0/10 Q's Answered



Welcome, welcome, whimsical wanderer! Are you ready to let your inner child come out and play?

The Trickster here 👋 and have I got a treat for you.

I've just finished reading this magical report on A More Play-Full Future that dives deep into the power of play in our lives. But what's a report on play without a little bit of fun and games? Something would just be…missing, wouldn’t it? So, I’ve gone ahead and added my own mischievous touches here and there.

You can read the report packed with play, or without any of the fun bits, spoilsport.

Happy playing,The Trickster

Please enter your email to read the report, whether you play is up to you...
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

A More Play-Full Future

Play. Whimsy. Mischief. What if these were the kinds of words that framed our approach to the world? In the report that follows, we do our best to find out — in multiplayer mode.

Every report, we showcase a non-profit partner already building towards our better future

For a More Play-Full Future we are proud to present: KABOOM!

Before we begin, some instructions.

In this report you can interact in a few ways:

Doodle on the images throughout this report. You can change change the color and brush thickness too! Then screenshot them and upload them to the play wall. We'll share the best on socials.

Highlight your favourite bits and share on twitter, select any text in the report and click 'share'!

Listen to voices of the report. If you're still having trouble, please turn off your ad blockers, try refreshing or switch to a chrome browser!

Ask the Trickster. We've added a little bot to help your journey in the report. You can ask it questions about RADAR and the report!

Hi, we're RADAR

RADAR is a decentralized collective of 300+ members who have set out to accelerate better futures — in multiplayer mode.

We are many things: researchers, strategists, cultural analysts, network weavers, creative catalysts, facilitators, producers, entrepreneurs, co-designers, writers, makers. But across it all, we have three things in common:

  1. an interest, talent, or just a knack for sensemaking — connecting dots, unpacking drivers, spotting patterns; 
  2. a desire to activate that knack in service of building better worlds;
  3. a steadfast belief that, as member Caitlin Keeley once put it, “the future belongs to those who think about it.

If #3 is true (and we believe it is), then ‘those who think about the future’ should include more, and we mean way more, of the population than it does today. We’re not talking about individual daydreaming or even about creating new pathways into the same old industries. Rather, we’re talking about engaging the collective imagination in discovering better futures, so we can in turn cultivate a community of visionaries who are capable of actually creating better worlds — and give them the infrastructure to do it.

For too long, Futures Thinking has sat gated in ivory towers and walled gardens — or worse, collecting digital dust in clients’ inboxes. Traditional models operate in a competitive context that keeps us in single-player mode; we overvalue sameness and underthink ideas of credit and attribution, creating a culture of extraction rather than exchange. And, too often, we’re left to feel like it stops there: at thinking — like we’re not doing anything, we’re not impacting anything, and like the world isn’t any different as a result of our work.

RADAR’s vision of ‘the future of futures’ breaks these paradigms.

Learn more about the RADAR research process

Letter from the lead

Since our first report — A Future In Sync — was published, we’ve nearly doubled our membership, hosted our first Futurethon, published our thesis on accelerating multiplayer futures, and done so much more.

But when I look back at A Future In Sync, I’m most struck by how it foretold the journey ahead — informing the evolution of our perspective on better futures, our 2023 resolutions, and even this very report without us quite realizing it.

In closing our final chapter on ‘New Stories,’ we wrote: “and maybe — just maybe — that all comes down to cultivating a world that’s a little more playful.”

‘That’ referred to reaching a better, more synchronous future for ourselves, each other, and the planet. And we’ve certainly seen it bear out here.

For this report, we set out pondering the question — what if words like play, whimsy, and mischief were the kinds of words that framed our approach to the world?

What if play wasn’t just viewed as a leisure activity?

What if it weren’t diminished as the domain of kids?

What if – instead – it was viewed as a new mindset and a new approach for how we exist in, interact with, and build the world? What if it impacted just about everything?

