Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Darker Side of Play

Notes on Chapter 7

I was going to make a new video, but I can't seem to last ten minutes without coughing for five, sooo, you get this (boring) typed post instead.

Chapter 7, The Darker Side of Play, debates whether play can have an underlying thread of cruelty and evil or if by including those very elements means that it is no longer play.  The author states, "When someone is domineering, aggressive, or violent, they are not engaged in true play, no matter what they are doing." He determines that True Play includes a self-handicapping of stronger "players" to make the fun last for all.  When someone deliberately tries to hurt someone (physically or psychologically) they are not meeting the criteria for play especially the desire by ALL to continue the activity.
Stuart Brown talks about how no one has fun when a "poor sport" is not playing well with others and how it can ruin the play for everyone involved. "In play, we learn how to deal with life's wins and losses with grace. In the end, we learn to shake hands and let the emotions go, something that is useful in "real" life as well as games. A poor sport can't do so in either arena."

He also discusses "Play Addicts," specifically the screen-addiction that plagues many people in our modern society.  His major concern is the sedentary and isolating tendencies exhibited by play that revolves around screens: television, computers, handheld video games, cell phone/tablet games, etc; because real-world human interactions are an essential part of psychological health.  The dis-engagement with the natural world prevents development of social nuances that are a big part of maturation in us as a social species. When children are entranced by a TV show, all play stops and the storyline set by the box carries them along for a ride of motionlessness and muteness.  Single-player video games equally hog attention and socially isolate the player.  Wii and Playstation Kinect are still too new to know if and how much they will "change the game" (pun intended.)

Another concern with screen-based entertainments, is the dis-use of creating things with the hands. So much of human play is through discovering with the hands, part of our genetic nature and a big way our brains develop.

This section was fairly small in the book, but I think it is one of the most important issues with our technological advances.  My brother-in-law and I argue about this at every family gathering, I say that kids need to unplug more and play outside and make things and he argues that he is perfectly fine and spent most of his childhood beating Nintendo games and playing on the computer.  But he doesn't realize how much physical education he had in school that children do not have now. We (my sisters, brothers-in-law and me) went to school through the late 80s, the 90s and early 2000s.  We had a half a day of Kindergarten, which consisted of learning to recognize our name, enumerate, recite our address, know our colors, and lots of gross motor play in the form of group dance/singing, recess, and gym. It included a Rest time and a snack.   1st-4th grade we had a 10-15minute morning recess, a 20 minute lunch recess and either afternoon recess or PE class that was between 30-45minutes, in addition to playing gross-motor classroom games like Silent Ball and 7Up. My sisters and I even had lunch recess through eighth grade! 
Currently, I know of many elementary schools where there is one recess per day (usually after lunch) and the Michigan state requirement for Elementary PE is 150 minutes/week (that is 30 minutes/day) and Secondary is 225 minutes/week (45 minutes/day) (  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6–17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.External Web Site Icon Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2008.) I'm not saying that technology is bad.  I have a Blog for Pete's Sake!), or that children shouldn't play computer/video games (I am a Tetris Whiz and I can't tell you how many times I have "died of dysentery" on the Oregon Trail! Let alone my amazing music video for Jump in Line when I managed the band Volume Control on Math for the Real World! Or my As-of-this-moment-no-longer-secret obsession with Sushi Cat!  But I also work out, and play outside with kids (currently in the snow) and build block towers and crash cars into them (with the kids I watch), and read, read, read! I create artwork and Peg People as gifts or projects.

The above video is a project from my Non-Western Lit Class.  The Photo Below is of Peg People I presented as gifts to the Royalty (from 3 Kingdoms) in my Medieval Re-Creation group last summer.

I realized I've digressed from the original topic a bit, but I agree with the author in that when Play becomes an obsession or a compulsion or harmful to others, it is no longer Play. Because Play is fun.

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