60 episodes

Daniel and Kevin explore the meaning of play for human flourishing – what it is, what it means, and how people create and maintain playful lives. We explore books, people, places, and ideas committed to engendering play in the midst of busy, working lives.

Play Saves the World Daniel Hilty & Kevin Taylor

    • Leisure
    • 4.6 • 11 Ratings

Daniel and Kevin explore the meaning of play for human flourishing – what it is, what it means, and how people create and maintain playful lives. We explore books, people, places, and ideas committed to engendering play in the midst of busy, working lives.

    Wired for Play

    Wired for Play

    Previously, We Discussed How Play is Non-Instrumental, Voluntary, and Unnecessary. And yet, as will discover this episode, it is a necessity for human flourishing. It is the "necessary unnecessity."


    Playfulness is ubiquitous for animal life


    Playfulness in Ubiquitous to Human Experience Since the Beginning - For Adults Too



    Royal Game of Ur (2500 BC)
    Barbara Ehrenreich - Dancing in the Streets - A History of Collective Joy
    Herodotus - Games invented in Lydia (450 BC)
    Chess, Go, Backgammon, Mancala - Africa, Asia, Middle East
    Alfonso's Book of Games (1283)


    Playfulness is Behind Creativity and Cultural Advancement



    Steven Johnson - Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World
    Banu Musa Brothers (9th century Baghdad)
    Merlin's Magical Museum (Thomas Denton, 18-19th century England)
    Punchcards lead to looms lead to computer programming


    Play is Essential for Human Development



    Dr. Stuart Brown has written and taught extensively on this topic, discovering that play is essential for emotional, physical, and mental development and health--and that the absence of play can lead to social and emotional challenges later on in life.
    Jonothan Haidt has recently also argued for the importance of free play for human development


    Play is Therefore a Basic Human Right



    J. Drew Lanham - People have fought and died for the right of others to play
    It is not a luxury; it is an essential part of being human
    Dave Bindewald - In the face of suffering, our task is not to marginalize play, but to double-down on its importance.


    Jane McGonigal - Given that We are Wired for Play, How Can We Gamify Life?



    Would probably still define work and play a little differently than she does (she says play is work we enjoy), but she is great at exploring ways to bring elements of play (voluntary, unnecessary obstacles) to work
    What are some examples?
    Quests to do chores
    Tombstone Hold-Em
    Crowdsourcing Research - Three Body Problem
    However, they are still a means to an end.


    So What's Going On Here? If Play is Unnecessary, Why is it Such a Necessity?



    On our next episode, the spiritual necessity of play


    Takeaways


    Play is a universal and essential part of the human experience, not just for children but also for adults.
    Playfulness and play have been present throughout history and across cultures, from ancient games to modern-day fashion and coding.
    Animals also engage in play, demonstrating the innate nature of playfulness.
    Play is a catalyst for human creativity and cultural achievements, shaping our society and civilization.
    Play allows for experimentation, exploration, and the development of new ideas and concepts. Play is a universal and essential part of the human experience.
    Bringing elements of play into other areas of life can lead to increased creativity, team building, and enjoyment.
    Games can be used to crowdsource solutions to complex problems.


    Sound Bites


    "Play is a universal and essential part of the human experience"
    "Animals play on various levels, demonstrating the innate nature of playfulness"
    "Playfulness is a major part of human culture and has shaped our creative and cultural achievements"
    "Energy and capitalism and growth, you know, these new areas and fields inventions come about really through play"
    "You know, can bypass our normal systems"
    "Play is not a luxury. It's an essential part of what it means to be human. It's a human right."


    CALL TO ACTION


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    • 58 min
    What is Play?

    What is Play?

    In this episode, Daniel and Kevin explore the concept of play and its distinction from work. They discuss how play is fundamentally non-instrumental, meaning it is not a means to an end. Play can generate its own purpose and goals, which are often short-lived and inconsequential but deeply meaningful. They reference the work of philosopher Bernard Suits, who argues that our true human identity is as the grasshopper, a playful creature, despite societal pressures to be like the ant, focused on work. Play and games are interconnected, as play requires some structure or rules to create a sense of playfulness. Play is defined as the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles. It is non-instrumental, meaning it is not a means to an end. Play is also unnecessary, but it is essential for human beings. It allows us to be fully human and brings meaning to our lives. Play can be structured or unstructured, but it always involves accepting certain obstacles or rules. It is distinct from work, which is instrumental and necessary for survival. Play is wired into our nature and is a fundamental part of being human.


