Pat Kane’s adventures in Wonderlab

by Bernard De Koven on July 21, 2010

Pat Kane, Play Ethicist

Pat Kane, musician and author of The Play Ethic, reports on his adventures during a three-day exploration of game design called Wonderlab – an event hosted by Hide and Seek, a group that “(m)akes social games and playful experiences. We expand the boundaries of play, reaching out into public space, new technologies, culture and media.” (You can watch a few of the presentations here.)

In his final report, Pat writes: “Coming down from this experience over the last few days, I’m struggling to say whether a greater understanding of games-making techniques has made me more sympathetic towards, or more critical of, this cultural form as it currently stands. I’m happy not to drive to a conclusion at the moment – usually best to let these things work themselves out through more thinking, talking, or ‘iteration’ (as the designers love to say).”

In an email to me, he adds: “I guess what was interesting was watching the ego of the gamesmaker close-up – and recoiling a little at their ‘behaviour-changing’ ambitions. I don’t seek to change behaviour with a song – expand heart and mind, yes, enrich and complexify a sense of self.”

Yup, yup, I say to myself, yuppingly, that’s pretty much precisely how I see my involvement in this whole game/play business. I’ve designed games. I’ve taught games. And you know I’ve played games. And all the while it hasn’t been about teaching anything else – or moving anyone to anything other than play – not about getting kids to read or count, or adults to work better or wage peace, or obese people to start exercising , not at all about raising any particular awareness or changing any particular behavior. I’m in it to share an experience of our capacity for joy. I’m in it to expand the heart and mind is what I’m in it for.

And I thank Pat for his clear mind and deep honesty. And for the reminder. And I can’t really thank him enough. And yup, I say to myself. And again, yup.


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