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Play as Experience

Henricks, T.S. (2015). Play as Experience. American Journal of Play, 8, 18-49.

In this article Henricks explores what emotive effects play has on the subject and how emotions change through the process of play. There are focuses on play as action and play as interaction weaved throughout the article and it draws on a range of disciplines to explore the subjective experiences of the player. The article is situated in psychology and an understanding of how emotion is effected by play and how play effects emotion as a complex dialogical relationships between player and play contexts. The article leverages affect to explore the interplays between subjects, objects and play contexts.

Useful Quotes

“When we play, we knowingly enter, inhabit, and put into action complicated forms of being (Simmel 1971) or frames of perception (GoŒman 1974).” (p. 20)

“This latter theme is especially prominent in the theories of Brian Sutton-Smith (see Sutton-Smith and Kelly-Byrne 1984), who argue that play is commonly not a straight-ahead or ‘progressive’ development of already established traits but a more rebellious project that challenges recognized values and authority agures and explores uncharted behaviors.” (p. 20)

“All creatures, so I argue, are preoccupied with their own standings in situations, that is, with “where” they are and with “what” they can do from that location (see Henricks 2015). The simplest animals participate in these processes primarily through sudden, reflexive adjustments to proximate environmental changes. More complicated animals maintain an awareness that they are somehow distinct or separate from the world in which they live. These creatures are consciously able to appraise their own internal functioning, to direct actions in response to these appraisals, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions they select.” (p. 22)

“When we play, we separate physical activity from its customary (e.g., bodily) necessities. At the same time, ideas are taken down from their lofty premises to be applied in real, material settings. In such ways, players hypothetically re-create the conditions of life. they inhabit a
“world of appearance in the insubstantial kingdom of the imagination” (128
[italics, Schiller’s])” (p. 28)

“play gives people opportunities to explore the cultural regimes in which they live and to examine the repercussions of their own standings before others.” (p. 33)

“In play, people imaginatively re-create circumstances that evoke these feelings and support their related behaviors, albeit in socially protected forms. In addition, they willingly expose themselves to the potential harms (as well as benefits) of socially regulated involvements.” (p. 33)

“We play to learn the many possibilities of the world and to develop skills for addressing whatever lies ahead.” (p. 34)

“The description of play activities as carefully bounded worlds characterized by equilateral exchanges of participants and deep subjective engagement forms a very important theme in play theory” (p. 38)

“in play people conceive possibilities for their own actions in the world. These are implemented, evaluated, and refined. Often, modifications occur as sudden adjustments to situational shifts. Pointedly, and as I noted earlier, play sometimes takes the form of studied, careful manipulation of a relatively inert object world. It may also emerge as a pattern of resistance or rebellion against the world or, differently again, as a more distant (or marginal) exploration by the imagination. Finally, it frequently occurs as the pattern of dialogical engagement or interchange” (p. 42)

“Viewed in this context, play’s special gift is to expand and solidify people’s awareness of their ability to construct creatively and monitor the terms of their own lives.” (p. 42)

“players initially try to unsettle worldly circumstances and, almost immediately, and themselves unsettled by the world’s response to their assertions. I call these feelings of unsettlement, exploration, and disorder fun. At least they are fun when they conform to players’ own guidelines regarding the character and consequences of uncertain processes. Upon the conclusion of each play burst, there are times (sometimes, mere instants) for consolidation and appraisal. These are said to involve feelings of restoration and order that I
call exhilaration, the sense of being pleasurably spent or played out.” (p. 43)

Further Reading

Henricks, T. (2015) Play and the Human Condition

Published inPhD