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Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games

3.22  ·  Rating details ·  243 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
How filling life with play-whether soccer or lawn mowing, counting sheep or tossing Angry Birds-forges a new path for creativity and joy in our impatient age

Life is boring: filled with meetings and traffic, errands and emails. Nothing we'd ever call fun. But what if we've gotten fun wrong? In Play Anything, visionary game designer and philosopher Ian Bogost shows how we ca
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Basic Books
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Michael Scott
Ian Bogost's Play Anything is a book about how play emerges from the limits in the world around us. Ian introduces "the world" as a giant playground waiting to be discovered, ironoia as the mistrust of things and thus a barrier to emergent play, fun as the novelty and play as emergent quality of things (not of us, individuals), and discusses emergent fun as an opposite of happiness. Overall, this is the worst book I've read from Ian Bogost--there is little structure, much negative tone without m ...more
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was ok
Don't books have editors any more? This one certainly needed another pass or two with a red pencil.

Look, Bogost is clearly a smart guy, and has some interesting insights into game design. And there are definite flashes of brilliance here, especially in his chapter on the concept of "ironoia".

Unfortunately, most of the book is an unfocused mess, with a tone that shifts wildly from pop-culture drivel (a la Malcolm Gladwell) to a deep dive into advanced programming. It's supposed to offer me amazi
Emily Carlin
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Unexpectedly gripping + fascinating + worthwhile. A lot of the big players in my personal canon were put into conversation (e.g. DFW x video game design).

I'm totally, one hundred percent convinced by Bogost and I can already feel the book subtly changing the way I live. Two things I want to critique, though:

(1) I want a better argument for why his approach isn't susceptible to the same critique he turns against gamification -- i.e. that it's sugar coating for shitty things. He critiques the su
Billy Dean
Dec 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
The absence of politics--particularly anything even remotely resembling class politics--is more than conspicuous. Bogost claims that we "look down our nose" at Walmart and McDonalds because we mistake familiarity for a "lack of authenticity" (52f). But most of us recognize that something else is at work in these examples; there is virtually no mention of what kind of company Walmart is, what kind of people shop there, or how Walmart shoppers figure in our rhetoric and cultural imagination. Bogos ...more
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is a thought-provoking book that I really wanted to like more than I did. Bogost is an important figure at the interface of game studies and philosophy that I desperately wish people in (ludo-)musicology would heed. (Scholars of ludomusicology – loosely, game music studies – focus exclusively on large-scale console video games, thereby excluding all of the other ways that games/play and music intersect. But I digress...) Despite this book's many merits, I found the tone and the examples tha ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Here's what I took from this:

Ian Bogost offers guidance for navigating the banality of life, without veering into irony. He suggests drawing a "magic circle" around particular situations or things, then treating these things as a playground. You can play at lawn care, or play an errand at the mall, just as one would play soccer or Tetris.

This is distinct from "gamification." You should deal with the situation or object as it is -- leaning into it rather than disguising it to make the experience
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I’m not sure I learned anything from this book. I was looking forward to a primer on how to make life more playful—I am perpetually pingponging between being way too stimulated and way too bored—but it did not reveal too much about how to reify playfulness in everyday life. There are a lot of extended meditations on irony, insincerity, consumption, etc. but, as I began to suspect halfway in, it’s one of those “change your way of thinking” books, not an “implement a way of thinking” books, making ...more
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whenever I was reading this book, the time always went faster than I expected, and I read further than intended, which is a nod to how well Bogost keeps his writing interesting, unexpected, and worthwhile. Moments in the book become a bit too self-involved, in that a reader is hammered over and over with an invented term, or a simplistic example overused. Bogost can be excused for this as his broader evaluation of our world, and his motivations in sharing a perspective of play, is ultimately rew ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
This isn't a book about how to improve your life by dealing with boredom in constructive ways, it's a book about unhappiness and how powerless we (usually) are to change it. If I had known that going in, I might have liked this book better, but it's poorly packaged and VERY poorly organized. All the best parts of this book are cribbed from more interesting and established writers—the book feels like a very long blog post.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: stopped-reading
I don't often find books that I can't finish, but this was one of them. I got into around the 2nd chapter before I completely gave up. I even tried promising myself to read a book I had been waiting for but only after I finished this - didn't work, I just didn't want to pick this book up again. The writing felt disorganized to me, jumping from one place to another and not connecting the dots between them. Maybe the content is good, but I just can't find the main ideas of the chapters. It's all t ...more
Oct 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
I couldn't keep going after only 1-1/2 chapters. Just a long ramble, and not very interesting. I just can't figure out what his point was going to be. He talks about irony in play, and about "fun", but the irony of this book is that it's just no fun to read! I'm moving on to something else...
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, creativity, guides
Para un libro que habla de juego y maneras de aprender a través de él, este libro se quedó corto en estrategias. Y no me refiero a que fuera o no divertido (no lo fue), pero como el libro mismo lo dice, una cosa es juego, otra cosa es diversión y muy pocos pueden diferenciar entre uno y otro.
No me tomen a mal, el libro tiene una buena intención y es demostrar que jugando se aprende mejor, puede que no mucho más que con otras técnicas, pero ayuda a muchas personas a cruzar esa barrera de aprendi
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: google-talks
I knew going in that this book was going to be philosophical, since I watched the author speak at Google. Turned out to be basically only philosophical and not much more. The ideas were thought provoking, but the tone has a kind of negativity to it that turned me off a bit.

