Play is more than just fun

I’ve mentioned before that I think play is an important and much underestimated part of our lives. Here’s a TED talk by Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and researcher into play, that has lots of interesting things to say on that topic.

Some points that struck me

There’s a useful transcript of the talk on the TED site, and here are some key points taken from that, which were interesting to me…

  • “So what does play do for the brain? Well, a lot…. Nothing lights up the brain like play.”

  • JPL, NASA and Boeing, before they will hire a research and development problem solver — even if they’re summa cum laude from Harvard or Cal Tech — if they haven’t fixed cars, haven’t done stuff with their hands early in life, played with their hands, they can’t problem-solve as well.”

  • the opposite of play is not work, it’s depression

  • “So I would encourage you all to engage not in the work-play differential — where you set aside time to play — but where your life becomes infused minute by minute, hour by hour, with body, object, social, fantasy, transformational kinds of play

  • “And this is where my chasing animals for four, five years really changed my perspective from a clinician to what I am now, which is that play has a biological place, just like sleep and dreams do.”

I’m going to be looking more into Stuart Brown’s work, so expect more posts about this in the future.

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4 thoughts on “Play is more than just fun

  1. This is why it confuses me when games are treated like they are reserved just for the few, that they might not be good for us or that we have to grow out of them. I think play and games are a natural part of life that benefit us. I also think that school and other aspects of life do not help to encourage play; sometimes even making us feel guilty for it like we should be working instead.

    • To be fair when he’s talking about play he’s talking about something very broad, of which video games would be a small subset. He’d include most things that we would consider any kind of hobbies as forms of play.

      MMOs are a good example of the different kinds of play he lists in his book though, and I’ll probably do a post about it sometime.

      I’ve often thought we shouldn’t break up work / play / education as we do, either in terms of non-overlapping silos or things you do at certain ages. We could all probably do with having them spread more evenly throughout our lives.

      • I agree about not breaking them up. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot of skills through play, but others have considered those same activities to be just work. Seems odd to separate the two so strongly.

  2. Pingback: What is your play personality? – Thinking Play

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