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  General Information - Concepts of play

As I see it,
play does not "fit in" anywhere, it is as transient, recalcitrant to localization, to placement, to fixation. Huzinga (1955) dubbed it "a free activity", but he and Caillois (1961), and many afterwards, have commented on the framing and enclusure of playing within frames of arbitrary and deliberately monotonous conventions. Play is a volatile, sometimes dangerously explosive essence, which culturual institutions seek to bottle, or contain, in the vials of games of competition, chance, simulation, and controlled disorientation. [...]

Play is
ritual action nor meditation, nor is it merely vegetative, nor is it just "having fun" - it has a good deal of ergotropic aggressivity in its odd-jobbing bricolage style, too. It makes fun of people, things, ideas, ideologies, institutions, structures. It is partly a mocker as well as a mimic, a tease, arousing hope, desire, or curiosity, without giving satisfaction. It is as much a reflexive interrupter as an inciter of flow-states.[...]

Like many Trickster figures in myths [...], play can deceive, betray, beguile, delude (another derivate of ludere "to play") dupe, hoodwink, bamboozle, gull - as that category of players known as "card-sharps" well know! Actually, the English verb "play" itself is derived from the Anglo-saxon plegian, "to strike or clap" - the A-S noun plega means not only "a game, sport" but also, commonly, "a fight, battle". [...]
Still, it has a dangerous harmlesness, for it has no fear. Its lightness and fleetingness protect it. It has the powers of the weak, an infantine audacity in the face of the strong.

("Play and Drama: The Horns of a Dilemma", by Victor Turner, from "The World of Play",1983)