Bernie De Koven changed my life, before I even knew his name. Growing up with earth balls, and parachute games, and other awesome camp and gym activities were all an outgrowth of his impact through the 1970′s New Games Movement. In the ’90s their two classic books (New Games & More New Games) became a go-to bible for youth development professionals seeking ice breakers and warm-up activities. Jane McGonigal, in her book Reality is Broken, called the New Games movement a game revolution, and cited Bernie’s essay’s in the first book as her favorite. In the introduction to the recent reprint of his 1978 The Well-Played Game, indie game designer and game guru Eric Zimmerman has called Bernie “the closest thing we have to a shaman of play,” and alluded to the impact his work has had on a generation of game designers.
Recently, on the occasion of Bernie publishing A Playful Path (a book about, in part, how we can bring out the play throughout all aspects of our life) I contacted him about doing an interview. Situated in his comfortable chair, in a room of cloud-painted walls, we had some fun. This is the first part of this two-part interview, and I will sprinkle it throughout with video clips so you can see and hear Bernie in all his glory.
Bernie: You like my clouds, in my background?
Barry: I love it. Tell me more about your clouds.
We decided to paint the walls, and Rocky said, “Oh, let’s make a cloud” and that’s where I do all my readings for my blog from my book A Playful Path. So – hey - A Playful Path… I have so far sold 174 copies and I have had 30,000 downloads.
Wow. So, it’s available for free? That’s what you are telling me?
Is there an option for those who download it to make contributions?
No. No, it’s just, just there. I mean, it’s very pretty – I like the paperback version, that’s really beautiful – but me, you know, I just wanted those ideas in people’s hands. That’s all I really cared about, that was the whole purpose of this.
I was thinking about legacy, you know? That happens when you reach about 72 and a half.
Before we talk more about the book and we jump into it, I thought maybe we could play a game?
There are some wonderful games you talk about in your book, A Playful Path, that are word games.
Well as a matter of fact I do talk about word games in the book, yes. Give me a moment while I refresh my mind.
Whatever you would like.
Well, well. Listen. Since it’s you and me doing this, I would like to do the Out Blessing Game.
Because of our shared ethnic predilection [AKA, we’re both Jewish], we understand about blessings. You remember how to play the Out Blessing Game?
For the benefit of those who have not yet read it…
Oh, I am so sorry for them. They can download it for free now – just go to aplayfulpath.com.
So can you remind us how to play?
Yes. It’s a competitive game and I will start by blessing you with something. You might say something like, “May the fruits of your labor never spoil.”
That is a lovely thought; that’s like a blessing. And then I might respond by saying, “And may they all be delicious.”
And then you might respond by saying, “And may they always be ripe.”
And then I might say, “Yes, and may they be available in your local supermarkets.”
And then you respond by saying, “On sale!”
You see, each blessing being more out blessing until you feel so blessed you are speechless with gratitude and blessingnesshood. (Actually, I am now calling this the Endless Blessings game. More poetic and soulful, don’t you think? Making it more in line with the gentler kind of connection that I want people to experience.)
Sounds good. So who begins? You or me?
Well, I would suggest that you begin.
Well, since this is the beginning of an interview with you, Bernie, about your books and your ideas, and you started by speaking to me about legacies, let me begin by saying: Bernie, may all of your passionate dreams about people living playful lives be introduced to many through this interview.
And I might say response: Barry, may not only my dreams be introduced but may your dreams be carried forward further into the institutions of learning throughout the world.
And I will out bless you by responding: And may this playful dialogue touch people.
Oh yeah, yeah. And may they continue it with other people and embrace each other in deeper and more pervasive playfulness.
And in doing so may they come to believe this originated from themselves and they take full ownership over it.
You did it! I am totally out blessed.
So, with that, let’s -
I am never going to play with you again.