Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games

Basic. Sept. 2016. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9780465051724. $26.99. PHIL
OrangeReviewStarWhat is play? How do you define fun? Bogost (Ivan Allen Coll. Distinguished Chair in Media Studies, Georgia Inst. of Technology; How To Talk About Videogames) has poured a lot of thought and work into answering those questions. His book doesn't argue for gamifying your life; it explores the conditions necessary for play and fun and convinces us to change how we think about these concepts. Bogost analyzes the everyday—lawn maintenance, golf, navigating a crowded shopping mall—and debunks long-held notions of pleasure. He takes on ideas from high and low culture, challenging in one breath the works of novelist David Foster Wallace and German philosopher Martin Heidegger, and in the next taking down the "spoonful of sugar" from the musical Mary Poppins. Along the way, he examines play in the contexts of creativity, asceticism, boredom, pleasure, and novelty, and in the process challenges readers to rethink its applications. Perhaps Bogost's most trenchant move is pinpointing irony as fun's most powerful archenemy.
VERDICT An essential read for those seeking to understand how a new idea of play can be positive for our lives.
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