Play: A Simple Introduction
by Kurt Refling and Jesse Fletcher
I like to play games. Sometimes it is hard to explain why I like to play them because people think that it is funny that I play games even though I am a grown-up. Sometimes it is hard to explain why I like to play them because the games I like can be very hard to understand. I wanted to make something easy to understand. This is why I like to play games, using the ten hundred most used words*.
I like to think. Thinking is something I do every day. This is because I have to think to keep being alive, but also because I have to think for my job, to get money, which I use to keep being alive.
Other people who have to think for their job sometimes tell me that they do not want to do more thinking when they are not doing their job. I understand. If we did the same thing all the time, it would not be very fun to do anymore.
But I like to think, even when I am not doing my job. I like to think about new ways to fix pretend problems. I like to look for new and special ways that pretend problems can be fixed. If I am lucky, I might find a way to fix a problem that I have never thought of before! Even though the problems are not real, that makes me happy. It makes me more happy than if the problems were real, because it is okay if I do not find a way to fix them.
It is fun to think.
In most games, you can win. Sometimes you can win by yourself. Sometimes you can win together. Winning is not really important, but I like to do it anyway.
Winning feels good because it is possible that you will not win. Maybe you do not win because someone thinks of a better way to fix the pretend problems. Maybe everyone works together, but the game is too hard, or you were not fast or good enough to find a way to win. That is okay. If there is no way to lose, you know you will win. Knowing is not as exciting as not knowing. This is because not knowing things is where “exciting” comes from.
Sometimes you play a game you know you will win. Maybe that is because your friend is trying the game for the first time. Maybe it is because you and your friends are good at different things. That is okay too, because there is a new way to win. You can win because you shared something special with your friend, or because you found a new way to fix a pretend problem, and that makes you happy. These things are not really winning, but they are still important, and they can feel the same way winning feels.
Sometimes, it is fun to win.
Every game is different, but every game is also the same. It is funny that games can be two things that do not go together, but I will explain.
Games are different because they all tell you special ways you have to do things. Every game has things you have to do, and things you are not allowed to do. Since these things are different in every game, they are what make every game special. But that is not the only thing that makes games different.
Games are also different because they look different from each other. Some games are very pretty, and have art that tells stories to help you pretend. Other games have no art at all, because they want you to think about the things you have to do instead of a story. That is okay. Not every game has to tell a story, because the things you have to do tell a kind of story too.
Because every game is different, it is exciting to learn new games! When you play a new game, you get to imagine new stories, or fix new pretend problems.
But games are also the same. All games have pretend problems that you have to fix. Many games have stories that feel like other stories, or share some of the same things you have to do. That is okay. Things that are the same feel safe. Trying new things is easier when you feel safe. So it is good that games are the same, even though it is important to try things that do not feel safe sometimes.
It is exciting to try new things.
There are many, many new things in the world. People make things so fast that it feels like a problem that we will not see all of them. Sometimes, it is hard to do an old thing again when you could be doing a new thing instead. But doing an old thing again is good.
When you do an old thing, you remember how it feels. You remember the things you thought before, and the people you thought them with. It feels good to do something that has been done many times before. It feels like being a part of something.
Doing old things is also important because you can get better at doing them. When you remember the things you thought before, sometimes you will find a new way to think. Sometimes you will find new ways to do things, too. This is strange! You are the same person, with the same brain. You are doing the same thing. But something different happens! What a special surprise. That is the feeling of getting better.
It feels good to get better at things.
When you read a book, or watch a movie, you are playing pretend. Not everyone understands that they are playing pretend. People like to explain that we do not really believe movies and books are real. That is true. But a small part of us is pretending that they are, so we can feel the feelings these things make us feel. It is important to pretend, because these feelings can teach us things. Of course, they are also fun.
Games are a special kind of pretend, because we are not just watching. We are doing something! When we pretend while we play, we become something new. I am not a soldier, or the leader of another world. But when I play, I can pretend to be all kinds of things. I can pretend to be almost anything, if I want to. Games let us become something new, even for just a little while.
Playing pretend is so important that some games are only about pretending. No one wins! The only reason that people play is to pretend to be something different with their friends. We still call these games, even though no one wins. I wonder if we call them that because they let us play pretend.
It is fun to pretend.
I love my friends. I like to tell them stories, and hear the stories that they tell me. But sometimes it is nice to have a different way of talking to friends.
Because games tell us things we have to do, they give us new ways of spending time with people we know. There are things we can do, and things we are not allowed to do. This means that I am not allowed to tell the story about my cat again, which my friends have heard many times already. Instead, we all make a new story together. We might tell this story to our other friends, or it might be a special story for only us.
I like to write little stories about every game I play. I like to write about who I played them with, and funny things that happened. But even if I did not write about these stories, I would be happy that they happened.
It can be hard to see friends, even though you love them. Games give us new chances to see people we care about, and to make new stories with them.
It is good to see friends.
--Kurt Refling and Jesse Fletcher