I've been hitting this standard frequently, but I'm having trouble developing unique answers for it. Here's the problematic evidence: Fun! – adhering to rules isn’t uncritical faith in them – it cultivates an ethos of play that breeds respect for the world outside us and helps navigate existence ethically. Fun is an impact! It’s not just some vacuous sense of enjoyment, but cultivates a joyous approach to the world that lets value to life flourish – not one they can access through transgressing the rules.Bogost 16 [ian, holds a joint professorship in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication and in Interactive Computing in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Chair in Media Studies “Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games’ pg. 115-120] JCH-PF
Play entails a paradox: it is an activity of freedom and pleasure and openness and possibility, but it arises from limiting freedoms rather than expanding them. The boundaries of a playground, the contents contained within them. Their structures. Colloquial senses of game, play, and fun would hold that these activities amount to going outside the boundary of normal behavior, of doing whatever you want: “Don’t play with your food” or “stop fooling around.” But in fact the opposite is true: interesting play experiences arise from more constraints rather than fewer. Erecting barriers and boundaries more clearly delineates a system. As Bernard Suits puts it, play requires its participants to accomplish something “using only means permitted by rules, where the rules prohibit more efficient in favor of less efficient means, and where such rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity.” 21 Normally, we address a play experience like my daughter’s either as if it were separate from the trip to the mall or as if it were perpetrated in the service of the errand I had dragged her along on. On the one hand, we could construe my daughter’s activity as a distraction from the “real” work of running errands and therefore existing outside the domain of mall going, a play activity meant to release the boredom and unrest of being somewhere unpleasant. On the other hand, we could see her improvised play as a welcome and even a necessary distraction to help facilitate the rest of the afternoon’s errands. The first interpretation assumes the work-play differential— that the work of chores exists nearby but orthogonal to the play that would divert a young child from boredom. The second interpretation invokes the productive repurposing of play as a means to pleasure or sanity, a resource to be put to use in the interest of “real” effort. The truth is stranger than either option. My daughter’s game isn’t a distraction from errands, nor is it a mechanism to make errands possible. Instead, it’s an activity made out of errands and other things too, like legs and ceramic tiles, in the same way golf is made out of grass and sand and rubber and wood— and leisure and wealth and zoning. A playground. While Huizinga’s examples of the play element in culture are far weightier than shopping, the profundity of war and politics and the like can hide the ubiquity of play. Play isn’t only an activity whose surprising uses can be found in serious, consequential activity. It is also a condition of the world, everywhere we look, available to us should we choose to see it— and even if we don’t. PLAY IS THE WORK OF WORKING SOMETHING An apparatus or experience fashioned by the boundaries of a magic circle is not necessarily a “game” or a “toy.” After all, a highway system or a family budget has as many constraints as Monopoly or Super Mario Bros. Instead of calling everything a game, we should think of everything as playable: capable of being manipulated in an interesting and appealing way within the confines of its constraints. All media are playable when we look at them in the right light. And that light need not entail the total reform of our educational system, as Gray implies, and it need not [or] signal the resolution of insufferable institutional autocracy, as Sicart suggests. Rather, play is the work of operating a subset of the world, one separated from itself via the circumscription of the magic circle. The playground offers another perspective on the ironoiac madness of its mirror image, the protective encasing symbolized by the plastic sofa cover. By enclosing and encapsulating objects of experience, irony protects us from them, but in so doing it removes them from possible experience. Malls and school and food and everything else are transformed into motifs rather than cohorts. The best we can do with them is to emblazon them on T-shirts or tweets or Tumblrs, to use them as catalogs of insufficiency, bestiaries of lost opportunities. On first blush, ironic circumscription looks similar to tracing the magic circle, to erecting a playground. A thing arises, cheeseburger-flavored Pringles or espresso machines or a Frisbee, and it preoccupies the attention of its observer. That thing is isolated, then contained within the security of irony’s seemingly impregnable blister pack. Inevitably, irony’s makeshift prison doesn’t hold, and both the object and its prison prove untrustworthy, demanding new enclosure. And irony’s gambit continues on ever larger scales, never offering succor but only increasingly larger and more cumbersome enclosures. But there’s a difference between the ironic and the playful circumscription. The former holds the object at arm’s length— beyond arm’s length, really, far enough to defuse it as a threat, and in so doing shields the ironist from all possible encounter. Irony is the playground circumscribed but then abandoned. Encounter leads to potential disappointment or betrayal. Better to treat everything as a threat, to trust nothing, to experience nothing save involvement with distrust itself. Confinement, regulation, and control characterize ironic circumscription. And like all good prisons, the ironoiac’s object of mistrust is caged, isolated from its warden so to hold its savagery at bay. Who knows what potato chips and roadways and lawns might do if unleashed? By contrast, the playground includes the observer as a member. It fashions the would-be ironist into a participant— whether as operator or observer— but still maintains the tenuousness of that involvement. Like a chalk line on pavement, the playground knows that it is arbitrary and temporary, flexible and negotiable. Play takes ironic detachment and transforms it into the conditions that bring about the experience it makes possible. Play refuses to presume that the golf course or the shopping center is reasonable or even desirable, a legitimate and certain source of basic operation, let alone success or meaning or joy. Instead, it merely asks what might be possible when things like fairways and malls are encountered by human agents. The playful stance is the opposite of the ironic one: an embrace of the thing in question rather than a rejection of it. But not because play is more earnest or sincere, and not because it represents the free and liberated will of the player, whose volition elects the play experience instead of some other, less desirable labor or chore. For the ironoiac, the threat of an object’s insufficiency produces paralysis. But for the player, this insufficiency is assumed from the start, as a necessary condition of play. Play is impossible without restriction— not doing what you want, but determining what is possible to do given the meager resources provided. Play and the resulting effect we call fun are not loose human actions and emotions. They are created in conjunction with external objects. To experience fun, we must shift our reference from the joy or enjoyment we have come to expect from play, and instead understand play as a condition of objects and situations. Things are at play more so than we play with them. And when we encounter things that are subject to play, we need not subsume them into the domain of toys or games or playthings or other mere amusements, but we might instead simply allow them to be exactly what they are. Indeed, perhaps viewing them as [such] what they are is the only way we can truly allow objects, situations, events, people, communities, and anything else to produce pleasure. Not by subsuming or capturing them, and not by deluding ourselves into believing that we are exerting our own control, creativity, and disruption over them. But rather by addressing each thing for what it is, while all the while acknowledging that anything is not entirely ours to address in the first place. If fun is an admiration for the absurd arbitrariness of things, play is the process by which we arrive at that respect. Play is an activity, but even more so it’s a material property of all objects— from guitars to steering columns to malls to lawns to language to, well, games— and fun is a sensual quality that emanates from them when we touch these things in the right way. Discovering, choosing, managing, and living with what’s inside a particular playground— that’s where fun, and where meaning, resides.