essay, play

Creativity and Play

After the long post on ludology yesterday, I thought I would follow up some some ideas that, while they do not quite fit into the framework, contain peripheral meaning and parallel purpose. The first of these is the idea of creativity and where to find it, if anywhere, within the ideas of “play” and “game” that where talked about in the post yesterday. Much was brought up about the definition of things. Play, as a refresher, was proposed to be a voluntary, separate and finite unit. To play a game, was an experience that lasted for some time and was within some space. However, some additional questions arise about where the first impulse for the act of play might happen. From this, I drew upon the idea of creativity but was confused about where it would fit into the framework. The question is this: Is creativity a result from, take place within or a prerequisite for play?

So, before anything else can be determined the definition of creativity must be considered. For this, I go to Dictionary.com and their first definition: “the state [of causing an object to] come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.” The action of bringing about new ideas, concepts or organization that did not, prior to that occasion, exist or was commonly known. Put into the terms of Homo Ludens, it is the process of creating a “temporary world” where the rules of the world are bent or otherwise do not exist in order that this act of creation arise via some process. In fact, that is the second definition listed by Dictionary.com as well: “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations”. Here we have then the idea that creativity is the process of the adoption of the “temporary world”. Its placement then is that of very close to the framework of “games” and “play”. However, when does creativity take place?

First, let us consider creativity as the result from a session of play. We have already stated that play is the creation of a bubble, a “magic circle”, where a persona may be used to consider a concept or object from a  different point of view. Play is the immersion into this world of new rules, a world where any idea or concept from its neighboring reality may be superseded, expanded or destroyed as needed to support the world. However, it is also finite and so the very creation of the space necessitates that any action be taken quickly and within the world. The act of creativity then, if we consider it a result from this creation, is the manifestation of the played with idea brought into reality. While within the play-space, the “temporary world”, a game took place and some mental effort was expended in some way in the consideration of something. Once the finite natural of the play-space has brought about the mortality of the session, the player is changed. It is within this change that creativity is presented. It is a pilfered seed from the forest where the play session took place, a stolen thing that when brought into reality takes place with in the player’s mind and expands. In order to be creative, an agent must enter the “magic circle”, experience “play” and, upon exiting the session, keep the change in paradigms that took place within the play-space. Play must always precede the act of creativity.

However, what if creativity only took place within the play-space? Continuing “playing a game” to mean the use of a sacred sphere to exist, for some limited time period and of finite space, to experience a world that is governed by “rules”, the adoption of a persona in which to interface with this creation may, in the very instant of use, provide the necessary mental distance in which the act of being creative can take place. For example, an actor, while playing a role, may express that character in a creative way. Does the creativity come from the result then? No, it is experienced as the actor is within the persona within the play-space of the role that was written — the rules of the performance — and during the limited time in which the scene exists. The actor is a player and their creativity then only exists within that expression of ideas balanced against the use of the rules of the world in which they are participating. That creativity is limited to but not by that singularity of instance. Such expression can exist again but only a near echo of the original. Any artist of any medium also indulges in the adoption of a ‘vision’, the glimpse of a “temporary world” in which, while the scene lasts, creativity happens — known as Otherworld in Medieval English Literature, Heaven in Christian Literature or from the Muses in Ancient Greek Mythology. The source of this ‘vision’ may vary but it is the momentary displacement of reality, a serendipity in which the blooming of ideas can occur. Creativity occurs during play.

In both of the earlier cases, the first definition of play was used to define the act of bringing about or taking from an original source that lead to creativity. What if the very act of creativity was needed to even enter into play? How, if you have no knowledge of what a concept is, can you conceive of it? Put another way, the tree of serendipity must have a place to grow. Its blooming cannot be foretold but it must be planted. In order to be able to understand a new concept, the framework of others must have already happened. To enter into “play”, the use of creativity must be used to enter the “magic circle”. To adopt a new world, an understand of reality in some form must be a precede it. Sentience is a requirement of creativity. Dogs play with each other. Cats play. Dolphins play. In order to invent new rules for the world, create a “game” which has a play-space, an organism must first be aware of its surroundings. To create new rules, rules have to be defined for the organism. Programs, artificial constructs, cannot so far have a subjective experience. It is this subjectivity, and the ability to project a version of it into a possible future occasion, the act of creativity, that is so essential to the ability to play in the first place. Creativity must precede play.

If it was not obvious, I am not sure where creativity occurs in relationship to the play-space. It exists in some form as a catalyst to process of inventing new rules and then, from those rules, changing some aspect of a paradigm. Without creativity, nothing new is created, invented or transformed. However, play is nebulous in this aspect. Is creativity the sole key to play? Well, no. Animals can play. Their sentience allows them the necessary mental subjectivity need to engage in play. However, some animals have manifested the use of tools, the result of creativity. Did these tools come about, the result from, an instance of play or during the instance itself? Was the organism “pretending” one object was another, play, in which the object’s usefulness was discovered — creativity during play — or did the usefulness arise from the very act of “pretending” — resultant of play?

It might very well be the case that creativity is the fuel for play. It is part of the key, needed for the existence and the expression of the change that comes from the act of play. The very process of thinking in any future terms, the creation of a model of a world and perhaps the act of play, means that creativity was used. Planning and indulging in skill-based but not deadly combat are both acts of play and creativity. In order for animals to play with each other and not kill each other during the exercise, certain rules must be maintained. That same skill set is used in making plans to take down prey. The expectations of the experience are part of a model that is encompassed within the idea of play but is driven by the use of creativity. Both, in some way I cannot discern at this time, are intertwined and create, within the mental landscape, a positive feedback cycle. Creativity is needed for play to exist, but without play, creativity cannot exist.