Divers," and "A Word that Describes a Car Crash," "A Title Used for Males but not for Females." Add a cardholder and sand timer. And those are all the ingredients needed for a new and notably Major FUN word game called "Word on the Street" from those frequently Major FUN game publishers, Out of the Box. Everything, of course, except for the rules. And there in lies the tickle.

The Bilibo Game Box - a child's tool kit for game invention

The Bilibo Game Box is not just a toy. It is a tool kit for the very young game designer (age 4 and up) and an invitation to inventiveness for the rest of us. The Game Box contains a die with interchangeable faces and six sets of differently-colored discs that fit in each face. There's also a set of six, plastic, hand-sized "mini-Bilibos," in each of the six colors corresponding to the colors of the discs. The Bilibo Game Box is remarkably innovative and brilliantly designed, but the real value of it only becomes apparent when it is used as a tool for playful, inspired invention.

Monopoly Deal

Before I go into too much detail, let me tell you this: Hasbro's Monopoly Deal is fun. It's a card game that gives you that Monopoly feeling. You build monopolies and even put houses and hotels on them, and pay for them, in the millions of dollars - all with a deck of cards. But it's faster, and shorter, and easier, and at least just as much fun.

Bananagrams - a crossword tile game you can play everywhere with anyone

Bananagrams is a word game that uses letter tiles - 144 unusally finger-friendly, bakelite letter tiles. Basically, you draw a bunch of tiles and try to assemble all of them into a crossword array. If you succeed, you draw another tile. And so does everyone else. Because the game is so simple to explain, it is also simple to change - to adapt to different skill levels, different environments and time constraints. Read, for example, Lance Hampton's exemplary story of how he plays Bananagrams with his kids. We're working on variations for teams, and maybe even cooperative versions.

Consensus®

Consensus® is a party game - the kind of party game to which you will eventually be comparing all other party games. If your kids are old enough, it's just that kind of family game - the kind you'd want your family to play. It's a game that makes people laugh, think, talk and listen to each other. Most of all, it's the kind of game that brings people together and keeps them together.

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Opener - the game

"The first game of Opener, a new sport where the goals are on the players' heads. The Labrador Dandies faced the dangerous Estonian selection Karaoke Saaremma and prevailed 7-5." From Aesthletics and the inimicable game artist, Tom Rusotti. O, the intensity, the competition, the athleticism, the blessed silliness of it all.





from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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Great Games for Big Activity Balls

Great Games for Big Activity Balls! At last, the book for which all you owners of big (yoga, training, push, cage, earth) balls have so long lusted after, replete with 73 creativity-, fun- and play-inducing experiments coauthored by Todd Strong and yours, extremely truly, Bernie DeKoven, himself.

From the publisher's website:

This book is ideal for anyone who works with kids, including physical educators, recreation and youth leaders, and fitness professionals. But the fun is not restricted by age, because these games are for people of all ages and all abilities in a variety of settings. And because of its easy-to-read and easy-to-use format, you can pick up Great Games for Big Activity Balls, and quickly get on with your first game!

The authors include games you can use in the gym, outdoors, or for special events, with a focus on getting everyone involved and having fun. Variety is an ingredient of fun, so they offer games in seven distinct areas:
    1. Cooperative games that are designed only for play with big balls
    2. Adaptations of several sports, including baseball, soccer, and basketball
    3. Modified traditional playground games
    4. Wild and wacky track and field adaptations
    5. Guinness Book of World Record games, where you can set world records, or at least have a blast trying
    6. Giant carnival games that spin off of carnival games and rides
    7. Water games that are sure to make a big splash with your group
    Play on, you activity-ball-endowed many, play the heck on!

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    An elk at play

    Watching an animal playing, any animal, and feeling that trans-species connection, that sense of "here's a fellow player" "we're in this world, together, and, from time to time, we have actual fun" and this animal is having the same just as much fun as you do when you're having it - well, it's something like a religious experience. And when it's an elk you're feeling so connected to, an elk, for goodness sake, that you're having fun in some strange virtual way together with, you have to admit, this fun thing, well, it's kind of like a religious experience, like a connection to life itself, yes? no?





    via The J-Walk Blog


    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Baz, in memoriam

    I knew Baz (Barry Jones) for maybe four years. I was living in Redondo Beach (1.5 blocks from the beach, 8 miles from LA). I would walk almost every day, waiting for the low tide when the walking was best, up and down the coast, from my street (Avenue G) to RAT Beach (about 2 miles away straight up the coast) where there was a cliff, adequate distance from the throngs, and conceptual proximity to the thongs.

