Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster
jiggery_pokery

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Fun and games

(Happy birthday to tommycharles, but I fear he has gone dormant.)

It strikes me that 27 of the last 29 people to beFriend me know me principally through the Harry Potter fandom. While nobody is interested in only one thing and nobody is interested in everything, Potter fans should know that I tend not to post about the fandom all that much; I'm really on an extended fandom kick at the moment which I suspect may eventually get reined in.

A plan I previously considered was to start some sort of web journal about different types of games, because nobody seemed to be doing one. I haven't found exactly that yet, but I've found something which comes close: "Major Fun" Bernie DeKoven's Daily Briefings concentrates on all aspects of fun. It has some pretty interesting stuff there; slightly unusually, every entry includes a colourful picture. Unfortunately this doesn't get transmitted to the XML feed, but you can follow it, syndicated feed points willing, at deepfun. (Please consider Friending it; due to living up to my name, I'm using 10.201 of my allowed 10.000 syndication units.) Partial archives are also available as Out of the Box's "Funday Times" daily.

There's a definite and interesting difference between fun and games, though, and Bernie's site contains very interesting reflections on the relationship between the two and on the nature of play. Indeed, a recent entry of Bernie's is as good an introduction as any. It refers to "The Association for the Study of Play", which classifies itself as a multidisciplinary organization because the study of play impinges on "anthropology, education, psychology, sociology, recreation and leisure studies, history, folklore, dance, communication, the arts, kinesiology, philosophy, cultural studies, and musicology." Crikey.

I think he, and his initiatives, are on to something and that something is a big something that I'm (largely) missing. For me, play is very strongly tied up with games, almost exclusively so; there may well be some large aspects of play which aren't concerned with games that somehow I am missing out on more than I should be. I know that I am fascinated by games which subvert the traditional game paradigm, such as Nomic and the infamous morningtoncrescent. I also observe that a lot of my favoured forms of play relate to facilitating other people's play, whether by inventing games for others to play, teaching others to play games, organising (or helping organising) events at which games are played and so on. It's a choice and it's a valid one, but it's clearly not the only one.

Bernie's site, Deep Fun, has extensive collections of articles on... well, on the nature of fun, on engaging fun in people's lives, on the quality of fun. Sample quote: "The thing about fun is that most of the time we never really know we're having it until we're not. So usually we can only tell when something was fun." (This sums up my Nimbus - 2003 very well. I was talking to a non-LJ friend about this a couple of days ago and he pointed out I had exactly the same experience at the first con at which I ran a Quest-like Treasure Hunt. Hadn't thought of that before; it makes me feel better about Nimbus past.) He has interesting observations on the relationships between fun and society and between fun and work. Most interestingly of all, there's a good selection of so-titled pointless games. These are not the sorts of games I habitually play and it's really got me wondering what I'm missing. (I'm prepared to accept that what I'm missing might well be less to my taste than what I'm getting.)

There are some particularly interesting discsussions on the nature of seriousness and silliness and how the two interact. I often feel that I don't get the balance right here - that I should be focusing on one when I'm focusing on the other. I'm sure I get the balance between the two wrong occasionally. It's also interesting to think about how I am perceived between these two extremes; while I can do silly (eg just point to a very funny recent Weebl and Bob) my LJ tends to be pretty serious.

Some of my favourite games are very silly; others, more serious. However, I seldom get to the seriousness of the traditional two-player games such as chess and go; frequently, my favourites are played seriously but inspire silliness. (The Chairman's Game, definitely. Liar's Dice - the way we play it, quite frequently. Modern Art, certainly. Some RPGs, sometimes.) By contrast, from time to time, I end up presiding over some very silly things, but end up being very serious about them. (Quidditch at Nimbus? Yes, inherently very silly - and that's a good thing.)

I am always very slightly suspicious of consultants and the self-employed - trying to see where their self-interest is, suspicious that they might be peddling snake oil through chutzpah. It's true that Bernie heavily advertises week-long retreats he runs in California where he teaches about fun and his philosophies. At a thousand US a shot, we're getting into "that's the sort of thing a cult leader would do" territory here. I also suspect that I might have seen some bits of what he teaches before: I've bought a book of New Games; in my youth, I went to a youth group, the overtly lefty-greeny Woodcraft Folk, which included similar games as part of their sessions. It's almost as if being a fun consultant is such an appealing-sounding job that I can't quite believe it somehow. Nevertheless, I have a suspicion that as part of my self-education about games of all types, Bernie might be able to teach me a lot about play and about fun that I don't already know. Not sure what I'd do with it, though.

In connection with this, sometimes the site gives me the impression that he's trying a little bit too hard, somehow; rightly or wrongly, fun ought to be spontaneous, ought to be natural, ought not to be arbitrary and artificial. (I could be very wrong there.) His own fun-related vocabulary, which he uses fairly extensively, does seem a bit, well, strained. "Trying too hard" isn't a big crime in the greater scheme of things, but I'd somehow be more convinced if it were all apparently effortless. Somehow I don't trust him and his message yet; maybe this is just because it's so different from my experiences and from what I understand to be true.

Nevertheless, it's possible that he's really onto something from which I will learn and grow considerably; at the very least, his daily weblog is still interesting and throws up good links. If you're interested in fun and/or games, you should think about beFriending deepfun yourself.
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