Casting my net a little further – writing, art and e-motion

PlayTime in London – 4 Oct 2006

Play is a serious business

It’s over a month ago since I attended PlayTime! – part of the London Games Fringe Festival – hosted by digital writer Tim Wright. It was a fantastically inspiring day and I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since. Luckily the notes I made at the time make sense (I think), so here goes.

Pat Kane’s Play Ethic

Pat Kane, writer of The Play Ethic: a Manifesto for a Different Way of Living, kicked off with the proposition that:

Play is a way to cope with the 21st Century. Industrial society was dominated by a Puritan work ethic, but now we’re in play times. It’s all about quality of life issues coming to the fore – happiness, well being, play, idleness, slowness, soft power… These are the dominant ideas in a post-work society. Identity is shifting from being defined by routine-work to creative-play. Play is adaptive potentiation (an idea from ‘The Ambiguity of Play’ by Brian Sutton-Smith).

Kane identifies 7 Rhetorics of Play, some ancient, some modern:

Modern rhetorics of play:

  • play as freedom
  • play as imagination
  • play as a developmental process, educational

Ancient rhetorics of play:

  • play as power
  • play as community – carnival, festival, ritual
  • play as fate – the gods at play, chaos
  • play as tomfoolery, knavery, humour

Pat Kane’s mission is to develop and encourage play literacy. An obsession of his is the dark side of play and games.

Think about the shadow side of digital play. Hmmm… I can’t remember if that’s something he said or whether that’s a note to myself – whichever, I’ll think about it.

Poetry rooted in play has a dark side too

Surprisingly, Gavin Stuart – poet, digital artist & academic – carried on the theme of the dark side of play in his presentation about poetry. Surprising because he showed the fun side of poetry and had us all joining in with a poem he usually performs with children. He described poetry rooted in play as something where accidents happen but no one’s to blame, and he said ‘Play is about not being afraid to fail.’ So play keeps ones fears at bay – I think most people could identify with that from childhood, but it’s interesting to think about it in terms of adulthood too. Like Pat Kane, Gavin also believes that play is a survival strategy.

Having set the context of the seriousness of play, the day progressed with many other interesting presentations – Jamie Cason from BBC Interactive Entertainment; Dan Hon of Mind Candy; Tom Hume of Future Platforms; Rob Bevan of XPT; Stuart Nolan, NESTA Fellow & magician; Tom Morris of the National Theatre; and Tassos Stevens of Coney Communications & an associate of the mysterious rabbit; and Tim Wright who had us all in a playing-golf-on-the-moon simulation out on the street.

Much too much to put all into one post, so I’ll blog about others separately.


26 November 2006 - Posted by | Play

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