What is Play

What is gaming? What is play? These are clear and concise questions. The answers, however, will vary with each perspective given. Years ago, I used to marvel at the plethora of explanations at what play really means. 

The textbook definition of gaming is the practice or activity of playing computer or video games. Immediately, I have qualms with this barebones temporal explanation of gaming. I grew up playing paper and pen role playing games. I started with the Basic Dungeons and Dragons red set, and I have been collecting rpg games ever since. I also spent countless hours running throughout woods and creeks as a child. I didn’t receive my first game console till my thirteenth birthday. A fact, which is in stark contrast with my children. They all started gaming at five or earlier. They breathe, eat, sleep, and dream electric dreams of video games. From Call of Duty and Minecraft to mobile games, kids are seemingly hooked into the modern society of gamification. I admit, I love video games. From point and click classics and sixteen-bit legends to modern mmorpg games. I play them all. It’s fun.

In the book, Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Dr. Brown states “By definition, play is purposeless, all-consuming, and fun” (Brown, 2009). I agree with two of the three, but I can’t give ground on play purposeless. To me, play is the expression of our uninhibited and unconstrained thoughts and actions. I observe my two youngest children in play often. They construct the world around them in their minds eye. I marvel at how they navigate situations and circumstances through the lens of play. I can’t help but agree, play is good for the soul.

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