And so we embarked on this collective journey toward a better, more playful future. Coming together across hemispheres to ask even more big questions: Like who gets to play? And is it a privilege or a right? Is play a mechanism for action? For truth telling? For solving the world’s biggest problems? Questions like, who’s scared of play? And why? And what’s at stake if a more playful future doesn’t come to fruition?

Over 10 weeks, we explored far and wide. Questioning our questions. Mining for unexpected signals. Digging deep across horizontal and vertical context to bring texture, color, and depth to a topic we came to realize was so much bigger than even we initially thought.

We interviewed a clown, a sexual freedom philosopher, a practicing witch, a games designer, an urban policy expert — and more. We hacked together an app to compile community-generated content (CGC™️) from friends, family, and our extended network around the globe. We invited the public to play with us on a journey Into The Future. And we turned Miro into a literal playground beyond our wildest imaginations.

We approached this process playfully, and we hope you feel it come through.
But in case the report leaves you wanting more, it’s really just a start.

At the end of your read, you’ll be presented with two paths — and we hope you’ll take them both.

One, a toolkit and wayfinder for incorporating play into your own life. The other, our journey into Incubate; an invitation to accept our upcoming briefs built to inspire makers, creators, and visionaries to help us manifest A More Play-Full Future, together.

As you know by now, we’re big believers that the future belongs to those who think about it. So whether you feel inspired to consider play in the context of your own world, or to use this report as a portal into building another, we invite you to claim your stake in this future. Because the more brains, hands, and resources we can put behind a shared vision of a better future, the more likely we’ll all be to benefit from its fruition.

Now play away!

— Keels
Research Instigator

Project Lead, A More Play-Full Future


A More Play-Full Future

An impromptu game of hide-and-seek in the park.
A random, silly little dance after a small, personal victory.
The calm surface of a lake inviting an irresistible urge to pick up a stone and skip it.

Moments like these happen every day, everywhere, all around the world. These displays of universal human behavior are unprompted, natural, and remind us that there’s something powerful — in the deepest, molecular level of our cells, across our bodies and minds — that motivates us to play.

But what is play, really?

Answering a question this big and nebulous requires that we first answer a handful of even more nebulous questions…

Like, why do we play?

To answer that, we need to remember that humans are not the only ones who do it; what we conceive as play is behavior that manifests far beyond our species. 

Across almost every sort of animal, from fish and frogs to rats and kangaroos, play acts as the great rehearsal for life. It's an opportunity for the young to practice essential survival tasks required of them as adults — and for those adults to hone, sharpen, and practice too. Predators engage in sparring or chasing games to simultaneously train and explore. In hunter-gatherer societies, children make their own toys, engaging with objects that emulate or are part of adult material culture in order to mimic work through play.

Play is necessary for adaptation, flexibility, and social learning. As Dr. Stuart Brown from the National Institute For Play observes, across the animal kingdom, “non-players do not do as well as the players.” This makes play a matter of survival, reducing the risk of a host of diseases and influencing mating & sexual selection

But it’s not just about staying alive, it’s also about feeling alive.

Nothing lights up the brain quite like play. It fires up the cerebellum, shooting impulses at lightning speed into the frontal lobe. Play transforms mundane, forgettable moments into memories, because when we play, we remember — helping contextual memory to be developed.

So when we zoom out and look at the role play, well, plays for us, it’s almost unbelievable that it’s so often disregarded as frivolous, when it forms much of the mental map and emotional backbone required for us to navigate the world.

Nicolle Hodges, Journalist, Author, Sexual Freedom Philosopher & Social Entrepreneur

Draw on the picture to give those waiting in line something to look at ↴

Midjourney x RADAR x you

Abisola, Community Member, Global

Gaia, Community Member, London

Doodle to make these tax's more magical↴

Midjourney x RADAR x you

A trip through time

How has our perspective on play been shaped & framed over time?

