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Play Time

What is play and why do people do it? This might sound like a simple question, but it’s quite a bit more complicated than it seems. Try asking a few of your friends and you’ll probably find that each one of them has a completely different answer.

This question actually has two parts. The first has a broadly accepted answer, but the second really doesn’t. When it comes to establishing a definition of play, the philosopher Bernard Suits argues in The Grasshopper that it represents a “voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.” He describes it as the “attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs using only means permitted by rules where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favor of less efficient means and where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity.” Suits provides a satisfactory definition of play, but he doesn’t explain why people do it. In other words, he leaves the second part of our question ambiguous.

The psychologist Brian Sutto…

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