Friday, January 6, 2012

TILE

A tile can be a fun four letter word.

The thought of tiles conjures up the starkness of bathroom walls.  Or how cold they can be when you walk on them with your bare feet.  But a story about tiles yesterday made me think of them in a slightly different light.

I don't remember how I was introduced to Bernie DeKoven on Google+, but I continued to follow him because he talked about games and fun in a way I had never seen before.  He thought about games - not game design, but what games mean to us as individuals and as a group.  It dovetailed nicely with my theories about how we are all collections of stories, and some of the ways we can tell that story are through the games we play.  But the more I read of his, the more I realized he was pitching something different... and even more powerful.  He was pitching nothing short of fun.

Pure fun.  In its absolute raw form.

He wanted nothing less than for people to have fun.  And nothing more... because there was nothing more than that.

Yesterday was a bad day for me.  On top of a bad week.  Coming off a bad year.  Not looking forward to a terribly good weekend, to boot.  Bernie re-posted a message of his from 1998 talking about his family playing a game with tiles... and the game evolving to castle building with tiles... and then attacking castles with tiles... and then... fun.  And something clicked for me.

That same day, I was watching a video of someone pushing platitudes.  Nice inspirational quotes.  Telling me that being happy was just a matter of thinking happy thoughts.  Or something like that.  And it was totally meaningless.

I realized what Bernie was saying was different.  He wasn't just saying "have fun"... he was showing you how.  And if this didn't work... he would show something else... or something else... or something else.  Eventually, you'd find something fun.  And that was the trick.  That was the goal.  Find *your* fun - and from there, all else follows.

That night, I went to my occasional gaming group with that attitude of fun surrounding me.  And I didn't just play games... I led games.  I brought out my Icehouse set and played some Martian Chess and Zendo... and I played with the pyramids.  Just fiddled with them.  Built trees of colors.  Patterns.  And other gamers around me came by to admire the pyramids, even if they weren't interested in the game.

Photo Copyright 1996 by Andrew Looney
It reminded me of the times I was fortunate enough to visit Andrew Looney at his home - Wunderland Earth.  From the front of the house all the way through, it screamed "fun".  I will never forget the kick-line of storm trooper action figures... or the pinball machine in the entryway (which is covered in "wallpaper" of maps)... or the Rubick's cubes in the window positioned to paint a picture... all of it was just pure fun.

Connections fired in my head.  This is what warmed the bathroom tiles up.  This was what transformed them from something cold and impersonal to having style and warmth.  It was fun.  It was more than just a platitude.  More than just an aspiration.  This was something that I could actively do.  Sure... there will be bad days...  sure I can't always just play and have fun... and sometimes I won't be able to find what is fun... but this was something that was real and that I could actively do.  It wasn't passive.  It was something that I could actually do.

I can have fun.