Eric Zimmerman, Games Designer & Arts Professor, NYU Game Center

Toys and games have been found dating all the way back to ancient civilizations. Small clay and stone balls originating back to the Chinese Yangshao Culture during the Neolithic Period have been discovered, while Egyptian tomb paintings and ancient Greek ornaments portray children engaged in games and interacting with swings and kites.

From dragon snake games in Indonesia to the ocean-navigating wayfarers of Hawaii, games and play have been crucial vehicles responsible for passing down traditions, heritage, and culture among Indigenous peoples across the world — while helping each new generation realize its own right to play.

In Ancient Greece, play was recognized for its power as a shaper and educator. The Grecians took their play seriously, from theater festivals to the glorified athletics in the original Olympic games. Plato himself observed how play positively influenced the way children developed as adults, and proposed to regulate play for social ends. 

Such regulation was an ominous sign of things to come.
Let’s fast forward to the 17th century — where play’s luck began to change.

Once heralded as an inherent and positive human behavior, play suddenly found itself demonized. For the medieval church, it became a threat to order and authority. The Puritans of New England condemned play as a sinful distraction from preparing for adult life, so much so that even Yuletide festivities were discouraged and later, outright banned. According to German sociologist Max Weber, these highly moralized religious groups saw the destruction of spontaneous, impulsive enjoyment as their most urgent task. Play was disregarded as frivolous; work was deemed the only road to salvation, even for children — an attitude that was only amplified with the onset of the industrial revolution and the child labor that emerged and accelerated alongside it.

Yet, wherever enemies of play show up, so do tales of tricksters, jesters, and sacred fools seeking to upend the status quo through playful anarchy. In mythical settings, these archetypes are, arguably, the hardest to pin down. As boundary crossers and subversive figures, they’re welcomed entertainers, until they’re not. After all, there’s immense power — one might call it dangerous power — in using play as a tool for rebellion. 

Nicolle Hodges
Journalist, Author, Sexual Freedom Philosopher & Social Entrepreneur

Kat Murray-Clark
Service Designer, Facilitator & Clown

Across history, mischief-makers — from the religious renegade Martin Luther to modern-day contrarians like Elon Musk — have invoked 'jester’s privilege' — an idea such contrarians claim grants them the ability and right to playfully mock and offend without being punished.

Whether they’re to your taste or not, these acts of clownish rebellion play a critical role as a catalyst for individual and collective transformation. After all, if we live in a society too rigid for lighthearted jokes and a bit of goofing off, is it really a society worth living in? As Veronica Coburn and Sue Morrison note in Clown Through Mask, their study of clown theater:

“Clowns are society’s safety valves … They keep society safe by being unafraid … They fulfill their sacred duty keeping all, the individual, the collective and the divine in check.”

This evolving relationship with play as a point of both curiosity and consternation in halls of power and mythical tales alike makes clear that play must be some kind of powerful. So let’s unpack it.

Play, Today

What does play do for us, today?

Play isn’t merely an evolutionary survival technique, nor is it the festive frivolity its opponents throughout history would have us believe. It’s become a cornerstone of humanity and a foundation for modern society, whether we acknowledge it or not. 

Eric Zimmerman, Games Designer & Arts Professor, NYU Game Center

The Greeks knew how to play, so add some more play here ↴

Play catalyzes culture:

Whether used as an internal mechanism for ritual or as an engine for powerful mythmaking, play contributes to culture; without it, culture does not exist. In fact, the Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga claimed in his seminal Homo Ludens from 1938 that all forms of culture are ultimately predicated on forms of play. This is the case for ancient Greek art and literature, and for practically every element of modern cultural creation, from chart-topping music hits to obscure, interactive art installations.

It bolsters our resilience:

Play is critical to the development of emotional intelligence, helping children learn traits ranging from trust and flexibility to optimism and emotional regulation. But these positives don’t stop in childhood: Play offers meaningful benefits that reach far into adulthood. When the going gets tough, acts of play and a playful perspective can cultivate resilience against all forms of adversity. As the folks at Zeus Jones unpacked in their publication Athena, the pursuit of joy and unstructured play can unlock radical vulnerability, imbue us with a sense of agency, and liberate us to be our most authentic selves — characteristics that can make us more resilient under even the most toxic of stress. 

