How to Play Anything
You may have noticed that I’m interested in the idea of play these days (mostly because I’m really, really bad at it), so I was instantly intrigued by the title of the new book Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games by Ian Bogost. His colleague at The Atlantic interviewed him about the book and the whole article was so good and thought-provoking. Here are some of my favorite parts from the interview ::
I think the most important thing to realize about play is that it’s this thing that’s in stuff, it’s not in you. Play isn’t you being clever, or finding a trick, or finding a way of covering over your own misery, or persuading someone to do what you want. It’s the process of working with the materials that you find and discovering what’s possible with them.
My wife, there’s certain kinds of housework that she just doesn’t see as necessary to do in the way that I do. Things like the state of our closet or where things are in the kitchen. I have this almost unhealthily obsessive desire to have things in their place and she just totally doesn’t. And this is a potential point of conflict, of course. But there are also many things she can’t stand about me, and there are certain capacities that she has that are different than mine. The trick is to find compatibilities, and it’s just much easier for me to do the chores that I can find tolerable, that bring me bizarre pleasure. Like the dishwasher, or whatever it is.
It’s allowing those properties of individuals to structure your relationship with them. This produces a greater depth of understanding and empathy. There are personality traits, or baggage from their backgrounds, goals that they have and the first thing I need to do is understand and then acknowledge and then accept those properties. That’s kind of the baseline requirement to have a productive relationship.
It’s hard because we have been trained to think we have enormous power over the world. Whatever you dream, you can do. Anything can be bent to your will. But actually isn’t it much more interesting to imagine that you’re quite small? Not in a powerless way, but there’s so much that is not you. There’s just an enormous vast universe of possible intrigue out there and why not pay attention to it? Because then you’re not burdened with trying to find that meaning in yourself all the time.
What do you think? I especially love that example of accepting the incompatible nature of his spouse and seeing how they could “play” with those aspects in order to make a better life together. You can read the full interview here.
(Top photo found here)