    As with all more or less regular walks, I would encounter other more or less frequent walkers. As time went by, there would be nods of recognition. And as more time went by, waves, which were followed in due time by hellos, good-to-see-yous, followed shortly by actual conversations, eventually leading to genuine, fair-weather friendships (we'd only see each other when the weather and our health were long-walk-worthy).

    One of these genuine friendships was with a one-eyed Englishman named Baz. A remarkably erudite character who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in forecasting dooms - like the death of American values, the swine flu, and related violent upheavals.

    Eventually, I took him to my house, introduced him to my family, because, despite his apparent doomtropic behavior, he was wonderful to talk with, sensitive, caring, passionate, loving, and deeply appreciative of life on the beach. One time, as we were wandering around my near-beach estate, I took him into my office, which, at the time, was a room adjacent to the garage. He oohed and sighed, and mentioned, very quietly, how happily one could live there if one had such fortune.

    A couple weeks later we found each other once again at RAT beach. And we were sitting, looking at the ocean, the skies, the birds, the seaweed, delighting, with a thong in our heart, in all that was so deeply beachy in our shared lives. And our conversation came around to that room again, and how little he was enjoying his current living situation, and, well, a couple weeks later, Baz moved in.

    Rocky and I had about three years with him. He was a recluse of sorts, and we respected his need for privacy, but, as the months went by, we shared more and more. Sometimes, when he was in one of his doomish contemplations, he would scream and curse at the universe - but never at us. Other times, we would hug and laugh and talk about the BBC and Netflix treasures that I'd share with him.

    About two years ago, however, it became clear to us that it was time for us to move. We missed our grandkids. We could barely afford to maintain the house. It was time. Which meant it was time for Baz to leave us, as well. It was a hard thing. For all of us. We had become friends. We had shared deeply. He was such an unusual man. So gifted. So giving.

    Baz finally found a place to live in Joshua Tree. His main criterion was a place with high bandwidth. It turned out to be an ideal move for him - the solitude, the deep beauty of the desert, and, for the first time in many years, access to medical services. It had been very difficult for him to find adequate care in Redondo Beach. Relying on medicaid, he found very few doctors who would accept him, and they were all far away. For some reason, there were many more doctors who accepted medicaid patients in Joshua Tree.

    Unfortunately, help came too late. He died of cancer sometime near the end of September. Because of all the changes in my life, I only learned of his passing a few days ago.

    I wanted to tell you about him because I thought you should know about the fun we had together - me and this strange person I found on the beach. Because the fun we had, proved, ultimately, deep enough to create a trust, a love that transcended differences. Because we had so much fun that the loss of it will remain with me the rest of my life. Because fun does that.


    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Learning to have fun - the whole thing

    Here, in response to the fun-focused few, last week's posts on "having fun," in sequence from first to last.

    In response to learning about The Fun Theory (see my post), Joanna Young wrote her own post, called: How to add fun to the learning mix. In her post, she asks:
    If fun changes the way that we do things… how can we add more fun to what we do?
    • What more could I do if I looked for ways to add more fun to the everyday?
    • How can I learn to have fun?
    • How can having fun help me to learn?
    There were many valuable responses to her query. I added mine. But it became obvious to me that her questions were deeply felt, and deserved a much more considered response. Or maybe several.

    My first suggestion: start with the fun that is already there. Before trying to add more fun, slow down enough to see the fun you are actually already having. When you were a kid, you didn't need to have anyone make a set of steps into a piano. Stairs were just as much an invitation to fun as escalators and elevators and sidewalks and subways. You could have fun going down stairs on your bottom or rolling a ball down the stairs or trying to bounce a ball up the stairs or trying to go up the stairs backwards or walk down the stairs two-at-a-time. Same with reading and running and counting and painting and dancing and hugging. That fun never goes away. What goes away is our willingness to choose to have the fun that is offered us. We have too many other things to do. We're not in the subway because we want to play. We don't take the escalator because it's more fun. We are there because we want to get somewhere else. So we aren't, in fact, totally there. And because we aren't, we don't see the fun.

