I liked this tentative list from Peter Gray’s “Freedom to Learn” blog at Psychology Today.  Writing on the Value of Play he begins with a long definition, in short:

  1. Play is self-chosen and self-directed;
  2. Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends; 
  3. Play has structure, or rules, which are not dictated by physical necessity but emanate from the minds of the players; 
  4. Play is imaginative, non-literal, mentally removed in some way from “real” or “serious” life; and 
  5. Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind.
I’m stuck, saying that all web sites are massive multiplayer games, for a decade now.  Plays, one would presume, is central to that.  Manipulating users is key to talent scraping business models.  Best if they think it’s play rather than manipulation.

Just a bit of counter point.  The above list aren’t something people strive for.  People strive for: appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role.  Peter’s list makes play almost synonymous with a somewhat brutal kind of freedom.

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