The Current

ENCORE | Fun and games: Why we should take time to play

Join in on the fun and games as The Current opens up the toy chest to find out what we can learn from play.
Twister, the Rubik's Cube, Slinky, and Monopoly are some of the great games that retain their appeal decades after they first appeared on store shelves and in TV ads. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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In a world of juggling emails, texts and social media, the rise of stress and anxiety seems to be by-products of our non-stop, connected world. How to combat the effects?

Enter the world of games and play. 
A 'slinky' is made of a coil of wire which, if straight, would be 22 metres long. The toy can still be found in most homes with kids. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Ian Bogost, Georgia Institute of Technology professor and author of Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games, tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti how boredom plays a role in fun. 

"In boredom there's a sense that you've expended the obvious capacities of your situation."

Bogost says that boredom gives you two choices. One is to seek something else out. And the other is to pay attention to boredom as new terrain and go deeper.

He sees boredom as necessary to pursue fun and says the experience of play is richest when you approach it with questions like, "What else is possible and how can I kind of collaborate with this object?"

When it comes to solving the Rubik's Cube, Bogost suggests "this object that looks stupid or absurd actually has this enormous depth" that can be rewarding.

Rubik's Cube hit the market in 1980 and became a worldwide fad. (Elise Amendola/The Associated Press)

"When I start treating it with deep attention then I can find something that wouldn't be there if I just glanced at it," he explains.

Don't mix fun up with happiness

But don't be looking for happiness in games, according to game designer and philosopher Chris Bensch. To him, fun is the opposite of happiness.

"The notion that we must sort of satisfy our own inner desires and needs ... first and foremost, this is actually a way of thinking that might lead us away from pleasure rather than toward it," he explains.

"Fun emerges when you kind of put your own needs and desires aside."

Bensch says when you look at a stick or a cardboard box and give it the respect it demands, possibilities about what you can do with that object open up.

"When you start the experience assuming that fun is all about getting something back, then you're always going to fail."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.