Game Communities vs. Play Communities

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Bernie DeKoven:

"Most informal games - street games, pick-up games, playground games – are played by a play community. Most formal games, like Little League and Lawn Bowling, are played by a game community.

Commercial and historical forces tend to embrace game communities, and vice versa. Little League and Lawn Bowling are not just games, they are cultural events, they are sports.

Ultimately, the majority of people aren’t good enough to participate in the kinds of games played by game communities, especially when compared to the skills of the masters and grandmasters of the game.

Ultimately in the play community, everyone is good enough. Because it’s not any particular game that people have come together to play. Because the reason they have come together is to play, not necessarily to win, or even to keep score, but to play together, and be part of an event in which anyone can play, in which everyone is a master.

In the play community it’s mystery, not mastery that draws people together – it’s the mystery of shared imagination, of spontaneity and synergy, of generalized laughter and much mutual admiration, of shared fun.

When children are young, they first form play communities, and usually, if they can avoid formal intervention, they’ll continue expanding and diversifying the play communities they support and that support them well into adulthood.

It is no coincidence that the Internet, though it serves both kinds of community (play and game), is so easily characterized as a play community, dependent on openness and trust shared by its players, succeeding to the degree in which it can respond to their constantly evolving, individual and collective interests.

Most often, game communities share characteristics with play communities, and vice versa. In both, members show mutual respect for play - for supporting fantasy, keeping rules, observing boundaries…" (