How Did You Play?

Please take time to share your play history here.

When you were growing up, how did you play? When you came home from school and weren’t doing homework, what did you enjoy doing? On Saturday when you had free time, what did you do? How did you play when you played alone? How did you play with others?

15 responses to “How Did You Play?

  1. Isabel Walcott Draves

    I played alone alot – outside alot. rain, snow, or sun. We lived in an area so suburban it was nearly rural, and all the negihbors were boys I never played with. My girl friends lived far away and I saw them rarely. I imagined I was exploring or setting up living space in the “wilderness”. I played in the stream and examined tiny umbrella trees close up, imagining they were large and I was tiny under them. Maybe I should have become a biologist or a botanist. I would have enjoyed it.

    I also played indoors – making things. I drew endless fashion designs, I made intricate beaded and beribboned jewelry and barrettes and doll clothes by hand. I decorated cookies with a tiny paintbrush and food coloring. I used the exacto knife to cut tiny intricate designs in colored paper. Maybe I should have become a surgeon. I would have been great at it.

    I spent lots of time reading. I read Shakespeare and other grown-up books and magazines like the New Yorker regularly and voraciously before I turned 10.

    Ultimately I became that weird cross breed, a very extroverted, social, party-hostess loner with a strong iconoclastic, independent streak. Careerwise, it seems I work best when I remain in charge of my own time and destiny. This has served me well as an entrepreneur and independent freelance consultant.

  2. Bryan Alvarez

    I…am going to say the same thing Isabel did. Funny.

    I played alone as well. Not always, but remembering back to my most intimate, blissful, and creative moments of play, it was always alone. I would get lost in the smallest details of the wall, or the movement of sand trembling off a sand pile on the beach, or the feel of silk when I used to hide from my mom as a little kid inside the circular clothing racks, feeling the textures of the fabrics on my fingertips.

    I spent so much time silent and alone and in peace. Even in college and now. Rolling around, staring at trees, being weird in a world that is comfortable with oddness and changes to accommodate.

    It’s funny to me that I don’t remember much of what I was actually doing in those times. It was always such simple things like touching the wall, or methodically folding paper, or pretending a laser was shooting out of my finger tracing the shapes of the cars as we drove past. Always very simple games at the surface, but with intricate rules and a feeling of being lost in a very rich and complex world.

  3. I played with Lego a lot. Now I am convinced that playing with Lego has boosted my creativity. And I have this thesis that I now benefit in my journalistic activities (structuring information, writing, editing) due to playing with blocks (rearranging, building, structuring) as a child. Very interesting thought experiment!

  4. Dale Meier

    Linda

    Hope I have this right. I remember you as a kid…that is if you had a brother named Mark.

    If so, he and I were good friends for many years through the time of his marriage and early death in Arkansas…June 15, 1973.

    If not, we lived nearby each other…I was on Whitener Street in the 1500 block.

    Anyway…I read about your recall of Cape in the ’60s newsletter. Maybe you were in Cape for the reunion, as I was for the Friday nite event.

    Let me know if I hit the right Stone family here.

    Regards,

    Dale

  5. Garret Wren

    From the age of either four or five on, I was obsessed with videogames. I remember watching my father play the original Metroid on the original Nintendo system. Whatever the genesis was (the first console I owned was a Sega Genesis, but not pun intended) they sunk their claws into me and since then it’s been an ongoing struggle of moderating the time I spend with them and accepting the role they’ve had in shaping me.

    It’s hard sometimes, to feel like you’ve wasted your childhood, or that yours is inferior to another’s. Maybe there’s potential that was long since lost because I’ve grown up attached to something of an addictive medium. I try to tell myself that my childhood obsession fostered, in its own ways, imagination, problem solving, ect.

    But still, in reading you describe all the rich, rewarding experiences, I feel like I’ve been deprived over the years. Of course, I was depriving myself. My parents would encourage the type of “healthy” play that you describe. But it always seemed so tedious to me, so confusing.

    The world of games has defined rules. Whereas in other entertainment mediums, you might find yourself focusing on, say, assessing narratives or working your mind or imagination, the strict proscription and attitude of completion in video games hinders that. They tend to be, at least at the surface, about completion. Winning. Beating. Finishing. So I find, when there are less defined activities, I am uncomfortable, anxious, or bored. What is the goal of reading? Becoming more intelligent? Yes, but measuring that is close to impossible and so I get all bent out of shape.

  6. At a very young age, around 3 and 4, I spent a lot of time making mud pies. My sitter would dispatch me to the backyard with several aluminum pie pans, a water hose, and my very own corner of the yard. I remember how much attention I paid to forming a perfect shaped pie. When the Oklahoma summer sun was at its most intense, my pies would dry quickly and I could get the quick thrill of removing them from the pan and displaying them around the yard. I liked doing this alone.

    In grade school years, I lived in a suburban development where there were always new houses being built around us. My friends and I spent hours navigating through walls, unconstructed closets, fixture-less bathrooms, ceiling-less attics, and along concrete-poured foundations. We imagined re-connecting rooms, discarding walls and ceilings, and fantasizing about which room we each got to live in. There were no rules just an endless string of new houses to explore and imagine how we would re-architect the spaces.

  7. Hi Linda,

    My favorite play activity was HyperCard! I first saw it at some summer camp I went to, it must have been between 2nd and 3rd grade. I saw some councilors making a Myst-like game in it. At first I played with it as a drawing tool, I remember you could turn on some mode that would capture the image of a tool as you were using the tool, so you could make a polygon but it would also draw all the “frames” in between, old HyperCard users will remember what I’m talking about!