Whenever I'm reading non-fiction, I kind of groan inside whenever the author launches into the "examples" they provide for their concepts. Bogost tends to drag on with the examples as filler, and cites them again, and again, a
May 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
I heard the author on CBC and thought the book sounded interesting. It was a bit of a let down. The book is very repetitive and mostly theory. I had hoped to be able to translate the info into a new approach for myself to diet and exercise. But the info was too abstract and academic to be a good read or of much practical use.
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This books contains words, sometimes those words will be arranged in sentence form, do not be fooled; those sentences will not contain information.

Okay, so maybe it's not that bad, but this should have been something I liked, but it was awful instead with just a few redeeming spots.

Just read the last chapter The Opposite of Happiness.

Hidden in here are some good points: not using irony to detach ourselves from the world, accepting things for what they are rather than for what we wish them to
Emma Frey
May 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
You know, not my favorite.

This is another pitch for mindfulness, a philosophy toward which I am unshakably grouchy. "Do the laundry WITHOUT listening to a podcast - you'll find more enjoyment!" *Grumble grumble.*

I'm not being fair: Ian Bogost offers some interesting points on the topic of "ironoia" - the mistrust of things. He suggests we move beyond the comfortable practice of distancing ourselves from the world toward acceptance and curiosity. Kind of like, "Ask not what your lawnmower can do
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't prepared for how philosophic & metaphysical this book would turn out to be. Just on the the title and with no previous experience with the author, I thought it would be a few clever tips on how to game myself into doing boring work, but it was much deeper than that. I found myself reevaluating my life through the lens he provides and it was a fresh and welcomed perspective. A little disjointed but well worth the read.
Jan 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Concept was interesting, but the writing...
Pål Fiva
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Boring, shallow and repetitive. Spends too much time using DFW as a sort of straw-man cod-philosopher, and returns to the same examples over, and over again.
Wesley Schantz
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ian Bogost writes for the Atlantic, my go-to for that vicarious thrill of instant publication, instant readership, that sense that words still matter even in the most ephemeral online news. He edits the series of games studies books from MIT that make up that recent Humble Bundle my friend Ryan recommended to me. And he's got a new book out with a provocative subtitle: The Pleasures of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games.

So, Play Anything. Here's what I take to be the central cl
Mar 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
How to play this book:
By the end of first 10 pages, overwhelmed by tedium and triviality take a shot every time author repeats an anecdote he already told without anything new to add, take a shot.
Every time the author goes on an angry rant that leads nowhere, finish the bottle.
Oh, and by the way, explaining "rage-quit" doesn't make you look "hip" and "aware", it just makes you look desperately striving to look like you know. Next time the author goes on to write an abomination like this, I hope
Marc Matthews
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it
I had a friend in high school who would get very philosophic when he got high. Most of it was babble, but every now and again he would actually say something deep. That was this book. Could have been great, but very esoteric and meandering. There were individual points that I enjoyed and appreciated. Just need an editor with a stronger hand.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I did not finish this. It was written above my reading level. Or maybe I was too tired to read it. The basic idea, as I understood it, seemed helpful. But I think I would have enjoyed an essay in the New Yorker by the author more. All the same though I think this is a book my brother and other people smarter than me in certain ways would love.
Jj Ludman
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Some interesting points of view but I didn't really like Bogosts writing.
Benjamin Hill
May 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
It feels like the whole book is just like, everything is a playground. Instead of looking at work as work, look at it as play. But then it doesn't really say how to do that.
Christian Champ
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting take on how constraints drive play and how they are necessary for play to happen. How play creates meaning and how important play is (in case we are forget).
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it
A decent 236 page book that would have been a great long form essay. Kids know how to take the world as it is and make a game of it. Adults should be more like kids.
Joel Adams
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
// excellent thing-oriented dive into the nature of play ... all about doing what we can with what is given and being humble in the face of objects and their world
Fabrício Calado
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such a joy to read something against the all-consuming wave of irony that engulfs culture these days. Here Bogost creates a concept - ironoia, the fear of things - to illustrate how hipster culture works to distance itself from real experiences.

From there on, he proceeds to deconstruct a lot of staples in modern culture, such as mindfulness, the magic art of tidying up (yes, that Mary Kondo book shows up here), and even David Foster Wallace's commencement speech.

I won't spoil it, but Bogost ba
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Ian Bogost is a video game designer, critic and researcher. He holds a joint professorship in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication and in Interactive Computing in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Chair in Media Studies.

He is the author of Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticis

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“Play isn’t doing what we want, but doing what we can with the materials we find along the way.” 2 likes
“Children aren’t only less inhibited than adults; they are also less powerful, and smaller too. They may or may not be more open-minded and liberated than grown-ups, but they are forced to live in a world that wasn’t designed for them, and one that is not primarily concerned with their desires and their welfare. And so children are constantly compromising, constantly adjusting to an environment that is clearly not theirs, not yet. That’s wisdom, not innocence.” 1 likes
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