    Making the steps into a piano keyboard made us pay attention to where we were. It was an invitation to fun, and it worked. And it will continue to work, but only for a while. And only for those who are not in too big of a hurry, or too tired, or oppressed by the noise and the crowds and the smells. After a while, even the piano stairs won't be able to compete for our attention. Or jar us from our inattention. After a while, the fun will fade into the background, and get lost. And no one will notice that the stairs look like a piano or sound like a piano. And we'll need to make the steps into something else.

    Or, you could find other ways to remind yourself. Keep a ball in your purse. A super ball, just in case. Or a yo-yo. Or better yet, a paddle ball - you don't even need the paddle, just the ball and elastic.

    Or make yourself a list of games you could play on the way - on the stairs, in the subway, on the sidewalk. Like The Walking Game.

    People talk about "humor" as if it were a "sense" - like the sense of taste and touch and such. They also sometimes talk about the "sense of play" and "sense of fun" - and though it has nothing immediately to do with what we're about to play with, there's also the "sense of self" and "sense of community." And then of course there's nonsense, which I guess is also a sense.

    These senses - the senses of humor and play and fun - are, as far as I can understand, genuine sensitivities. A person with a "good" sense of humor or play or fun can somehow sense just the right thing to do or say to make things fun or funny. When their sense of humor or play or fun is off, when they are "over the top" or seem too serious, they stop being fun, they just aren't that funny.

    Then there's the senses of self and community. These play an important role in our senses of fun and play and humor. The better our sense of fun, play, humor, the better our sense of self, and our sense of community.

    One of the easiest ways to sharpen your own sense of fun is to have it with others - when you and your friends, or your family, or your colleagues, are all being funny together. And, of course one of the easiest ways for you to be funny together is to play games, especially funny games. I happen to have compiled a collection of these very same games. I call this collected compilation pointless games. Can you guess why?

    After you've explored your own "sense of play" and playfulness, it might be time for you to contemplate what exactly fun means to you, and you mean by it. A good way to start is by reading what other people say about it. And a good place to start that is this article: Of Fun and Flow.

    Flow talks about really big fun - the kind of fun that transforms you, that you risk your very life and limb, or vice-versa, to experience. After you've read that, it will be helpful to balance your perception of all things fun by reading about the gentler, more subtle sorts of fun: what I call Minor Fun.

    Sometime later - I'd suggest at least a week after you've contemplated the scale of fun, from major to minor and back - you might risk reading a collection of articles exploring further fun distinctions. The collection is called "54 Flavors of Fun" (there's actually 62 articles in that series, each focusing on yet another "flavor," several describing another minor multitude).

    All of which is simply to help you start thinking about fun, because it has been my experience that the more often I think about it, the more often I notice myself having it.

    With the apparently unlimited opportunities for fun offered to us every moment, it is often puzzling that there are times when we actually choose not to have it. Fun is so, well, fun. Why, when we could so easily be having fun this very minute, would we choose to have anything else?

    Sure, there are many, many things to be worried about, to be angry about, even - poverty, injustice, callousness, selfishness, greed, disease, the myriad of miseries. But none of those preclude fun. As so many people who have devoted so much of their lives and times to helping people attest to - the work, as hard and sobering as it can be, is most often fun of the greatest, deepest, and most profound ilk.

    And yet, from time to time, we get grumpy. We get so grumpy that we reject rejoicing, deny delighting, and all but celebrate suffering.

    The Oaqui attribute this to the need to acknowledge The Not-Yet Fun. "...our world," explain/s the Oaqui, "apparently came into being during The Billion Years of not-yet-fun, which was billions of years after the whole idea of not-yet-fun was considered at all funny. Fun...is the exception. Not-yet-fun the rule. This is why making anything lastingly fun frequently requires a combination of lifelong commitment, spiritual heroism and a multi-million dollar marketing campaign."

