Children play. Adults play. We all play. Why, play tell? Well, it’s fun, of course. It stretches the imagination. It helps us to unwind. It helps us acquire and maintain certain skills, especially psychomotor skills. It helps us to develop strong, meaningful relationships.
At its most basic, child’s play is actually preparation for thriving later on in life. Motor skills are acquired, eye-hand coordination is fine-tuned, relationships are entered into and understood, and play is also a manifestation of the admiration a child has for its caregiver. Of course, play is also a time to let the imagination wander, something so vital for developing creativity and a zest for experimentation. It helps the inquisitive mind and enhances the child’s appetite for acquiring truth. Indeed, child’s play should be actively encouraged, and both structured and unstructured play time must be catered for.
As adults, starting from the ages of twelve or thirteen, we start to play a little differently. Play now serves the urge, perhaps the acquired urge, to compete in order to express prowess and dominance. Play is serious business. In the United States alone, it generated perhaps 10 billion US dollars in 2009, and that amount looks like it’s still growing. That’s just computer games, not counting other forms of play. Is that good?
Most of what adults, and an increasing number of young children, are playing is highly dysfunctional. There are no real victories to be won, relationship building almost always gives way to the domination of the one victor, and it generates no revenue except for the gaming companies and perhaps those companies related to popular sports. Besides a very few business simulations, games do not improve the top line of most businesses. In fact, they actually eat away at the bottom line because of lost productivity. Some businesses, realizing the increasing addiction to games, have also started on what is called “gamification”, which panders to the sense of amusement of the customer. I am not so sure that is a good thing, although it may bring in sales for the short run. Do share if you have other views.
In short, play is meant to prepare one for the real world. It seems that it has moved on to replace the real world. I think it’s tragic.