    I’m not sure on the timeline, but I definitely remember that I was making “hypermedia” stacks by 4th grade. I remember because I did an assignment in HyperCard, something about the NY area Indian tribes (Iroquois or Algonquin) and I had made a whole thing and somehow figured out how to add music to it. But the music became embedded in the stack and made it too big to fit on a floppy disk. Even when I deleted all references to the music, it was still there as a resource in the stack. I was so distraught over this, trying out all different things so that I could bring it to school (and of course none of the adults could help). Eventually my 4th grade teacher came over to my house one day after school so I could show it to her.

    I was an only child and my parents are musicians so they would be traveling a lot. When I was really young I would play with Legos by myself backstage while my parents played concerts. I have always been very comfortable by myself in my own world.

    I had a great friend in those days, we would play with all sorts of things that we found in each others’ houses. One time we had a sleepover and set up the board game “Axis and Allies” all night. We played for an hour or so but must have spent 7 hours setting up the game! This must have been 5th-6th grade.

    We made some games in HyperCard. At this point I think my parents had gotten a Mac with color. One game I remember was called Molerskate. You were a mole on rollerskates so you were constantly moving forwards and it was a Doom-like first-person-shooter. We didn’t know how to do any of the 3D stuff at that point so we faked it by figuring that if you were on a grid and the game were a little jerky we could get away with just drawing 40-odd screens of different wall configurations, each of which was a card in our stack. The enemies, which were also moles, would just get drawn on top. With this framework in place, the rest of the time we spent pixel pushing the various graphics for when you killed an enemy; each level you’d get a better weapon, moving from guns to nuclear weapons to throwing submarines at the moles, etc. Sounds violent but we were just finding humor in scale (jokes about gigantic things are so funny as a kid). We also spent a lot of time drawing levels on graph paper and then entering in those levels. Like most young game designers, the game we made was ridiculously hard for anyone but ourselves.

    At some point I feel like HyperCard went away. I wasn’t very aware of computer politics and things like that back then. But all computers became Windows computers at some point and instead of making HyperCard stacks I would make HTML pages with javascript that would run in Internet Explorer 3. I coded up every casino game one summer when I was staying with my grandparents in LA (my grandma was really into gambling and going to Las Vegas). With IE4 I was able to use “DHTML” which could replicate everything I used to do in HyperCard and be on the web, which was cool. I made a mario clone and some puzzle games. Then I figured out how to do server-side scripting with Perl and made a group blog for my friends and I (this was in 9th-10th grade, I remember because the blog attracted attention beyond my own circle of friends and led to my first serious girlfriend). By the end of 10th grade I made “SubProfile” which was a proto-social networking site (that had millions of users!). At this point things like money and customer support came into the picture and just like that programming was no longer play (and honestly not as much fun anymore)!

    +++

    I really enjoyed your talk this evening at ITP. I look forward to seeing you again in a few years and showing you all the “conscious computing” technology we have invented 🙂

    Toby

  8. I loved to color with Crayola colors. One of my favorite gifts ever was the box of 64 crayons with the little plastic sharpener built in. Talk about fancy! 😉 My mom likes to talk about how I used to tear the paper off the crayons in little bitty jibbles and make a pile of them on the carpet before sharpening the crayons. (Which my mom would have to vacuum!!)

  9. My most happy moments as a child were dreaming away moments. Making songs and poems and coloured ink- drawings to go with that, making small books out of them, and singing about all the deep feelings described in them.
    Lots of reading and hating mundane life disturbing this(dinner, sleep, being social)
    As Jackie loved my box of Caran d’Ache markers.
    Also lots of dolls, animals and other creatures I loved very much. Not so much doing things with them, as talking with them in my head and knowing they loved me, inventing stories with and for them.
    My real dog, walking with him and pretending I was a boy or an Indian.
    Memorizing records of Dutch comedians and making people laugh at parties. I guess I felt I was too serious, sensitive and poetic as a child, so I developed this whole other side of the joker and the rebel later.
    Maartje

  10. As a young teen, I still “play” in a way. As a younger child though, I played a thousand times as much. I remember I would walk over to my neighbors house almost everyday, ring the doorbell, and ask their mother if they could play. Most of the time, she would say they were busy but I would always find a way to play with them by either suggesting I wait or that I come back later. They were “sick” alot too. Haha we had fun times though. We played Barbies for hours on end. We played so many games outside as well. We used to play tag, jump roping, princess reenactments, and so much more. Nowadays I still hang out with them but now they don’t ignore me and actually always try to get me to come over. Good times looking back.

  11. I lived near a river that I wasn’t supposed to go near. Around age 9 or 10 I would go to the river bank and pretend I was an explorer, making campsites and cooking meals with food from home, and thinking I was communing with the wild animals – talking to them. I would skip school to go there.

  12. Hi Linda,

    You know, I don’t remember playing all that much. I learned to read early and then as now my go-to activity is reading. I had toys – spirograph, Etch-a-Sketch, Lego – and a few dolls, but I didn’t use them with any frequency or duration. I did once make a book by myself for fun, on my own initiative. I didn’t color much or draw much.

    With others, we would play mostly board games. I had a couple of friends who wanted to pilot the Millennium Falcon and would fight over being Han and Luke, and so I would have to be Princess Leia. I think generally, in play with others, I used to be the accommodating one.

    This doesn’t bode too well for me having any passions to speak of (other than consumption)! But as I am passionate about having passions, I think they must be in there somewhere. I like this approach to refocusing one’s life, although it doesn’t seem to be helping me so far.

    • What feels like “play” today for you?

      • Hi Linda,

        Still, reading is the most effortless play for me. Then there is playfulness in conversation, or in mental dialogue while reading things. Humor, and simultaneous humor and seriousness, is play. Making art is also very playful, but there’s a bit of a barrier to getting started.

  13. Running around on the beach with my dogs.

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