Traditional games, intertwined with life

Well, we learn something from all games, but what ever happened to pure unadulterated fun?
Traditional games, intertwined with life

CHENNAI : A large part of my research on games comes from tapping into the memories of people. Memory can be a tricky thing. There are good memories and bad memories, but luckily most memories of play are good ones, and recollecting them brings a smile to people’s faces. But remembering things beings on a flood of emotion.

I remember one old lady narrating to us how she played a game with seeds on the banks of a river. As her back was turned to the river, she did not notice it lapping at her collection that was by her side. When the game was over, she turned to count her winnings and discovered that it had been carried away by the river. In the absence of the winnings, her friend declared herself the winner although there was no doubt that she had fewer winnings!

The lady giggled so much as she told us that it was almost hard to follow the story but when we did, we found it extremely funny. Only slightly less funny was her indignation, almost 60 years later, at being declared the loser merely because of the river.

I love this story because it captures that innocent charm and nostalgia that childhood memories evoke in us.

Another such story was of an old lady who watched in silence as we played. After some time, she beckoned us over and with her frail wizened fingers, she unravelled a knot in her sari pallu and showed us four cowrie shells. She told us that she used to play with her grandson when he was young, and the deal was that he would get an ice cream as a treat if he won. Indulgent grandma that she was, she always let him win!

She lost touch with her family due to difficult circumstances but carried the memory of a little boy in her sari pallu. I would like to think that somewhere a young man carries fond memories of a doting grandmother. While much of our research focuses on games themselves and the rules of play, this kind of background research tells us so much about the role that games played in our lives. They were interwoven with our relationships, our joy and so much more. Today, many of us have forgotten the spirit of pure unstructured play — play not to win a medal, not to excel in a sport, not to learn but play for the sake of playing.

In many of our events, parents want children to learn games that can teach them something, and children want to play if there is a prize or reward involved. A mother recently asked me why one should play a particular game. “Because it’s fun,” I replied not quite understanding her question.

“Then I don’t want it, “ she replied. “I would like games that help the child learn something.”

Well, we learn something from all games, but what ever happened to pure unadulterated fun? I don’t know the answer but I have a simple solution — Just Play!

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