    The worse thing one can do when one feels the need to be grumpy is to deny the grump - privately or publicly. The best, not only to acknowledge it (again both privately and publicly), but to embrace it. Letting people know that you are feeling grumpy helps them give you the space you need to wallow, and gives them the permission to acknowledge the existence of the not-yet-fun in their own lives and loves. Letting yourself and the world-at-hand know that you are feeling grumpy helps acknowledge and identify the not-yet-fun, and to reclaim your purpose as someone whose sole goal in life is to make it more fun.

    And, for the more sobering purposes in our lives, this BBC article cites Prof. Joe Forgas' recent findings that one's "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style." Which one can use most constructively, especially when helping people understand that grumpy is what you are currently feeling.

    Just as the easiest way to have fun is to start with the things that are already fun, the easiest way to develop the art of making things fun is to start with things that are meant to be fun in the first place. Since games and toys are purportedly for that very purpose, they are the best tools to use in your exploration of fun-making. I concluded The Well-Played Game with a semi-poetic, long-winded, in-depth exploration of that very process, and called it: "A Million Ways to Play Marbles, At Least."

    A next step would be to make games from things that aren't meant to be either games or toys. For example, you can make a game you know out of things that really have nothing to do with that game, as in Found Object Crosswords. For yet another example, see what I consider to be one of my conceptual masterworks in that very area: Found Object Olympics.

    Then there's making games out of things that aren't games at all. This is close to the ultimate way to create fun, generally engaged in by those who find themselves on what I seem to be calling the Playful Path. For an especially tasty example, there's dessert-sharing, which is actually a game-like, playful thing friends and families might do together at a restaurant, ordering a bunch of different desserts, and then giving each other tastes, as requested. Which could lead one almost inexorably to a game of Dessert Roulette.

    Then there's making something fun out of something that isn't necessarily fun at all, as in the Piano Stairs experiment which launched this whole series of posts. To my knowledge, one of the finest examples of this is a device called the Play Pump, which beautifully blends the dizzy delights of the playground roundabout with the more arduous and basic need to bring clean water to the village.



    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Extreme Golf Courses

    Extreme golf courses? Not since our discovery of Ice Golfing have we seen signs of such a promising future for the game/sport of golf.

    For example, the par 3 Extreme 19th Hole at New Zealand's Legend Lodge and Golf Course Resort where one's golf cart is a helicopter. Yes. Par 3.

    For another example, the beautiful Floating Green at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course which is "computer controlled to a different distance from the tee each day. At approximately 15,000 square feet, the island, although intimidating, is a deceivingly large target. The back and front right of the green is protected by bunkers. Golfers take a maximum of two attempts to land safely on the island before taking a drop on the green if necessary." And who could possibly object to taking a drop on a green such as this, I ask, as if I know what "taking a drop" actually means. (I do find it somewhat comforting, however, to learn that, when taking a drop, one can even use a belly putter.)

    I'm not sure what any of this has to do with Amistice and/or Veterans Day. I was sure there were many enlightening parallels when I started writing this post, and would very much appreciate hearing of any correlations you might find.



    via the Presurfer

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Finger Jousting Illustrated

    Apparently, one of Montague Blister's favorite games is Finger Jousting. In a recent post, he shares, with well-deserved pride, an exemplary moment of the aforementioned.



    See this for further explication.

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Bob Gregson - Defender of the Playful

    There's a work of art hanging on one of the walls of Bob Gregson's studio. It's a framed letter that Bob had notarized. It reads: "Bob Gregson has never done a work of art in his entire career or anything that remotely resembles one."

    With this, he has managed to transform what anyone else would consider to a profound insult into what, oddly enough, is a testimony to the playfulness that he has brought to art - or is it the art he has brought to his playfulness?

    In an earlier post, on Deep Fun, I called Bob an "artist of whimsy and delight." Most recently, Bob's nephew produced a short documentary that made me realize I need to write about him again - this time to grant him the much-deserved honor, benefits, and privileges of the title "Defender of the Playful."

    The video is just long enough to hint at the depth of his playfulness - a clear enough hint to allow me to demonstrate why I have such a deep appreciation for his work, his lifelong struggle to share it, and his many delightfully provoking accomplishments.