    Takeaways

    Play is fundamentally non-instrumental, meaning it is not a means to an end
    Play can generate its own purpose and goals, which are often short-lived and inconsequential but deeply meaningful
    Our true human identity is as the grasshopper, a playful creature, despite societal pressures to be focused on work
    Play and games are interconnected, as play requires some structure or rules to create a sense of playfulness Play is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles
    It is non-instrumental and not a means to an end
    Play is unnecessary but essential for human beings
    It can be structured or unstructured, but always involves accepting certain obstacles or rules
    Play is distinct from work, which is instrumental and necessary for survival
    Play is wired into our nature and is a fundamental part of being human


    Sound Bites

    "Play is fundamentally non-instrumental"
    "Play can generate its own end, its own goal"
    "Our true human identity is as the grasshopper"
    "The voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles"
    "It is the necessary unnecessary to be human"
    "Play is without a means to an end"


    Chapters

    00:00 Introduction and Recap
    11:12 The Non-Instrumental Nature of Play
    30:49 Embracing Our Inner Grasshopper
    32:53 Introduction and Dalek Voice
    37:30 The Definition of Play
    45:21 The Essentiality of Play
    54:34 Structured vs Unstructured Play
    56:21 The Distinction Between Play and Work
    59:42 Wired for Play

    • 1 hr 3 min
    What Is Work?

    What Is Work?

    To define what play is, we have to define what work is.
    (This isn’t all that unusual – scholars do it with secular vs. religious, or prose vs. poetry.)


    Work or labor is intentional human activity to support our needs and wants, or those of others or our larger group.


    Work is something we do for another purpose – it is 2-eyed, 1 eye to the activity itself and 1 to its outside result (payment, food, etc.).
    It is a means to an end.


    Work isn’t inherently bad. In the Bible it is implied that humans would work the earth before the Fall. Work is not a result of original sin, but original sin corrupts work, so that the ground is cursed, and there are thorns and thistles in our gardening. We will now sweat to make the bread we must eat.


    In fact, work can be marvelous



    a sense of purpose and contribution and accomplishment
    The pleasure of your earned paycheck for your labor
    The ability to form and improve our world
    The freedom to engage in different kinds of work to support us
    The notion of vocation, that our work might be something God calls us to do with our time and energy


    Work and play are not necessarily opposed to each other



    Sometimes the distinction is said to be productivity, but this isn’t true (e.g., work day with nothing getting done versus Minecraft)
    Jane McGonagal says that play is just work we enjoy
    Brian Sutton-Smith: the opposite of work is depression
    One person’s work can be another person’s play (e.g., computer programming, professional athletes, spreadsheets)
    Work being play would be awesome!!!


    But clearly work can be oppressive



    Some forms of work are oppressive or dangerous – factories, or gig economy with no benefits and vulnerable employment
    Being underpaid because your labor is set by supply and demand
    You might hate your job but are stuck with it because you need the money
    If you cannot work you will have no way to support yourself
    You are vulnerable to work changing, being fired, AI
    The instrumentalization of all things, including our time (Oliver Burkeman)


    When we are only a cog in the machine, when we spend our days only in service to some other goal, then everything become a means to an end, and we never get to the end itself.
    Such instrumentalization also generates a disturbing lack of presence. We are always lost in the future (or sometimes the past), which spiritual traditions (and psychology) tell us are often the causes of restlessness and fear: “do not worry about tomorrow” (Luke 12), Buddhism’s grounding the present



    Protestant work ethic



    A rather strange valuing of work due to Protestant ideas about grace, salvation, and human effort (since you are saved by grace alone but cannot know if you are truly among the elect who are saved, your best hope is to be a good worker in the vague hope that this indicates your salvation, but it cannot actually impact it)
    As a result, we come to tie our sense of self worth and value to our work, to our productivity through work – so if you fail at work you fail at life. We value others based on their wealth and work habits
    Martin Luther King Jr. tied the Protestant Work Ethic to racism and the exploitation of the poor (“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor—both black and white, here and abroad.”)
    This impacts many Western Protestant cultures where one should stay extremely busy and complain about work a lot – don’t take vacation, let work consume you because it’s inherently good to work.


    As a result, we can feel a profound lack of freedom, value, and agency.


    The truth is: work is often overwhelming. It can be good. But it cannot save us. It is not our true purpose.

    • 1 hr
    Live from the Geekway Gaming Convention!

    Live from the Geekway Gaming Convention!

    Daniel and Kevin attended Geekway to the West in St. Charles, Missouri, and bring you this special episode filmed live with their 3,500 best friends. Some special guests join us, and then we share some favorite convention moments and games, along with some special announcements.


