from games to play to fun

by Bernard De Koven on August 30, 2012

It was a little more than 40 years ago that I first found myself teaching the gospel of fun. Actually, I didn’t know that it was about fun I was teaching. What I did was play games. And between games, we talked. So I thought, honestly, that it was all about games. And I collected games, and read about games, and gathered as many kinds of games as I could find, and wrote a curriculum in games, and taught teachers how to make their own games, and built a  place I called the Games Preserve for the deeper exploration of games, and wrote a book called The Well Played Game and wrote articles in Games Magazine and Simulation/Gaming/News and joined the New Games Foundation to help them develop a training program for leaders of games.

I really thought it was all about games. And I really loved talking about games, because talking about games takes people outside the language of self, into the world of systems, structures, rules, relationships. It’s such a powerful, freeing perspective. And, because of the kinds of games I was teaching, it was deeply fun.

Further on in my exploration, I began to feel that the language of games, as powerful as it was, was becoming a little too abstract, a little too removed from the spirit of, well, play. And it found that if I wasn’t careful, I’d start thinking that everything was a game. And I guess it got too big and too serious and maybe just a little too vague. So I started to teach the gospel of play. And it was fun.

Ah, play. So beautiful, ethereal, unreal, even. So much to play with. Children’s play. Family play. Word play. Creative play. The play of light on your delightful eyes. So many meanings, interpretations, applications. So many that I began to lose faith in that word as well. And again things got too soft, too vague, too wistful.

So I started to explore fun.

Fun? Fun, as my wife Rocky likes to note, is not a four-letter-word. Nobody waxes philosophic or poetic about fun. Who studies fun? Who teaches fun? Who takes fun seriously?

Perfect. Just the focus I needed. Just the gospel that I can teach with abandon. Just the concept that can convey everything I’ve been learning and writing and teaching all these surprisingly many years. Fun.

And that’s where I am today, as you have probably concluded. Because fun seems a clearer, less important word, one that I can play with, one that I can use to touch all of life without having to take it seriously. One that I can teach. One that constantly reminds me what, after all, it’s all for.


A Playful Path photoA playful path is the shortest road to happiness.
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