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Play Anything

Cover of Play Anything

Play Anything

The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games
Borrow Borrow Borrow

How filling life with play-whether soccer or lawn mowing, counting sheep or tossing Angry Birds-forges a new path for creativity and joy in our impatient age


Life is boring: filled with meetings and traffic, errands and emails. Nothing we'd ever call fun. But what if we've gotten fun wrong? In Play Anything, visionary game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost shows how we can overcome our daily anxiety; transforming the boring, ordinary world around us into one of endless, playful possibilities.
The key to this playful mindset lies in discovering the secret truth of fun and games. Play Anything, reveals that games appeal to us not because they are fun, but because they set limitations. Soccer wouldn't be soccer if it wasn't composed of two teams of eleven players using only their feet, heads, and torsos to get a ball into a goal; Tetris wouldn't be Tetris without falling pieces in characteristic shapes. Such rules seem needless, arbitrary, and difficult. Yet it is the limitations that make games enjoyable, just like it's the hard things in life that give it meaning.
Play is what happens when we accept these limitations, narrow our focus, and, consequently, have fun. Which is also how to live a good life. Manipulating a soccer ball into a goal is no different than treating ordinary circumstances- like grocery shopping, lawn mowing, and making PowerPoints-as sources for meaning and joy. We can "play anything" by filling our days with attention and discipline, devotion and love for the world as it really is, beyond our desires and fears.
Ranging from Internet culture to moral philosophy, ancient poetry to modern consumerism, Bogost shows us how today's chaotic world can only be tamed-and enjoyed-when we first impose boundaries on ourselves.

How filling life with play-whether soccer or lawn mowing, counting sheep or tossing Angry Birds-forges a new path for creativity and joy in our impatient age


Life is boring: filled with meetings and traffic, errands and emails. Nothing we'd ever call fun. But what if we've gotten fun wrong? In Play Anything, visionary game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost shows how we can overcome our daily anxiety; transforming the boring, ordinary world around us into one of endless, playful possibilities.
The key to this playful mindset lies in discovering the secret truth of fun and games. Play Anything, reveals that games appeal to us not because they are fun, but because they set limitations. Soccer wouldn't be soccer if it wasn't composed of two teams of eleven players using only their feet, heads, and torsos to get a ball into a goal; Tetris wouldn't be Tetris without falling pieces in characteristic shapes. Such rules seem needless, arbitrary, and difficult. Yet it is the limitations that make games enjoyable, just like it's the hard things in life that give it meaning.
Play is what happens when we accept these limitations, narrow our focus, and, consequently, have fun. Which is also how to live a good life. Manipulating a soccer ball into a goal is no different than treating ordinary circumstances- like grocery shopping, lawn mowing, and making PowerPoints-as sources for meaning and joy. We can "play anything" by filling our days with attention and discipline, devotion and love for the world as it really is, beyond our desires and fears.
Ranging from Internet culture to moral philosophy, ancient poetry to modern consumerism, Bogost shows us how today's chaotic world can only be tamed-and enjoyed-when we first impose boundaries on ourselves.

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About the Author-
  • IAN BOGOST is Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in media studies and a professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, a founding partner at Persuasive Games, and a contributing editor at The Atlantic. Bogost lives in Atlanta, Georgia. @ibogost

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 13, 2016
    It’s difficult to imagine a book that takes on David Foster Wallace, Barry Schwartz (The Paradox of Choice), Mary Poppins, and a host of philosophers under one premise. Yet Bogost (How to Talk About Videogames), professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology and founding partner at a video games company, has done so, with moderate success, while dissecting the notion of play. He defines playgrounds as “structures we discover,” fun as “the feeling of finding something new in a familiar situation,” and play as “carefully and deliberately working with the materials one finds in a situation.” Irony, the book’s principal antagonist, is described as a “fundamental affliction of contemporary life.” Bogost doesn’t fully deliver on his grand promise to offer “a perspective on how to live in a world far bigger than our bodies, minds, hopes, and dreams and how to do it with pleasure and gratitude.” Statements like “boredom is the secret to releasing pleasure” and “fun comes from wretchedness” are challenging to comprehend, much less credit. The book is abstract, interesting, complicated, confusing, and baffling, sometimes all at once.

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Play Anything
Play Anything
The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games
Ian Bogost
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