What if we just took the “what if?” state of mind to be playing? I find I really need a definition, and this is both simple and versatile (I can’t be the only one who finds the concept of play both critical — especially to any idea of creativity — and difficult to pin down.). It occurred to me rereading the introductory chapter of Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, swimming through many, many examples toward a a common feature. “What if?” is sometimes suggested to fiction writers as a way of generating ideas. But it must apply anywhere people are up against conventions, established patterns, habit, which is to say, everywhere. Play would then be a kind of willing suspension of the usual understanding of “reality”. The details of any particular suspension would be spelled out in the “rules” of a game — if there are enough players and enough differences to make that necessary. Play may – and often does – involve one person alone. But there’s no limit on the numbers that could join in. It is not exclusive to human beings.
Best of all, such a definition leaves any one person’s engagement in play open, in fact contingent on that person’s freedom. For the suspension of understandings must be voluntary and must have appeal — aesthetic appeal. S/he must want to play.