    Upon learning of this award, Mr. Gregson responded: "I am humbled at this honor. As you've taught me (and I think you said) 'play is a terribly maligned word.' And it is true – and when you make 'art' (or 'fart' which is 'fun art' as one 13 year old called my work) it is really hard to get people to understand. But then again, if they understood they would be very self-conscious of the subtle decisions that one makes to create a comfortable and safe play-space. But with all that said, it REALLY comes down to my selfish desire to have fun – and the more I can twist the rules around, the more I can get people to play – and thus allow me to play too. This reminds me of a student paper that someone did a few years ago when I was a guest teacher at a 'Creativity Class' (whatever that is!). At any rate, I had college students working in teams to make buildings in which the team could fit. Newspaper was the medium. One student wrote in her report that 'it was clear that Mr. Gregson could hardly restrain himself from participating.' And it's true. I can't help myself. "

    Bob Gregson is gift. And here he is, for you to enjoy.


    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Learning to have fun - part five - creating fun

    The easiest way to develop the art of making things fun is to start with things that are meant to be fun in the first place. Since games and toys are purportedly for that very purpose, they are the best tools to use in your exploration of fun-making. I concluded The Well-Played Game with a semi-poetic, long-winded, in-depth exploration of that very process, and called it: "A Million Ways to Play Marbles, At Least."

    A next step would be to make games from things that aren't meant to be either games or toys. For example, you can make a game you know out of things that really have nothing to do with that game, as in Found Object Crosswords. For yet another example, see what I consider to be one of my conceptual masterworks in that very area: Found Object Olympics.

    Then there's making games out of things that aren't games at all. This is close to the ultimate way to create fun, generally engaged in by those who find themselves on what I seem to be calling the Playful Path. For an especially tasty example, there's dessert-sharing, which is actually a game-like, playful thing friends and families might do together at a restaurant, ordering a bunch of different desserts, and then giving each other tastes, as requested. Which could lead one almost inexorably to a game of Dessert Roulette.

    Then there's making something fun out of something that isn't necessarily fun at all, as in the Piano Stairs experiment which launched this whole series of posts. To my knowledge, one of the finest examples of this is a device called the Play Pump, which beautifully blends the dizzy delights of the playground roundabout with the more arduous and basic need to bring clean water to the village.

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Learning to have fun - part four - embracing the grump

    With the apparently unlimited opportunities for fun offered to us every moment, it is often puzzling that there are times when we actually choose not to have it. Fun is so, well, fun. Why, when we could so easily be having fun this very minute, would we choose to have anything else?

    Sure, there are many, many things to be worried about, to be angry about, even - poverty, injustice, callousness, selfishness, greed, disease, the myriad of miseries. But none of those preclude fun. As so many people who have devoted so much of their lives and times to helping people attest to - the work, as hard and sobering as it can be, is most often fun of the greatest, deepest, and most profound ilk.

    And yet, from time to time, we get grumpy. We get so grumpy that we reject rejoicing, deny delighting, and all but celebrate suffering.

    The Oaqui attribute this to the need to acknowledge The Not-Yet Fun. "...our world," explain/s the Oaqui, "apparently came into being during The Billion Years of not-yet-fun, which was billions of years after the whole idea of not-yet-fun was considered at all funny. Fun...is the exception. Not-yet-fun the rule. This is why making anything lastingly fun frequently requires a combination of lifelong commitment, spiritual heroism and a multi-million dollar marketing campaign."

    The worse thing one can do when one feels the need to be grumpy is to deny the grump - privately or publicly. The best, not only to acknowledge it (again both privately and publicly), but to embrace it. Letting people know that you are feeling grumpy helps them give you the space you need to wallow, and gives them the permission to acknowledge the existence of the not-yet-fun in their own lives and loves. Letting yourself and the world-at-hand know that you are feeling grumpy helps acknowledge and identify the not-yet-fun, and to reclaim your purpose as someone whose sole goal in life is to make it more fun.

    And, for the more sobering purposes in our lives, this BBC article cites Prof. Joe Forgas' recent findings that one's "mildly negative mood may actually promote a more concrete, accommodative and ultimately more successful communication style." Which one can use most constructively, especially when helping people understand that grumpy is what you are currently feeling.


