Play Theories
(Student Outline)

"We don't stop playing because we turn old, but turn old because we stop playing"
-- attributed to Satchel Paige


Louis Pasteur

Enthusiasm a god within

Margaret Mead


image of Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

Colonels Roosevelt and RondonTheodore Roosevelt -The twenty-sixth President of the United States.

Colonel Rondon (right) and Colonel Roosevelt along with Roosevelt’s son Kermit and about 20 others began the journey to explore the River of Doubt.

At the age of fifty-five, Roosevelt helped map the unexplored River of Doubt.


Theodore Roosevelt

Johan Huizinga

An expert on the Middle Ages

Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (1949)

"Homo Ludens" means "Man the Player."

Huizinga sees play as having certain characteristics:

  • It is voluntary activity.
  • Marked by freedom.
  • And never imposed by physical necessity or moral duty.

(Huizinga) Play reveals itself in two kinds of activity - contests for something and representations of something.

Ancient Greece was permeated with play forms. 

Huizinga traces historically the origins of many social institutions as ritualized forms of play activity.

War as play

“Dragon Eye”

Image of the Dragon Runner



“Dragon Runner”


"America's Army"

University of Iowa’s Virtual Soldier Research: http://www.digital-humans.org/

Play in the Business World

Corporate raids

Why do people play? – The theories

Michael Ellis (1973)

“Arm chair” theories

Catharsis theory

Behavioristic explanation (B.F. Skinner)

Psychoanalytical explanation (Sigmund Freud) Arousal-seeking theory

Competence-effectance theory.