‘Play’, that magical thing we all did so freely as children – a word that conjures childhood memories of made up games with siblings, of stock piling cardboard and ‘useful’ bits of otherwise throw away items under the bed, to make something fun with later. ‘Play’ can also be for adults, as explored at the Wellcome Collection Late Spectacular on Friday evening (3rd July). Many exciting variations could be delved into on the night, from the curious to the silly, to the downright unusual, there were video games and ‘gaming’ culture on offer, obscurely shaped pool tables that would require one hell of a trick shot that would leave Jimmy White gasping, there was a make your own dice station with silly instructions and dares on each side, and of course those of a carnal nature inspired by the current Institute of Sexology exhibition – such as trying to fool a piece of pornographic scanning software with a peg and a rubbery cupcake case – the mind boggles!
There were talks on the subject too, and I visited The Evolution of Play with primatologist Isabel Behncke, which divulged the biology of play in our closest primate cousins, Bonobo’s of the Congo, whose game play involved swinging a youngster with a loose grip from a high branch in a tree, and upon meeting another tribe of Bonobos, playing an obscure game of ring-a-ring o’ roses, whilst holding onto an highly sensitive part of the other male’s anatomy – suffice to say the men in the room were wincing! Dolphins and Blue Whales blowing bubbles to jump through, Polar Bears ‘tickling’ chained up Huskies, and a Wolf Dog taking it a step to far with Chihuahua’s head in their mouth, explored the boundaries, rules, consent and pure joy of play in the animal kingdom. I also went to video games journalist Leigh Alexander’s talk, Games and Personal Expression, which opened my eyes to the world of ‘indie gaming’, to those people who make and publish their own games from their bedrooms using open source software and an open mind to create games which are not all about shooting and cars, but about emotions, desires and a purer form of play that engage a wide and wise audience, certainly not just for the teenage boy… though they’re more than welcome to join too. There was certainly a game for everyone; a truly inspiring, fun and playful night had by all.
By Sarah Scarsbrook