Powered by play

I met Gary Ware at a storytelling event last month where he gave an engaging talk on play, improv, and storytelling. Gary is an all-around creative: by day he is the Chief Strategy Officer of Tower33 Digital and he is a comedian by night. I sat down with him last week and after an unfortunate vanishing act by technology, our 30min podcast gem of a recording went amiss. Below is some of what I would briefly pen to words.

Play is a natural state of being. It’s the feeling of aliveness when immersed in an activity. And you don’t need a goal to be engaged in it. The feeling, the process, is the endgame itself. The journey is the treasure. As children we instinctively crawl with toys in our boundless field of imagination. It’s not much different for adults, whether it’s with a musical instrument or a sport. For some of us it may be a side hobby or rigorous discipline. For Gary it’s powering up which shapes other areas of life. Play is the missing link when life gets dull or work gets stressful.

If you’re feeling grumpy, you can play a game or draw something for 15 minutes to decenter and lighten the mood. It’s more about the joy that arises than the activity itself. And we all have our own ways of tapping in. In his book Play, Stuart Brown outlines eight different play personalities:

  1. Joker: likes to crack jokes (George Carlin, Dave Chapelle),
  2. Kinesthete: likes to move (Mohammad Ali)
  3. Explorer: likes to discover new things (Elon Musk)
  4. Competitor: likes rules, likes to win (Ray Lewis, Michael Jordan)
  5. Director: likes planning and executing scenes (Woody Allan, event planners).
  6. Collector: likes finding and keeping interesting objects (museum and shop keepers).
  7. Artist: likes making new and interesting things. (Bjork, Charlie Chaplin).
  8. Storyteller: likes to tell…stories like many Irish people I know.

This is not a full or comprehensive guide but knowing your and others’ play personalities helps with knowing your strength and joy zone and guide effective collaboration with others. While being an explorer may come easily to one person, competing may be the lifeblood of another. There is no right or wrong.

Studies show that the player’s state of mind and intention determines how they are affected by the activity. If one goes into a video game just to kill time or complain, then chances are he isn’t going to get much out of it. On the other hand, if one goes in with a curiosity to learn and connect with other players, he or she would have a richer experience. Mindset matters and we can choose which we bring into the game.

You can learn more about Gary’s work at BreakthroughPlay.com. He is also hosting Breakthrough Play Retreat 1.0 Back to Nature on Saturday, October 8th to curb stress and activate creativity.