Monday, April 07, 2008

The Well-Played Game

I've got a boat load of game books to read. I sent them, one by one, to a friend's house in the U.S. anticipating that I would eventually get there to pick them up. This didn't happen. So after two or three years of this I finally asked him to mail them all to me in Toronto, to take back with me to Israel.

I accidentally acquired duplicates of some of the books. Also, some of the books deal with issues I was dealing with on the blog a long time ago but have since abandoned. So not all the books are useful to me. Luckily I generally buy books used at around $1 or $2 plus shipping.

One of the first I got though is The Well-Played Game, by Bernie DeKoven. The edition that I read is the 1978 edition; the one pictured is apparently an updated edition. Many of you know Bernie from his Major Fun awards or Deep Fun blog. Bernie's been in the play business for a long time. In the 70s he ran his own play center, organized play dates for 250,000 people at a time, and taught and took part in the New Games Foundation. I met him for lunch a few months back; he was a real hippie back in the days, and he's still a bit of one today.

The Well-Played Game was written in the 70s, and so is really infused with his hippie mentality and style. Present tense, spiritual, somewhat meandering, and embellished with personal anecdotes, what-ifs, and stories.

The main thrust of the book is that we strive to play "well-played" games which have less to do with winning or rules and more to do with moments of feeling good about our play. One example would be volleying in table tennis without keeping score: a better player might handicap themselves to make it challenging for both players. The book examines the factors that tend to help or hinder this feeling of having played well, both on a personal and communal level.

Two chapters in particular deal with issues about which I don't often read. Chapter 4 examines the way in which games, or play, provide help for players who are stuck, need hints, need to bend the rules, take a time out, or overcome interference. Chapter 6 discusses how games or play end: what happens when someone wants to leave early, loses, wins, or gets eliminated.

It's an interesting and fairly quick read. His lessons about games are metaphorically about life, as well.


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