The Concept of PLay in Programing
The concept of play is based around the idea that “playing” has a number of long-term physiological and physical benefits for animals and humans. Engaging in play throughout the different stages of life can improve everything from a person’s social tendencies to their problem-solving skills. One of the most important benefits is that play is the brains way of training and developing itself to face unexpected challenges. Play also can combat a variety of mental health issues such as depression and other disorders.
Dr. Stuart Brown, the man responsible for championing the concept, says play can be constituted as something that is apparently purposeless, is voluntary, and has an inherent attraction for the participant. Play should be something that people engage with naturally for no other real reason than that they want to do it. Put simply, play is something that’s fun. Keeping this is mind offers a framework for designing programs to be playful in nature because it serves the idea of being developmental in nature but also having a natural attraction from the users.
The bridge between programing and play becomes obvious when you begin to look at the different at how people are categorized in the way they play. Brown offers eight different play personalities that all have specific qualities that speak to the way they engage with play. They range from “The Competitor” who reaches the state of play by being involved in activities that are competitive and often produce a clear winner, all the way to the “Explorer” who finds their state of play when having new experiences or visiting new destinations.
Its these personalities in combination with the attributes of play that offer a solid starting point for developing programs. As discussed earlier, if one of the core objectives of a program is to be student centric, the play personalities should be a guide for designing something with the end user in mind.
A good example of this could be something related to an intramural sports program. A programmer could create a concept based around the competitor play personality. Thinking about an end user that enjoys competing in an environment that’s focused on winning allows you to build the developmental components in once the initial attraction piece has been established. After you know have an interest from participants, then you can begin introducing things that promote leadership skills or accountability. You begin to push people who simply enjoy competing to take responsibility over their team when it comes to registration, planning, and scheduling. They’re doing all these things that teach and develop their skills all while being engaged with something that they see as a fun activity.
Another example could be a program related to outdoor and adventure that aims to teach the introductory skills for rock climbing. You might be able to make the assumption that the end user falls within the explorer play personality. Again, you’d assume that the initial attraction is rooted in the idea that they seek out new experiences but the developmental component comes from the skills that are taught within the application of play. Attention to detail, the importance of choosing the proper equipment, or even something more abstract such as having greater understanding of the consequences of your own physical actions are all things that are taught to the user while they’re engaged with play.
Play Personalities (Encourageplay.com)