My new writing haunt is Dave and Busters. Think of it like a giant, adult Chuck E Cheese. The bar and restaurant has fairly standard beers and pub food and a variety of fun cocktails including some grown up snow cones (with booze). But the rest of the place is a giant arcade. There are the standards: skee-ball, a softball toss, air hockey, etc. Then there are the newer games like Mario Kart, Terminator, Ghostbusters, and more. Then there’s stuff like a giant electronic Connect 4, a giant pac man and a giant fruit ninja. There’s Dance Dance Revoultion and a beer pong esque game.

I like working here because, again, there is a lot of sound and visual stimulation which helps me to focus in on my work and get it done. But this place also has the added bonus that when I get really antsy or burnt out or stuck I can get up, go play a couple of video games, and then come back and work some more. This ability to wander, to clear my mind by playing, and then to get back to work is really helpful.

But I’ve also been enjoying just how fun it all is. I really liked playing to old school games like skee-ball and a softball toss. I like not having to worry about how good I am and just getting to have fun. To play what interests me. Sure, I can get tickets for some of the games which is an added bonus, but really it’s more about just playing the game and having fun.

It makes me feel like a little kid. But like the little kid I didn’t really get to be. The kid who can just be free and choose what’s fun. The kid who can play for the joy of playing without worrying about the outcome or about how good he is.

I was a bit of an anxious kid. I think growing up in the fundamentalist church where so much is about perfection and “getting it right” made me always second guess myself. I wanted to win every game that I played. I wanted to be the best. But it wasn’t just so that I would win, it was because to be the best meant that I was somehow going to please the people around me, or please God, or make myself okay somehow. So everything I did felt like it was burdened down with this extra weight.

Plus I was always asking myself if it was okay to enjoy the things I was enjoying. Was I being too prideful? Was I liking something that was demonic? Or ungodly? Or that would make me backslide in my faith? Was I being a good enough example as I played the game?

Seriously. These thoughts would weigh on me no matter what I did. It was exhausting. And it meant that I was never really enjoying the game. Never really present for it. Because all of this other stuff mattered too much.

So to be able to go to a giant arcade, wander, see a game that I want to try, and then try it? Without thought for the outcome. Without caring how well I do. Without any other worry than to try a game and have fun?

Well, I feel like a little kid again. Like the kids I see, hyped up on sugar, running from game to game without a care in the world. I feel like I can play without any weight hanging over me. It’s not about achievement it’s about fun. It’s about release. It’s about play.

I don’t get to play very often anymore. Occasionally during a youth event we’ll play games. But then I am generally also in leadership mode: is anyone playing too rough? Are any of the kids being left out? Is anyone doing something dangerous? Am I playing too hard? I have to manage the situation, I can’t just let myself go.

And it’s different when you’re playing board games. They aren’t as physical, they are more mental, and I use my brain all of the time. So to let loose throwing a softball at a pop up clown, to roll a ball down a lane and try to get it into a cup, to play the Kung Fu Panda game and try to smack the targets? That is fun. That is release. That is play.

It brings me back into my body. It clears my mind of my internal critic that is always telling me what I am doing wrong. It frees me up.

So I like working here because it reminds me that you are never too old to play. And more than that, that playing is vital to my well-being.

Let’s all find more ways to play, to have fun, to be like kids again; without the weight of the world on our shoulders.

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Photo Credit: kevin dooley Flickr via Compfight cc