I've been calling myself a "Funsmith" for a while now. And I've been calling what I do "Deep Fun" for a very long while.

Oddly enough, this thing's become so intuitive that it's still a bit of a struggle to make it clear to people who don't know me. So I've been working on it. Playing with it.

My most recent attempt begins like this:
Say you want to make something more fun - a game, a toy, your job, your company, your relationship with your spouse or kids, your life...

So you call or email or Skype your local Funsmith, and you say: "I want to make something more fun." And you arrange to meet, by phone, by email, over Skype, at a coffee shop, or at a local park for a walk'n talk. For, say, a couple hours. For some agreed-upon, agreeable sum.

You know this Funsmith is a fun guy - warm, welcoming, caring, insightful, and most of all, playful, very playful. An expert player, in fact - someone who knows many different ways to play, many different kinds of games and many ways to play them, who knows how to have fun, how to create fun, how to share fun, how to be fun. A professional player. Someone so playful and so knowledgeable that you'd pay to play with that person - for a lot of reasons. Because it's fun to be with that person. Because you like yourself even more when you're with that person. Because, during the time you or your child or your parents spend together with this person, you can, without any sense of guilt or obligation, expect that that person will focus all that playful expertise entirely on them. On having fun with them. On helping them find ways to make things more fun.

Let's say you are the one who goes to that person, every week, for a couple of hours, every other week, or month or whenever you feel like going. Even if all you did was play together, it'd be worth it. Because it'd be fun - real, meaningful, personal, deep fun. And because this professional player always makes the rules negotiable, adjustable, the only goal being to find a way to play so that you can all enjoy the game, all be challenged, together - it'd be a lesson in how you, too, could make things fun again, even if they were only games.?
Here's the whole thing.

I'd appreciate any comments, suggestions, random associations, and especially appreciate the opportunity to be yours.


Well-Played Game eBook - introductory discount until April 1st - no fooling!

You, too, can have a copy of the updated version of the Well-Played Game on your very own eReader, iPod, iPad, netbook or notebook - and, until April 1st (obviously) at a 40% discount!

Click on Smashwords.

Enter this code RT25Y

You'll thank me in the morning.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Laughter Games Workshop at the American Laughter Yoga Conference

It is official. The two days following the Fifth Annual All America Laughter Games Yoga conference in Albuquerque - August 30 and 31 - will be devoted to an intensive Laughter Games Workshop. Here's the write-up:
"Join funsmith Bernie DeKoven for this special 2 days intensive, highly instructional, ultra-pragmatic and profoundly fun laughter training where you will explore and expand your own sense of fun to enrich and bring a new level of vitality to your own life and that of the people you work with. This event is open to and beneficial for all, and even more so for Laughter Yoga professionals who wish to take their practice to the next level. "
See also: Games that make people laugh - a workshop in the playfulness as a life skill

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Pointless Games Central

Pointless Games are games in which you either don't keep score (hence "pointless") or are so much fun to play that winning is besides the point.

I have written about this particular kind of game ever since I discovered the words to describe it. I devoted a webpage to it, wrote about in a Knol, and compiled it into a PDF.

Though webpage, Knol, and PDF are all game-and-glee-filled and of significant value for anyone who wants to bring a little more fun into the world.

Hence, this post.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


"Journeys on the Playful Path" - to be presented at the 5th Annual, All America 2010 Laughter Yoga Conference

Laughter Yoga, according to this definition from The American School of Laughter Yoga, is:
"...a deceptively simple yet very powerful and potentially even life-changing form of exercise that anybody can do, anytime, anywhere. Its core premise is that your body can and knows how to laugh, regardless of what your mind has to say. In short: Laughter Yoga is a body-mind approach to laughter, not something mind-body. The distinction is very important. Here you do not need to have a sense of humor, know jokes or even be happy. Laughter Yoga invites you to 'fake it' until it becomes real."
(You can read more about my adventures in Laughter Yoga here).

If you plan to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 25-31, 2010, and you are a practitioner or leader of Hasya (a.k.a. Laughter) Yoga, maybe we'll get to see each other. You'll most definitely get a chance to meet me. I'll be your Sunday keynote. I'll also be your Monday and Tuesday special, intensive, all-inclusive, highly instructional, ultra-pragmatic, profoundly fun, after-conference seminar leader. More about that, later.

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith

from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


Doing the doing

A while ago, I made a CD I called Recess for the Soul. My purpose in putting it together was to demonstrate to myself and my listeners how one could explore one's own inner dialog through the lens of play.

There's a story on the CD called: Hide and Seek: Serious and Silly Find God. In the imaginary game between these two imaginary characters, I found myself trying to understand what they saw in this particularly endless game of hide and seek that they played together - what was so fun or significant or wonderful about the game that made them want to play it over and over again. At the end of the story, I imagined myself asking them those very questions. When I did, "...they started running after me, yelling 'You're IT.'" I, of course, ran away as fast as I possibly could.

I called this story "Serious and Silly Find God," because what I learned from my imaginary playmates was what I had known all along - that there was really only one player in my inner playground. The rest I was imagining into being. Everything. Silly. Serious. The whole darn playground. On my inner playground, I am IT.

This was a big lesson to me. One of those simple truths that you know all along but are transformed by every time you rediscover it. In my inner playground, I am the only unimagined player. I am the one that's doing all the playing.