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    Interact with us on Instagram
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    • 18 min
    Sam Macdonald on Game Design and Faith

    Sam Macdonald on Game Design and Faith

    Sam Macdonald of Garphill Games discusses his religious journey and board game philosophy. Sam explores the connections between board game design and religious faith, especially in the areas of community, self-expression, rules, fun, and the joy of discovery. We also take a stab at potential games based on Biblical stories.


    Takeaways

    Game design can reflect the heart of God by promoting fellowship, agency, following rules, and having fun.
    The Art of Discovery in games, with hidden gems and Easter eggs, can create a sense of enjoyment and excitement for players.
    Game design can provide opportunities for players to express themselves creatively and explore different strategies.
    Following rules in games and in life can lead to a more peaceful and joyful experience.
    The intersection of games and faith offers unique opportunities for exploration and growth. Finding new strategies and paths to victory in board games can be a fun and rewarding experience.
    The Bible contains hidden meanings and connections between passages that can be discovered through deep reading and study.
    Games can facilitate fellowship and problem-solving, providing a safe environment to solve problems and feel a sense of mastery.
    The art of discovery can also be found in reading scriptures, where the Holy Spirit can illuminate truth to the reader.
    Designing biblical-themed games can be challenging, as it's important to balance creating enjoyable experiences with conveying a message.


    CALL TO ACTION


    Subscribe to our newsletter
    Support us on Patreon
    Interact with us on Instagram
    Discord us Discord
    Chat with us on Wavelength (iOS and MacOS and iPadOS only)
    Links:
    Sam Macdonald - YouTubeGarphill GamesS J Macdonald | Board Game Designer | BoardGameGeekGenesis 14 BSB

    • 1 hr 5 min
    The Spirit of Play

    The Spirit of Play

    The conversation explores the idea that faith is often associated with restrictions and limitations, but it should actually set us free. The Spirit of God works through play and games to bring about freedom. The conversation also touches on the article 'Play and Freedom, Patterns of Life and the Spirit' by Simeon Zahl, which discusses the tension between law and grace in Protestant Christianity. It highlights the need to understand the freedom that comes with the Spirit and the danger of idolizing past patterns of faith. The conversation also delves into the popular notion of destiny and how it can hinder the freedom of the Spirit. In this conversation, Daniel and Kevin discuss the concept of play and its relationship to grace and work. They explore the idea that play is an attitude and an activity that brings joy, freedom, and creativity. They emphasize the importance of play in living a meaningful life and how it can help us overcome the burden of seriousness and unrealistic expectations. They also announce a transition in the podcast to focus on the intersection of play and meaning, with the new name 'Play Saves the World.'


    Soundbites

    "What if the point of faith is to set us free for something better?"
    "The Spirit of God makes freedom a reality through play and games."
    "Is grace something that removes us from the law or empowers us to keep the law?"
    "The spirit is playful, meaning that it causes joy and delight."
    "Play is grace that expresses itself through play."
    "Play is the overcoming of unnecessary obstacles."


    Chapters

    00:00 Introduction: Faith and Freedom
    07:30 The Tension Between Law and Grace
    13:25 The Freedom of the Spirit
    27:56 The Spirit of Play and Freedom
    34:17 The Unimportance of Play's Goals and Purposes
    45:45 Play as an Attitude to Life


    Takeaways


    Faith should set us free rather than restrict us.
    The Spirit of God works through play and games to bring about freedom.
    There is a tension between law and grace in Protestant Christianity.
    Idolizing past patterns of faith can hinder the freedom of the Spirit.
    The popular notion of destiny can limit our understanding of the freedom of the Spirit. Play is an attitude and an activity that brings joy, freedom, and creativity.
    Play helps us overcome the burden of seriousness and unrealistic expectations.
    Play is an essential part of living a meaningful life and being fully human.
    The concept of play can be applied to various aspects of life, not just board games.
    The podcast will transition to focus on the intersection of play and human flourishing, with the new name 'Play Saves the World.'
    Links:
    Colonoscopy prep: Liquid-only diets unnecessary, GI doctor saysPlay and Freedom: Patterns of Life in the Spirit - Zahl - 2024 - International Journal of Systematic Theology - Wiley Online Library

    • 57 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
11 Ratings

11 Ratings

aloha jenny ,

Book Club episode

The Grasshopper discussion made me go searching again for this Brene Brown quote: "The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression." Really thought provoking as I recover from the trauma of working on the Covid wards. And LOVE LOVE LOVE the humor!

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