The (Societal) Importance of Play, a guest post by Brittney Morris
Occasionally, when I’m not picking up toys, wiping noses, and cutting fruit into pieces so small they’re impossible to choke on, I make time for yoga.
Recently, my yoga teacher said something that stuck with me. Something beyond the usual directives to ‘let go of whatever energy you brought with you’ and ‘notice when you’re having a thought and watch it float by on a stream,’ both of which are quite practical meditations. This time, a suggestion: play on the mat.
I was surprised at first. Play? In yoga class? I spend so much of my time cleaning up after play. That’s a parent’s role, right? We follow the rules and keep things in order so our kids don’t have to, at least when they’re little. We know a child’s job is to play, so that they can learn. As parents, we accept that playing and learning are synonymous. But when does that stop?
And who says it has to?
This article isn’t about how to make more time for play or even personal time (or yoga—I’ll let you know when I figure that out). It’s about why play is important, not just to us as individuals, but to the world, and why play is something that should be fostered whenever possible, even when time is scarce.
Reason 1: play is important for all ages. Don’t believe me?
Have you noticed people begin to show who they really are when they’re playing a game? Board games, video games, or even those pesky icebreakers at work. By somewhere in the middle, people are usually laughing, even if icebreaker laughs read like a golf clap.
Games of any kind—and how could I forget sports games—get people to open up. And if authenticity is as important as I believe it is, then games are the future, no? My book THE JUMP takes readers through a high-stakes cryptology game through the city of Seattle, and it touches on topics like environmentalism, corporate power, gentrification, and systemic racism. At the center of this book is a central theme: authenticity, and its importance.
In the book, the antithesis of authenticity lies at the intersection of corporate power and environmentalism in the form of performative greenwashing: a form of advertising spin in which green marketing is used to make an organization’s products or services are environmentally friendly1.
Is it any wonder that such smarmy behavior is brought up against four teenagers playing a game? What could be more powerful than four kids fighting for what they believe in, even when the odds are stacked against them?
This brings me to reason 2: play is revolutionary.
At some point—it’s different for everyone, but often towards the end of the teenage years—that propensity to play is lost.
For me, it was when my parents got divorced. I was sixteen. It wasn’t the divorce itself—I’d seen that coming for years. It was the fact that it was go-time. There was no time for play when I was stuck in the middle of a custody battle, when I was looking at high school graduation while my college savings account was being depleted for attorney fees.
Such an environment made play feel impossible. But, at my peak defiance years, I found myself glued to YouTube video game playthroughs. Since I couldn’t afford a console, I watched other people play. And I’m so glad I did.
And not just because it’s informed my career in video game writing.
I think because I maintained an element of play during some of the hardest parts of my life, play has always felt revolutionary. It’s a middle finger to the parts of society that dictate we must work purely to meet the demands of capitalism, and a warm embrace of the parts that are quiet but often most important—the fingers of the college student itching to grab a controller and jump back into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the curious wonder of the bookstore patron who stares up at the fantasy shelves believing they’re supposed to read something more…“educational,” or even the inner voice of the toddler parent that screams I need yoga.
In summary, play is important, and for many of us, scarce. So if an opportunity arises, no matter how subtly, welcome it when you can. And when you figure out how to set aside more time for it, let me know.
Source 1: Definition: Greenwashing, Merriam-Webster, 2023. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/greenwashing
Meet the author
Brittney Morris is the bestselling author of SLAY, The Cost of Knowing, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Wings of Fury, and The Jump. She also writes video games and has contributed to projects such as The Lost Legends of Redwall, Subnautica: Below Zero, Spider-Man 2 for PS5, and Wolverine for PS5. Brittney is an NAACP Image Award nominee, an ALA Black Caucus Youth Literary Award winner, and an Ignite Award Finalist. She has an economics degree from Boston University and spends her spare time reading, playing indie video games, and enjoying the rain from her home in Philly. She lives with her husband Steven who would rather enjoy the rain from a campsite in the woods because he hasn’t played enough horror games, and their tiny bundle of love, Atlas.
Links: Twitter – @brittneymmorris, Instagram – @brittneymmorris
About The Jump
From the acclaimed author of SLAY and The Cost of Knowing comes an action-driven, high-octane novel about a group of working-class teens in Seattle who join a dangerous scavenger hunt with a prize that can save their families and community.
Influence is power. Power creates change. And change is exactly what Team Jericho needs.
Jax, Yas, Spider, and Han are the four cornerstones of Team Jericho, the best scavenger hunting team in all of Seattle. Each has their own specialty: Jax, the puzzler; Yas, the parkourist; Spider, the hacker; and Han, the cartographer. But now with an oil refinery being built right in their backyard, each also has their own problems. Their families are at risk of losing their jobs, their communities, and their homes.
So when The Order, a mysterious vigilante organization, hijacks the scavenger hunting forum and concocts a puzzle of its own, promising a reward of influence, Team Jericho sees it as the chance of a lifetime. If they win this game, they could change their families’ fates and save the city they love so much. But with an opposing team hot on their heels, it’s going to take more than street smarts to outwit their rivals.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 03/07/2023
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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