Adult Play: Game-on and Keep Young

For adults, the benefits of play—the games of childhood and beyond—are enlightening and exciting.

| October 2013

The Well-Played Game (The MIT Press, 2013) is as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1978. Author Bernard De Koven explores the inner workings of games—how they work and the affect they have on their gamers. In this excerpt newly written for the 2013 edition, Mr. De Koven recounts the defining moments in his understanding of adult play, and the simple joy of once again playing the simple games of childhood.

The Benefits of Play

The 35 years that have passed since the initial publication of this book have brought with them a new universe for us to play in: the friends and neighbors with whom we work and play every day live down the street and across the globe; the things that entertain and inform us are interconnected; our toys talk to us and to each other. And yet, adult play and the games described in this book are just as much fun today as they were when I wrote about them. And given the opportunity and permission to play them, our differences are healed, our spirits ignited—just like they were for the people who played them before us. And understanding what makes them fun and how we keep them fun is just as valuable in understanding our lives in the shadows of Occupy Wall Street as it was in the light of the Human Be-In. The Well-Played Game is about an experience that transcends games, just as the games you’ll be reading about transcend the historical, geographic, social, and physical circumstances that divide us. It is not about any particular game, but about the spirit of play itself. Nor is it about any particular individual player, but about the relationship between players in pursuit of fun.

While The Well-Played Game was being written, we were still recovering from our “action” in Vietnam and the resignation of Nixon. We were for the most part disenfranchised from our government, but not our country. Some of us were seeking alternatives, others creating them.

We didn’t have computers, but we had arcades where we found community and computer-mediated wonders and new worlds to master.

We had drugs, only then we thought they were a gateway to a spiritual community, serving as an ecumenical Eucharist with which we shared the brief but beautiful belief that all we really needed was love.