MIT Press has just published a new edition of Bernie DeKoven’s classic book on play, The Well-Played Game. Bernie is one of my game design heroes, and in 1978 when he wrote this book, he pioneered ideas about the importance and meaning of play, re-imagining games as a social community of players who transform and improvise rules.
Full disclosure: Bernie asked me to write the foreword to this new edition, and I was happy to pen a few pages that connect his concepts to what is going on in games today. You can find a PDF of my forward here (it’s the second essay on the list). It turns out that Bernie’s ideas anticipated many of the debates currently raging in games, from the rise of independent games and alternative player communities to addiction, eSports, and games in education.
It’s hard to convey what is so special about a book like The Well-Played game. It’s more than the brilliant ideas Bernie explores. It’s also the way he explores them. The writing follows his restless, curious mind – telling stories, cracking silly jokes, but always deftly bringing insight to bear on crucial topics around playing games and being human. Bernie doesn’t write about play in a book, he plays – and this book is what resulted.
The Well-Played Game is full of challenging ideas and is a joy to read. My highly biased recommendation: read it.