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What is Play?

Mindy Lu's picture

What is Play?

Yijing Lu

When I am reading that part of the definition of “play” in Critical Play by Mary Flanagan, many experience and ideas of my trips to Philadelphia jump into my brain. I never tried to make any relationship between my experience of play and theories from books before. However, I have to admit that it is exciting and meaningful to combine some definitions and actions to achieve something new of feedback.


  “Play is a notoriously difficult concept to define; it is a culturally and socially specific idea.”

  I agree with this opinion. “Play” is an abstract word that can be considered as games of various sorts, or can be treated as kinds of actions for fun. In this sentence above, the author mentions “culturally” and “socially”, and I want to add one more word “personally”, because in my opinion, “play” can be defined by every individuals. For example, playing piano can be a kind of “play” for people who are good at or enjoy it, but it also can be a kind of torment for a poor girl who is compelled to learn piano by her strict mother. In other words, if you like, everything can be a kind of playing --working can be a kind of playing, because you may get a sense of achievement; studying can be a kind of playing, because you may enrich your knowledge; reading can be a kind of playing, because you may widen your horizon; and, even sleeping can be a kind of playing, because you may have an amazing dream!

  During both of my trips to Philadelphia, which were both at weekend, I noticed that so many people were playing in the city by their own ways. In my eyes, the people who were sitting in the library and reading the books that they were interested in were playing with the sea of books; the people who were walking on the grassland and breathing the fresh air were playing with the nature; the people who were shopping with their best friends in the markets were playing just like in the computer game “Finding Treasures” with teammates; and, of course, there were also children who were playing games with their parents in the magic gardens, which could be considered as the usual understanding of “play”.


  Play is an integral and vital part of mental development and learning, and playful activities are essential aspects of learning and creative acts.

  When I read this sentence, I think about the view of the Moore College of Art and Design, a college with galleries I visited during my first trip in center city, which the pictures I inserts shows-- such art works are all made by students in the College. Watching their works, I could even image the frames, in which, they not only developed their skills of art creation, but also had fun by playing with the art materials.

  The first picture I insert is an artwork made of paper cards, which may be considered as a kind of interior design. I was amazed when I found this little room, because I felt the room was full of creativity and imagination. By cutting and assemble the pieces of picture of monsters, the artist successfully created a wonderland just like some scenes in cartoon movies. As far as I concerned, the process of creating this work can be considered as a playful activity and creative acts.

  Actually, I also found an amazing mosaic during my first trip instead of the trip to the magic gardens. I show it in my second picture—a wall of art works by students in that college. Every piece of that mosaic is fabric work, and represents different inspiration and art style, which combine into a mosaic of playful arts. My favorite one has been showed in my third picture, a vase of flowers. Different fabrics with different patterns turned into flowers, vase and the background, and I guess the artist really enjoyed the whole process of creating.


  Combining my experience of my two trips to Philadelphia and the content of the book, I feel some of the meaning of “play”, only “some” but it is very interesting and exciting. I am looking forward my third trip to the city and explore more new things and surprises.



tflurry's picture

Nice Connections

I like how you tie together your first two trips into Philly, and you do a very thorough job tying your paper in with Flannagan. I love the pictures and the connections you make, too!

My one question for you is in regard to your first quote; while I agree that play is cultural, social and personal on a personal level, I look at that sentence and start thinking more culturally. If the canvas you are looking at is culture-sized, do you still think play is a personally defined term? If you do, how do the different personal play definitions interact? If you do not, then at what level does play become personal?

natschall's picture

Yijing separates her essay

Yijing separates her essay into four parts by her use of quotes. She sets up an introduction, then analyzes each chosen quote under that "heading". She considers whether or not she agrees with what the quote is saying, then compares it to her own findings in the city. She found many playful things in the city, all of which she felt related to Flanagan's definition of play. Because Flanagan's definition was so broad and unspecific, Yijing has many opportunities (that she took advantage of) to discuss the different aspects of play.

tomahawk's picture

Yijing sets two of Flanagan’s

Yijing sets two of Flanagan’s quotes (one about the definition of play and the other about the importance of play) apart from her work. She not only does this by italicizing them, but also by separating the quotes from her own writing. In doing so, she splits her writing into two sections and gives each section a title. Then, beneath the quotes, Yijing reflects on her personal experiences. Many of these experiences are observances that Yijing made in the city. Instead of narrowing in on one experience, Yijing writes of many. In effect, she elaborates on Flanagan’s beliefs that play is hard to define and that play is a significant part of creativity and education. In doing so, Yijing agrees with the concepts from both of Flanagan’s quotes.