The Games People Play

It’s officially the start of Labor Day weekend. So, in honor of this most important and historic of holidays, let’s take a moment of silence to think about work.

OK, time’s up.

I’d much rather spend my Labor Day weekend thinking about work’s opposite: play. Just the sound of that word, play, sounds … oh, I don’t know … playful. There it goes, rolling off of my tongue, bounding past my lips, doing a somersault down my chin, landing onto the sidewalk, and dancing down the block. I think I’ll follow it.

Hey, play, wait for me! Tell me a little bit about yourself.

What’s that? Your ancestors were Dutch? Their name was “pleien,” which means to leap for joy or to dance? I like that. It sounds a lot like our English word “playin’,” as in, “playin’ hooky.” As someone who’s played hooky on occasion, I’m somewhat familiar with that particular sense of joy, that feeling of a dance coming on.

Nobody knows for sure where that word “hooky” came from, but since it’s Labor Day weekend and I’m on a break, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Who cares?!” Enough with the etymology. Let’s just enjoy the weekend!

Let’s go to the Strong National Museum of Play, in Rochester, New York. (I was just there in July.)


You can see more photos that I took at the play museum, over on my Photos page.

Or, let’s play some actual games. What was the first game you ever played? Was it peek-a-boo, duck-duck-goose, or hide-and-seek? Quick, go find somebody to play one of these games with and then come right back and tell me about your experience in the Comments section below.

Or if you don’t have anyone to play with, you can always play Solitaire. I don’t have anyone to play with at the moment, but I’m not going to let that stop me. I just played a game called List of Games. Here’s what I’ve got:

Board games, guessing games, pencil games, card games, dice games, brain games, games of chance, team games, game show games, song games.

Your turn.

I wonder what makes games so much fun. Is it the element of surprise? Is there a Psychology of Games? Is it possible to get a Ph.D. in Games? Would you then be a Dr. of Games, and would your title be D.o.G.?

Earlier today, I made a game out of listening for references to games in everyday speech. Less than five minutes later, someone used the phrase “the domino effect.” Bingo!

Then it got even spookier. I was watching the West Wing, and suddenly one of the characters pulled out the game of Risk while they were all under quarantine at the White House. There’s seems to be no end to the game references in pop culture.

Well, all of this typing feels too much like work. I think I’ll get back to watching TV. Game of Thrones is on.


My new photo book about the Pacific Northwest, “Standing in the Surf,” is available in e-book and paperback formats here:


3 thoughts on “The Games People Play

  1. Hi Lori,
    I really enjoyed this article and all its wordplay! As to your suggestion that your readers go play and then return to comment…..OK, I’m game! I’ll be right back!…………………
    Hello again! I admit that I didn’t actually play a game. I played my flute, and worked out a difficult passage. Playing and working at the same time started me thinking. We often use the word work when there is a problem to solve and the solution, satisfaction or reward comes later. A flat tire is repaired, we worked out at the gym to get stronger, we get our pay check after two weeks of work. While the satisfaction we get from playing is instant and concurrent. We dance, we jump rope, we ride a carousel (hmm….but I “play” the lottery, and that is not what I would call instantly fun, and there never seems to be a big reward later, either, haha!).
    But, as a recent retiree, I have started to think of the concept of work vs play in a new light. I spend my days learning new passages on my flute and teaching flute lessons to a few young flutists, meeting with my own private French tutor (who has become a good friend) in hopes of becoming semi-fluent someday, quilting, swimming laps, trying out new recipes, reading and discussing books with my book club friends. These activities are all enjoyable while I am doing them, but also all have a sense of satisfaction and reward later. So am I working? Am I playing?
    Your article made me decide that we retirees (you will soon be among us!) need a new word since we are simultaneously playing AND working, so I am inventing one: PLORK. I am plorking. And it is so much plorking fun!!


      1. No, that sounds too much like twerking! And if I were twerking it would definately not be fun or rewarding for anyone unfortunate enough to witness it! Let’s pronounce it to rhyme with stork, ok? Afterall a stork brings bundles of joy, right?


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