Draw a playground that bolsters resilience ↴

Play is a radical act. Write a message for those who need to hear it ↴

It empowers us to ‘do nothing’:

The most powerful potential of play is not rooted in any particular purpose at all, but rather, in its inherent — or in the words of Stuart Brown, apparent — purposelessness. It’s a rare, radical act of engaging in an activity without any goal or objective in mind. Instead, it’s pursued for the sole purpose of enjoying our brief moment on this earth. As music composer John Cage famously wrote: “[Purposeless play] is an affirmation of life — not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.”

“Play is the ultimate expression of freedom for its own sake.”

David Graeber

It underpins many of our most endearing human qualities:

Serendipitous discovery, creative exploration, intrinsic inefficiency: they all come back to play. In his seminal work, Man, Play and Games, 20th-century French scholar Roger Caillois attributes this “occasion of pure waste: waste of time, energy, ingenuity, skill, and often of money” to many of our most important and consequential human qualities. Influenced by Caillois’s work, anthropologist Victor Turner makes an even more compelling argument for our purposes, describing play as an “anti-structure” that allows us to explore and express the ambiguities, contradictions, and uncertainties inherent in liminal spaces. It’s these free and flowing in-between moments — these, yes, wastes of everything — that allow for serendipity, for creative leaps, for silly-turned-serious a-ha’s. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that much of what makes humanity special?

Ellie Hain, Artist, Researcher & Cultural Strategist

And it help us navigate an increasingly unnavigable world: While play can feel frivolous, aimless, and even radical, it has also become the most logical way to navigate the modern world —one that seems engaged in its own act of random play

“We’re at the edge of various precipices, which scientific and industrial modernity has led us to […] We urgently need to expand “grounds of play” in our lives – time and space beyond the labor market, or domestic maintenance – where we can both deliberate, and imagineer, how we negotiate these ever-more-turbulent rapids.”

Pat Kane, RADAR contributor and Author of 2004’s The Play Ethic & the upcoming SUPERPLAY

Across politics, culture, and the global economy, events that seem inexplicable and out of control keep happening. As English filmmaker and documentarian Adam Curtis puts it in HyperNormalisation, “It’s becoming apparent that we are living in a time of great uncertainty and confusion, events come and go like waves of a fever, leaving us confused and uncertain.” And the further we zoom out, the more it seems plausible that even our existence on this planet is a coincidental product of the universe itself  “at play.” Within this context, maybe it’s reasonable to argue that play is the most appropriate response to our completely accidental and tumultuous existence?

The Living Philosophy Podcast

Swarna, Community Member, India

Loading...add more play ↴

Chat GPT x Midjourney x RADAR x you

Laura, Community Member, Melbourne

Make the weekly shopping trip more play-full ↴

Chat GPT x Midjourney x RADAR x you

Caitlin, Community Member, Toronto

A force of nature

Play is an animating force

Our journey through time makes clear that the more power that play demonstrates — the more resistance, contempt, and hostility it meets — the more potent it grows. It’s this cycle that gives us an inkling into what play truly is.

Through this brief exploration, we’ve seen perceptions of play shift from an evolutionary byproduct to a superfluous distraction that ought to be kept to a minimum. But we’ve also seen proof that its exuberant, generative, and — yes — inefficient nature is exactly what makes it so essential and so powerful. In this sense, the definition of play cannot be reduced to any certain kind of activity; it behaves more like a form of energy itself.

No matter our age, play empowers us to think and communicate differently, to step outside of the ordinary. It opens us to moments of serendipity, it enriches our lives, it enables us to connect over a common language where one otherwise might not exist. And so, too, play can quickly become incompatible with the mechanistic systems and organizations that are designed to shape and manage orderly, predictable, neatly divided societies. 

