Stuart Brown, a leading expert in the field of game psychology, has studied over 6,000 stories of people ranging from serial killers to Nobel laureates. And I came to the conclusion that games are vital to our health, wellness, social development, intelligence, creativity, innovation, and the ability to solve problems. Here are just a few interesting facts from his book The Game :
Game and animals
In the animal kingdom, play is common. It can be seen very often, especially in social mammals and intelligent birds. This is a necessary element of growing up. But some animals play when they are adults. Adult ravens were seen sliding on their backs along a snowy slope – then they flew up and rolled down again. The buffalo scatter and, with an enthusiastic roar, slide their four hooves over the surface of the frozen lake. Hippos do backflips in the water over and over again.
By carefully capturing the play behavior of grizzly bears in Alaska for over fifteen years, scientists have found that the most playful bears survive better than others. This is despite the fact that play consumes time, attention and energy from other activities that at first glance are more important for survival, such as finding food.
Game and brain
Animals that play a lot quickly learn to navigate and adapt to the world. In short, they are smarter. Neurophysiologists Sergio Pellis and Andrew Ivanyuk and biologist John Nelson report that there is a strong positive relationship between brain size and the playfulness of mammals.
In their most extensive study of play in animals ever published, they tabulated the play behavior of fifteen species of mammals, from dogs to dolphins. Scientists have found that when corrected for body size, species with larger relative brain sizes play more often, and species with smaller ones less often.
Game, cats and society
One influential theory is that play is simply training for future skills. That is, when animals playfully fight, they prepare for real fights and hunting. But it turns out that those cats that did not participate in game fights may well hunt. What they don’t know how to successfully interact with others in society – and they are not able to learn it.
If a cat or other social mammal, such as a rat, has a serious lack of play, the animal will not be able to clearly distinguish friend from foe, misunderstand social cues, and will either act aggressively or refuse normal social contact. By interacting with others in a playful brawl, cats learn to perceive the emotional state of the other and respond accordingly.
Game and anhedonia
As a child, we need play for rapid brain development. In adults, the brain does not develop so quickly and the attraction to play may not be so strong, so we can do without it for a short time. But if she is absent for a long time, our mood deteriorates.
We lose our sense of optimism and experience anhedonia – the inability to enjoy. There is clinical evidence of a deficit in play, the symptoms of which are very similar to the well-described lack of sleep.
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Play and work
The work that brings us maximum satisfaction almost always recreates and continues the child’s play. The most skillful and skilled engineers in childhood did a lot of things with their own hands: disassemble clocks and cameras, build fortresses and assemble audio systems.
They didn’t become good engineers as adults because they practiced a lot on the watch. It’s just that their work, to some extent, remained the same business that they were doing solely for pleasure. They are still playing.
Play and pedagogy
Learning is enhanced by play, and many teachers are aware of this – which is why role play or simulation is often used in class to teach a subject that is difficult or boring at first glance. Forcing children to memorize dates and names will make the story boring, but let them play Diplomacy or imagine living on the frontier during colonial times and the story comes to life.
Such methods are sometimes criticized, claiming that in this way teachers are simply entertaining students, but what’s wrong with that? The main thing is that the lesson is learned better than with other methods. Play is not the enemy of learning, but its partner. Play is like fertilizing your brain. It’s insane not to use it.
Game and love
The game can be a powerful love potion. It refreshes because it gives humor, pleasure in novelty, the ability to easily relate to the contradictions of this world, the joy of telling stories to each other and the ability to turn on imagination and fantasy. By supporting this interaction, we create conditions for the natural formation of a bond with another person and deep relationships.
At some level, we all know this. This is why dating is usually built around playful situations. Conversations over dinner, going to the movies, or going out of town provide people with a ritual space in which to get to know each other.
The game also emphasizes the attractiveness. Neuroscientists are well aware that some risk (one of the key elements of play) can rekindle the flame of love, so going to the rides (or riding a motorcycle) is also a popular dating activity.
Play and creativity
Creativity is the source of all growth, new products, new technologies, new services, and new solutions to old problems. What does the game have to do with this? After all, the mother of invention is necessity, isn’t it? The answer to this question is negative.
Necessity only provides space for invention and innovation. The mother of inventions is play. The game often takes place in an imaginary world, but maintains a strong contact with reality.
The game helps to mix fantasy with reality. Ultimately, what creative people create is shifting the tectonic plates of our world and changing the way we think and act.
A world without a game
A life without play is a life without books, films, music, drama. Imagine a world in which no one dreams, jokes, or sneers. It’s a pretty dark place. Play is what lifts people above the prose of life. It can be compared to oxygen – it is everywhere, but most often it is not noticed or appreciated until it is lost.
We are shaped by play and through it we develop and adapt to change. She is able to foster innovation and provide us with multi-billion dollar fortunes. But ultimately the most important aspect of the game is that it allows you to find a deep connection with the best in us and in other people.