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Play Shouldn't Be This Complicated

Leigh Alexander's picture

Play Shouldn’t Be This Complicated

The Unknown began their last paper with “According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary play means, ‘to do activities for fun or enjoyment’ (Merriam Webster Dictionary 1). Though this definition sounds positive, I wonder, ‘Who's fun? Whose enjoyment?’” I think that this —what really is important about play—is a valid question to consider and it is a topic of constant debate in the many sources we’ve recently been reading.

The Unknown also begs the question of how involved parents should be in the play of their children.  Some studies hint that restrictive parenting leads to restrictive play and that restrictive play isn’t truly play at all but is instead something entirely unbeneficial to human character, asserting that not playing, or not playing “well” (according to the standards of whomever is speaking at the time) will lead children on a path towards “violent behavior” (“Transcript”). Other sources comment on how “Parents bemoan the fact that kids don’t play the way they themselves did — or think they did” (Marantaz Henig). These sources, in calling for the absolute freedom of play, preach the benefits of play such as learning “adult skills” like leadership, understanding, quick-thinking and adaptivity. 

Yet other sources call specifically for a restraint in play.  The Unknown questions where one should “raw the line between play and harm” suggesting that crossing it involves “someone or something...being physically, emotionally, or mentally afflicted,” (Unknown).  This contrasts the idea of unrestricted play, especially if one considers the concept of unrestricted play explored in the excerpt by multiple authors entitled “Playing in Industrial Ruins,” where the writers comment on the emotional benefits of playing in the ruins of old buildings and allowing yourself to freely interact with and destroy the area around you for the sole purpose of play. 

However, the piece entitled “Ravens at Play” by multiple authors suggests a similar type of restraint in interactions as The Unknown does.  One of the speakers, a woman named Rose comments on her strong desire to feed a coyote, and her companion’s strict instructions not to.  Stuart urged her to remember the, “longer term consequences of engaging in a relationship [they] wouldn't be there to sustain,” despite the fact that Rose’s “urge to feed him was overwhelming,” (Rose). 

The question which then arises is how can one tell when one is doing more harm than good? When are we playing in a way that is wrong or damaging? According to Teju Cole, we should do nothing without inquiring into all of the possible effects our actions could have on those around us—the same restraint Rose’s companion, Stuart, suggested.

My question is if we act always so cautiously, and always with such restraint are we really playing at all? Being fearful of our every action, though it may sound responsible, hardly seems like living.  For major decisions I do believe that some possible repercussions should be noted, yet, isn’t the definition of play “activities done for out enjoyment?”

With constant consideration and reconsideration regarding the pros and cons and do’s and don’ts of play, people are not being confined by societal expectations, laws or customs, but instead are only being retained by themselves.   We should not let he world fall into a state of reckless chaos, but to truly play and interact with the world we live in, shouldn’t we step out on a limb and explore? I have trouble believing that play could ever be a science, despite what some essays claim and if becomes one, I hardly believe that we would be able to call it “play” any longer.  In my opinion to claim that one avenue of play will lead to the rewards of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and another way will lead to future “violent behavior” as a rule, seems to specific to apply to the world as a whole.  With so many variables in human life how can we be sure that a change in play leads to a drastically different way of life? Humanity is hardly a safe control group.

The Unknown asks where one draws the line between positive and negative play, and I think that the answer to that is that we will never really know.  We cannot truly define anything for anyone but ourselves.  Everyone has a personal definition for what they believe play is, just as everyone has their own opinions of what food is good, what people are nice, and which are the worst songs currently in the Top 20.  We can assert our own personal beliefs as much as we want but we should not expect to convert people to our perspectives or discredit the opinions of others. Everyone likes to play in different ways, why shouldn’t it just be left at that?








Works Cited

Edensor, Tim, Bethan Evans, Julian Holloway, Steve Millington, and Jon Binnie. "Playing in Industrial Ruins." Serendip. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. </oneworld/system/files/EdensorPlayingFORSCREENREADER.pdf>.

Marantz Henig, Robin. "Children and Youth- Play." New York Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. <>.

Rose, Deborah Bird, Stuart Cooke, and Thom Van Dooren. "Ravens at Play." Serendip. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. </oneworld/system/files/RoseRavensFOSCREENREADER.pdf>.

"Transcript: Stuart Brown - Play, Spirit, and Character." On Being. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. <>.

Unknown, The. "Who's Fun? Who's playing?." Serendip. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2014. </oneworld/changing-our-story-shifting-identities-altering-environments/whos-fun-whos-playing>.