Let’s take a minute to picture someone playing a board game. You’d think it would be a child.
It might seem juvenile for some to consider playing Bingo, Battleships or Bomberman an adult activity.
Play is an integral part of our human experience. It can be as simple as building blocks in playgrounds or rolling dice in nursing homes.
Experts recommend that we pay more attention to the benefits of adult play than we do to mock it.
- Listen to The Compass: BBC Sounds Why We Play
Play could be anything. It can refer to everything, from gaming on the console all day, to weekly bridge sessions at the village hall.
It seems socially more acceptable to admit that we as children benefit from it.
Sam Wass, child psychologist and neuroscientist from the University of East London has examined children’s brains in his laboratory.
He says that children are “overconnected”. This means there are more neurons connected to a child’s brain than an adult’s, which makes their brains “messier”.
You can tidy things up with play
Wass says, “It assists the process of sorting this messy wiring diagram.”
“You make connections between brain parts that may not have been connected previously and then you repeat them.
It’s by repetition that you can strengthen these connections.”
Wass believes that play has neurological benefits and helps children learn more about the world by encouraging them to experiment.
One time, he saw six-year olds recreate a news story on terrorist attacks that they’d seen the previous night.
He stated, “One of them were the newscaster; the other was a photographer and one was an interviewee.
It was amazing to see because these were children processing this adult idea.
It was an important task that they did, and probably very helpful in helping them to understand what all this means.
These are true for children in all countries, not just in the west.
Maybe play is something we all subconsciously realize is good for our children. When will this narrative change?
Are there any age limits on how old people will find it strange to play a video game in their spare time?
Many teenagers see play as a way to help them define themselves and discover their identities.
Lina Eklund, Uppsala University researcher in Sweden, studied this topic at high schools throughout the country.
It was clear that students who identify themselves as gamers gravitated towards one another.
Eklund says, “We interviewed them three times. We looked at which friends became who over the course of a year.
“What we saw was that while gamers may not have been close at the start, they became friends by the time the year ended.”
Eklund believes that the research she did suggests that “pupils discovered each other over the course of time”. This implies, in Eklund’s words, it was much easier for them to “change friends than their identity.”
It’s not surprising that teenagers use play as a way to make friends both in real life and online.
They’re actually helping to support the industry’s continued growth.
However, it isn’t widely accepted that this is a positive. Concerns have been raised regarding the addictive nature and possible links to gambling within some of the most popular games.
Some people find that the benefits to their mental and social health outweigh any concerns. Eklund’s research shows that playing can be a crucial part of our personal growth.
Gaming reporter: I can’t count how many times I have had to start a conversation about a person’s love for a game with them.
It usually includes a statement like this: “I know I’m a 40-year-old woman but…”
Oder: “I will only play Candy Crush while I am on the bus.”
These warnings can often be cited before any discussion or detailed explanation about the play session.
This apologetic approach may change if the academics that argue for play need to be treated with more seriousness succeed in their quest.
Play can bring people together in many ways, and not only teenagers.
Zaki Djemal, an entrepreneur from Jerusalem, turned to backgammon.
It can be traced back to 6,000 years and it is still very popular on the streets.
The thought of people now playing “still sound and look the same as when they first rolled the dice all those years ago” is something he enjoys.
Zaki hosts backgammon tournaments in the city every year since 2016.
He said, “There’s an equalizing quality when people are brought together to share experiences and diffuse tensions.”
It’s a great way to foster positive communication and dialogue.
Backgammon isn’t bringing peace to the Middle East yet, but it is an example of play that can go beyond just passing the time.
It’s all work, no play…
Money is a powerful thing. But we also know that money can make the world turn around. Play, however, should be treated with more seriousness.
Samantha Warren, University of Portsmouth Professor of Organisation Studies, believes that having a good old laugh at work is the best solution to everything.
Her research has led her to a large organisation which embraced playfulness in the workplace.
According to her research, being more playful could make businesses happier.
However, she warns that having to have fun with others is not the solution.
Warren believes it is paradoxical. A fun work environment can be more productive and creative, but that fun must come from the work itself. It cannot be part of any mandatory program.
It’s not about the day itself, but what it makes enjoyable. According to her research, people are looking for interesting and satisfying work. The sense that you have achieved your goals makes work more fun.
Some people choose to play chess, Call of Duty, or cards because they have fun.
The end of life is where the greatest impact can be made.
Drew Altschul, University of Edinburgh’s psychologist, is following the progress of a research project that was initiated in 1940 to study children’s behavior and development in Scotland.
The system tracked the development of their thinking as they aged.
The research shows that games are good for brain function. He said, “Those who were more active at 70 experienced a slower decline in their ability to think.
We also considered reading, writing, and playing music. But they did not have the same effects as the games.
For Dr Carrie Ryan (University College London), it’s more than intellectual play that benefits the older generations.
Her passion for bingo is contagious. She believes that simplicity is key.
Ryan worked for years in a California nursing home and believes that play can have a significant impact on the lives of those nearing death.
Bingo is a game that doesn’t require a lot strategy.
People with dementia are able to play alongside and win, even against residents. [the condition]Their reactions were truly profound.
“Bingo was the first time I could see people who are often in a wheelchair hunched over, laughing, smiling, and experiencing joy that they had never experienced before, it was bingo.”
Many people view bingo as an untaught game and consider it a waste of time. Dr Ryan says that while some may see this as “wasteful of time”, others are more open to the idea of playing. However, she believes that any type of play that triggers feelings of excitement, anticipation, and elation for brains struggling to understand the world deserves greater respect.
People with cognitive and physical deterioration can find joy in play, as it gives them moments of true joy.
It doesn’t matter if you are playing Monopoly or exploring a fantasy land online. Think about whether it is just for fun. Is it something you are getting out of?
Do you think we should take this more seriously than I?
- Listen to The Compass: BBC Sounds Why We Play
Do you like playing video games? You can listen to the BBC Sounds Gaming Podcast by pressing X
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