Discussions about play are too often blindsided by a lack of common language, a very narrow understanding of play, and a belief that play is only relevant if assimilated into the current paradigm as simple instruments with measurable and predictable outcomes.

Because of this, many people don’t consider play to be “for them”, and many conversations are riddled with stereotypes and misunderstandings.

I think we need something else. We need a different way of framing play.

What we really need is a big, bold, far-reaching vision for play, an unmistakable argument, and an understanding that can never be reduced to popular categories like children’s play, playgrounds, toys or games. We need a vision that encompasses all of us, spans entire societies and engages in the most foundational negotiation of meaning and purpose. Looking at play like this, it becomes a moral compass, a philosophy, a way of life and even a new PLAY PARADIGM to challenge and transform the current shape and course of the world.

This is the essence of CounterPlay: we transform ourselves and society by being playful.

What does this mean? How is play transformative?

IN PLAY, we are seeking the sheer joy and pleasure inherent to a playful mood, and we increase our quality of life by playing. In a playful state of mind, we are allowed and able to smile and laugh, even in the face of adversity.

IN PLAY, we are open to the infinite complexity of the world and the diverse experiences it brings. We are actively participating, exploring other ways of being, as we transform ourselves and the world in a constant movement back and forth, where we are not seeking equilibrium or perfection, but rather the possibility space of the imperfect.

IN PLAY, we negotiate meaning and purpose through social interaction and play becomes an exercise in empathy and in designing a meaningful way to be together.

IN PLAY, we ask questions, our imagination awakens, we can escape the confines of cognitive patterns and engage in an act of creative expression.

IN PLAY, we embrace unpredictability and the unknown becomes a catalyst for curiosity. We are resilient, not deterred by failure, but inspired by it, and we we are not afraid of danger or risk, but attracted to examining the mechanics of fear.

IN PLAY, nothing is necessary, but anything is possible when we reconfigure power structures and challenge conventions. By asking questions, moving to the edge, pushing boundaries, play is rebellious.

These are some of the traits that makes play so important in every aspect of our lives, but this is only where the conversation begins…so what am I missing?

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Mathias Poulsen

I think a playful mindset is essential for us to live better lives together. I organise the CounterPlay Festival to cultivate a #playfulsociety.

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