The Warmth of Idle Play

When I think back on the games I played in my youth, I think of their warmth. The distinct moments, games, and rooms fade away, and I’m left with a safe heat beating across my body. The games of my youth are the comfort of a warm quilt on a snowy evening.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve spent more and more of my idle thoughts musing on the joy of games. I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss games through the lens of play. For the purposes of clarity on what I mean by those two terms, games are a system, or set of defined systems, that feature some element of interactivity. Play is the act of engaging the mind with a task for nothing but the player’s enjoyment with the task.

There are a variety of games that I can think of that have given me this sense of warmth, and proximity. They are games that enabled me to engage with my own desire to play. To be sure, this desire to play may be exposed through the medium of games, but that was by no means its only outlet. Before my youngest organized games of soccer and baseball through school, and before the games of Duck Duck Goose and Shoots and Ladders we’d play in school, I was constantly engaged in play.

My car rides to and from shool would frequently feature a game of my own making, where I would orient specks of dirt on our car windows around the lines and skyways of my hometown. I would move my head side to side, up and down, trying to navigate the dust around the environment, attempting to avoid collisions between the dirt and the environment.

Photo by Thomas Heyman

A walk to the nearest town would feature a game of counting, in which I’d attempt to keep up with my caretaker as I skipped from one slab of pavement to another. The game: Take the same number of steps on each slab. If you can’t, take as close to the same number of steps from one slab to the next as possible. The game would have me lunging from slab to slab, then eventually tapping my toes at the end of my stride to get a few more steps in a particularly short slab.