    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Learning to have fun - part three - what do you mean "fun"?

    After you've explored your own "sense of play" and playfulness, it might be time for you to contemplate what exactly fun means to you, and you mean by it. A good way to start is by reading what other people say about it. And a good place to start that is this article: Of Fun and Flow.

    Flow talks about really big fun - the kind of fun that transforms you, that you risk your very life and limb, or vice-versa, to experience. After you've read that, it will be helpful to balance your perception of all things fun by reading about the gentler, more subtle sorts of fun: what I call Minor Fun.

    Sometime later - I'd suggest at least a week after you've contemplated the scale of fun, from major to minor and back - you might risk reading a collection of articles exploring further fun distinctions. The collection is called "54 Flavors of Fun" (there's actually 62 articles in that series, each focusing on yet another "flavor," several describing another minor multitude).

    All of which is simply to help you start thinking about fun, because it has been my experience that the more often I think about it, the more often I notice myself having it.

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Learning to have fun - part two - exploring the "senses of play"

    People talk about "humor" as if it were a "sense" - like the sense of taste and touch and such. They also sometimes talk about the "sense of play" and "sense of fun" - and though it has nothing immediately to do with what we're about to play with, there's also the "sense of self" and "sense of community." And then of course there's nonsense, which I guess is also a sense.

    These senses - the senses of humor and play and fun - are, as far as I can understand, genuine sensitivities. A person with a "good" sense of humor or play or fun can somehow sense just the right thing to do or say to make things fun or funny. When their sense of humor or play or fun is off, when they are "over the top" or seem too serious, they stop being fun, they just aren't that funny.

    Then there's the senses of self and community. These play an important role in our senses of fun and play and humor. The better our sense of fun, play, humor, the better our sense of self, and our sense of community.

    One of the easiest ways to sharpen your own sense of fun is to have it with others - when you and your friends, or your family, or your colleagues, are all being funny together. And, of course one of the easiest ways for you to be funny together is to play games, especially funny games. I happen to have compiled a collection of these very same games. I call this collected compilation pointless games. Can you guess why?


    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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    Learning to have fun - part one - starting with the fun that is already there

    In response to learning about The Fun Theory (see my post), Joanna Young wrote her own post, called: How to add fun to the learning mix. In her post, she asks:
    If fun changes the way that we do things… how can we add more fun to what we do?

    What more could I do if I looked for ways to add more fun to the everyday?

    How can I learn to have fun?

    How can having fun help me to learn?
    There were many valuable responses to her query. I added mine. But it became obvious to me that her questions were deeply felt, and deserved a much more considered response. Or maybe several.

    My first suggestion: start with the fun that is already there. Before trying to add more fun, slow down enough to see the fun you are actually already having. When you were a kid, you didn't need to have anyone make a set of steps into a piano. Stairs were just as much an invitation to fun as escalators and elevators and sidewalks and subways. You could have fun going down stairs on your bottom or rolling a ball down the stairs or trying to bounce a ball up the stairs or trying to go up the stairs backwards or walk down the stairs two-at-a-time. Same with reading and running and counting and painting and dancing and hugging. That fun never goes away. What goes away is our willingness to choose to have the fun that is offered us. We have too many other things to do. We're not in the subway because we want to play. We don't take the escalator because it's more fun. We are there because we want to get somewhere else. So we aren't, in fact, totally there. And because we aren't, we don't see the fun.

    Making the steps into a piano keyboard made us pay attention to where we were. It was an invitation to fun, and it worked. And it will continue to work, but only for a while. And only for those who are not in too big of a hurry, or too tired, or oppressed by the noise and the crowds and the smells. After a while, even the piano stairs won't be able to compete for our attention. Or jar us from our inattention. After a while, the fun will fade into the background, and get lost. And no one will notice that the stairs look like a piano or sound like a piano. And we'll need to make the steps into something else.

    Or, you could find other ways to remind yourself. Keep a ball in your purse. A super ball, just in case. Or a yo-yo. Or better yet, a paddle ball - you don't even need the paddle, just the ball and elastic.

    Or make yourself a list of games you could play on the way - on the stairs, in the subway, on the sidewalk. Like The Walking Game.



    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

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