Playgrounds: abstract VS figurative.

Excellent photos of “non-themed playgrounds” by Simone Pierini. I completely agree with him that the divide in our lives (both adult and child) lies between the concepts of free play and rule-based play.

My favorite playgrounds are the “abstract” ones because, unlike the “figurative” ones, they allow you to unhinge pre-game hierarchy dynamics. If a child is usually bullied, in a figurative park (e.g., cowboys, pirates, castle) he or she will be relegated to roles where he or she will suffer the domination of the bullies, but if, on the contrary, children find themselves playing in a space where they are greeted by seemingly meaningless geometric shapes there, new and different dynamics will be created that will allow for “balancing” pre-existing differences.

In Carnival all participants are masks. Carnival always ends, meaning all power relations that are formed during Carnival are temporary, this is probable why traditionally, carnival kings are jesters and outsiders.

Free play has no external goals. It can be changed or stopped as soon as it becomes boring or unpleasant.

This is different from rule-based games. From the Olympic Games to War Games, stopping the game, especially if you are part of a team (and you are always part of a team in such games), evokes a wide range of emotions from accusations of being weak-willed to betrayal.

In war and sports, uniforms are part of the rules, and altering them is strictly prohibited. You will be considered the member of your team until the game ends. Your real national, political, geographical, and any other preferences are not that important.

Rule-based games seem fair and exciting. There is a comprehensive system of judges, commentators, and records. However, the main rule of games is that someone must lose, be overthrown, and sometimes punished. This rule shapes the course of the game. Rule-based games are as integral to human culture as free games. It seems the problem arises when we can no longer change the rules, when we forget that it is just a game. Some games can be extremely destructive.