Every addiction I have ever had - food, sex, drugs, love, recognition, security - everything I've ever done to myself or for myself, I am the one doing the doing, if you know what I mean. I am the one playing angel and devil, the one who makes himself eat more than he should, the one who shouldn't, the one who eats anyway.

What started me thinking about all this again was a conversation I had with my daughter-in-law. We were talking about how we, who can do such good things for ourselves and others, sometimes do things that aren't good, for ourselves, for others.

We talked about the choice between good and evil, two conflicting "inclinations," which, according to Jewish tradition are fundamental to the gift of free will. And I found myself trying to explain what I had learned in my Inner Playground - that I could find no angels or devils making me do evil or good. That whatever I found myself doing to myself, it was I who was doing the doing. And I could imagine myself have great, deep fun doing it with myself together!

I was amazed to rediscover how fundamental that simple truth has become to my understanding of who I am, and how. In my Inner Playground, I am the one making up all the games. I am the one pretending to be each of the players.

There's a lot more to be learned on the Inner Playground. A lot of fun to be had. Truth to be told. Healing to be done.

Enjoy yourselves, whatever you imagine them to be.


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


    Exploring the Wisdom of Games

    From time to time I notice that I am once again trying to describe the thing I teach - the one thing, the deepest thing, the most useful and life-enriching thing, the thing, of all the things I teach, that I'd most like to be teaching you. So I go back through my years of articles and posts, workshops and classes and events, and see if I can find one, really clear, comprehensive description of what that thing is, and what happens when I get to teach it.

    In March of 2008, I wrote a post called: Exploring the Wisdom of Games. I think it might be the closest yet:
    Once I learned to see the connections between theater and children's games, I began to understand the wisdom contained in their playful dramas. Once I started sharing this wisdom with adults, it became the thing I liked to do best - more, even, than designing games or reviewing games or writing about games and fun and stuff. I first discovered this when I was leading a workshop for teachers at the Durham Child Development Center in Philadelphia, and rediscovered the joy of this teaching at the Games Preserve and at the Esalen Institute.

    What I do, it seems, is play kids games with grown-ups. Depending on how much time we have, we also play theater games, paper and pencil games and board games and party games and games I just make up. After each game, or maybe after every other, I talk a little about the theater of the game - the play and interplay of roles. And then everyone talks about the "drama" of the game, as if the game were really some kind of theater piece - especially about the drama they experienced, personally. Not so much about their own, personal drama, but about about the drama of the game itself, about roles and relationships, about the way of things in gameland.

    As we play and talk, play and talk, some kind of healing, playful, loving wisdom starts manifesting itself. Because we are grown-ups playing these games. Because of the growing honesty and openness and depth of sharing we are capable of. Apparently, just the act of playing each game reveals to us a depth, a drama more profound, more personal, a truth more mutual, more freeing.

    "I have learned to see children's games as scripts," I write, "for a kind of children's cultural theater. I see them as collective dreams in which certain themes are being toyed with - investigated and manipulated for the sake of sheer catharsis or some future reintegration into a world view. They are reconstructions of relationships - simulations - (myths) - which are guided by individual players, instituted by the groups in which they are played or abstracted by the traditions of generations of children."
    For grown-ups, it's even more powerful - playing children's games again, rediscovering, reinterpreting, reapplying their meaning. It leads to an even more expansive kind of theater. Participating in a play community as adults, endowed with empathy and compassion and years of hard-won knowledge, with obligations and responsibilities and actually deeper freedom - we redefine ourselves, and the world.

    And what seems to happen when we engage in all these playful conversations is this: we rediscover our ability to play, and to give each other the gift of play. We rediscover our unlimited selves. We reaffirm fun. We remember the playful path and find ourselves and each other once again on it.

    The longer we get to do this, the deeper we get to play. An hour. A day. A week-end. A week. This is my gift. This is what I've been doing for more than 40 years. This is what I do. This is what I am still here to do with you.

    Is that enough? Clear enough? Do you need to know more? Did I make it clear why you'd want to play like this, this deeply? Why you'd want to play like this with your friends, your community, your organizations? 

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


    Found Object Lessons

    Wait a minute. Are you a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization living in and about Downtown Indianapolis? Did you know that you could qualify for a grant from the Found Fun Foundation (Rocky and Bernie DeKoven, Co-founders) which would be almost all you need to get Bernie and Rocky to lead one of their remarkably playful and instructive "Found Object Lessons?"  That's correct. 90-minutes of lively, collaborative, creative, spontaneous, and sometimes remarkably reflective play, with competition, even, at no additional charge, led by Rocky and Bernie DeKoven's, supported by awards from the Found Fun Foundation, Rocky and Bernie DeKoven, founders

    To find out more, please contact Major Fun at his earliest convenience.

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith


    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


    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 ( 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 (, 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

    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


    A little PR never hurts....

    Dear funster,

    The next few posts are going to be a bit of a departure for this site.

    I'm "getting the word out" about some of the things I've been working on for-frackin'-ever. Things have been coming together of late. Moving to Indianapolis helped me gain a new perspective on much of my work and life. Making new connections with family and neighbors have helped me make new connections between the various components of my virtual realities.

    So I'm going to be posting some PR-like announcements about this and that from time to time. On the site, they'll be marked with a PR label, in case you were wondering.

    I beg your indulgence and welcome your participation.

    from Bernie DeKoven, funsmith