There’s a school of thought that says play is merely the rehearsal, the dry run.
It’s true. The lion cub play-fights with its mother so that when it’s kicked out of the den it can fend for itself – the family rough-housing having built valuable bite and tear muscle memory.
The kitten stalks the twizzling string, back scooped to the ground so that, when it comes to catching a real mouse, it knows how to carry itself in coiled silence.
Western children play Monopoly to experience the thrill and chase and hollow endgame of capitalism, to begin to understand how the world around them operates, from beauty contest to real estate to jail.
We play Tetris to feel the quiet joy of clearing a problem, to improve at staving off the inevitability of our ultimate failure, that moment we can no longer cope with what is asked of us; a very Soviet kind of death.
Play is so often about learning, and often the most enduring, most successful games are those that we can continue to learn from over months, decades. The game that has nothing left to teach us is usually the game no longer played.
But to claim games are merely there to ready us for reality is too narrow a definition, too stifling, medicinal even.
There is also play for play sake, a way to make the universe more interesting, to stave off the mundane. There’s a type of play where there is no need for the illusion of accomplishment, where the verb of playing is enriching enough without the need for its prouder cousin, learning.
We’re two weeks too late to the following video, but it warrants sharing nonetheless.
It’s not trying to sell you a video game or to inspire investment in a Kickstarter venture. It’s not trying to preach to you about some shortcoming in the medium or its audience.
It’s really not trying to do anything. And in this way it succeeds in reminding us why play for play’s sake is so beautiful, so honest, so blissfully pointless. It reminds us that play not only makes life inside the brutal miracle that is existence bearable, but also makes it enjoyable.