Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Play with Friends

Amy Ma's picture

After reading the introduction of Critical Play, I started to question if I played critically in Philly. I think the answer is no. According to Flanagan, “critical play means to create or occupy play environments and activities that represent one or more questions about aspects of human life.” During the visit in Zagar’s Magic Garden, I didn’t really think about how this shining and beautiful garden is related to human life. Instead, I just took time to enjoy being surrounded by mosaics, telling my groups how incredible it is, and taking interesting photos with them. Besides the Magic Garden itself, being with my group is the part I liked the most. I have thought about how it would be if I was there myself. Could I have spent one hour there?  Probably not: it is such a small garden actually. But I think I did play “ …the use of play forms as forms of bonding, including the exhibition and validation or parody of membership and traditions in a community.”, Flanagan puts this sentence in Critical Reading. With my group, I did play.


Before our trips to Philly, Professor Anne and Mark would ask us to find our partners, find a group to be with in the city. Basically, our professors want us to be safe: it is usually safer to walk with a few classmates than with oneself. I knew we won’t get lost, or even if we get lost we will find the way, because some of us seem to have great sense of directions. I know if any of us get into any troubles, all of us will help. According to Critical Play, “By playing together, people form close communities and develop a group identity and a sense of belonging.” There is a sense of belonging during the trip with our group, With them, Philly became a more suitable and more comfortable place for play because it is safer, which is a fundamental element that enabled me to play; if I don’t feel safe, I don’t think I can play.


 In addition, a trip with a group of people is just more fun. Pointing at interesting faces and shapes on the wall in Magic Garden, we showed each other the fun things we discovered there. In our first trip to Philly, we went to Urban Outfitters and I found some cute iPhone cases there. By asking the classmates in my group about their opinions on those cases, I finally decided which one to buy. When I am shopping, it would be good if there are a few friends with me. I ask them for suggestions, and I sometimes try fun clothes to make them laugh. Without these people, shopping would just be buying something you need; and with them, it would be having fun.


I played LOL(League of Legends) and QQ Tang(an online games)with four of my friends every Saturday night when I was in China. After I came to United States, due to the time difference, it is difficult to find a time that works for all of us. Then I stopped playing these games. It is not because I am too busy to spend one hour on game every week, it is because without my friends I find the game not as fun as it was.


At the end of this essay, I find it is not just play that form close communities and develop a group identity and a sense of belonging. A close community or a sense of belonging also enables us to play. It is with the people you know and you love that makes us able to play, to enjoy, to reflect on myself by hearing different ideas from mine.


There is a saying. I forget who told me this, and I can’t remember the exact sentence.

“What do you need on a really really long journey?”

“You just need one friend.”


Anne Dalke's picture

play as community-making (and community enablng play)

Your clear center here is play as community-making (and community as enabling play)—very nice! Let’s trace the playful strategies you use to organize this argument: how is it structured? How much on the “grid,” how much “deviation”? (Like several of your classmates, you begin w/ the move “I had an experience, and then, after reading, I started to question how I understood what happened to me…”)

One of your strong claims is “if I don’t feel safe, I don’t think I can play.” Let’s talk about the counter position: can you ever be “too” safe? Too secure? To play? Where/how to find the limit?

And let’s talk about “play” vs. “critical play”—how do you understand the difference? Might any of your activities be classified as the latter? Can you “zoom in” on that topic for next week? What authors or other experiences might help you think in this direction? (please give page #s when you cite then, and also a Works Cited list @ the end…)

Juneau's picture

Amy felt that she did not

Amy felt that she did not play critically in the city. She used her experiences and Flanagan's definitions to argue that she played, but not critically. Amy focuses on the aspect of community in playing, and how her friends can shape her play.

Claire Romaine's picture

Amy begins with the argument

Amy begins with the argument that her particular experience in Philadelphia did not involve critical play, but through out the course of her essay begins to reevaluate and shape that initial conclusion.  She illustrates how her friends influence the experience she has and shae it into a form of play regardless of whether it can be considered 'critical', and how it becomes monumentally more difficult to play the fewer people you can share the experience with.