Eric Zimmerman, Contributing Expert

After all, play is inherently unpredictable: in its deeply human and naturally chaotic way, it opens us up to the unexpected (and perhaps uninvited) questioning of fundamental ideas that underpin everything from power and purpose to our relationships with ourselves and others. Taken to the extreme, it can be a real and tangible threat to formatted societies, established ideologies, even economic systems — merely because it prompts us to step just outside of what’s typically permitted.

An animating force of nature, it has the potential to breathe life into everything it touches.

And what are forces if not powers to be reckoned with? No wonder it’s our natural human instinct to do with play what we do with most every other powerful force we encounter: to fear it, control it, contain it so that it stays inert and unthreatening; to protect the integrity and predictability of our best-laid plans, maintaining an unwavering status quo.

Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder & Principal at Experimentalista, Former Chief Creative Officer for Mexico City

So what’s keeping play at bay?

Annika Hansteen-Izora, Multidisciplinary Artist, Writer & Designer

 Priyanka Kanse, Founder, MAYAworld

If play is something to be controlled and contained — lest it get out of hand — then it begs the question, who’s doing the controlling? What motivates them? What are they so afraid of? To answer these questions, we needed to probe into enemy territory. If play stands for expression and exploration, creativity and curiosity, openness and willingness to learn … who dares to stand on the other side? Surely these are all positive values, no? 

‘Sure, when kept in check,’ those enemies might respond. 

And with this understanding, it becomes clear that play’s enemies must keep powerful company — the kind of company invested in maintaining control and compliance. So when we think about answering the question, what’s keeping play at bay, we imagine a three-headed monster with its tentacles wrapped up in our most enduring structures; a monster so powerful that it can even turn us against our own inherently playful souls.

Its three heads? Cultural baggage, capitalistic expectations, and power itself.

Cultural baggage

In David Graeber’s excellent 2014 essay, ‘What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?,’ he explores our fascination with animals and play: 

“Why do animals play? Well, why shouldn’t they? The real question is: Why does the existence of action carried out for the sheer pleasure of acting, the exertion of powers for the sheer pleasure of exerting them, strike us as mysterious? What does it tell us about ourselves that we instinctively assume that it is?” 

It’s a fascination that – in our view – comes down to formatting.

No matter where we look, our dominant cultural frameworks have some serious baggage when it comes to play. Whether we look to the West and its individualistic culture that favors competitive play and independent achievement, or to Confucian hierarchical values that consider play as a means of fostering virtuous behavior and social harmony, what we see are top-down views of play as but another formatting tool — far from the intuitive, liberating ideal we’ve explored so far. This kind of framing has a seriously profound impact on our relationship to play as both children and adults. 

From the way we tell stories to the assumptions we make about what’s ‘normal’ and ‘valuable,’ free play — play without purpose — is deviant. And so culture undermines play’s true form as an open and freeform practice, acting as an invisible hand rushing children — and keeping adults — out of their most original, generative state; “[training us] away from natural-born foolishness” as Gordon McKenzie, author of Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, puts it. 

Conditioned by the desire to quickly grow up and into productive, ‘optimized’ members of society, rather than, say, mature, considerate and open-minded ones, children are encouraged (if not forced) to set aside their ‘imprudent’ and ‘irresponsible’ behavior; to ‘quit playing around’ and embrace adulting. As Rebekah Willett, a professor at the Information School at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has studied childlore (a concept we couldn’t get enough of during this research process), outlines for The Atlantic, it’s a shift in parental focus. So enamored with their children ‘becoming’ — worrying about their development and preparing them for the adult life they will one day lead — they miss the power of children simply ‘being.’

It’s an inherently cynical attitude, one that’s deeply bound up in our next monster-head: good old capitalism.

Benjamin Shepard, Activist,
Scholar & Social Worker

Fill this cultural baggage with play

Chat GPT x Midjourney x RADAR x you

Cultural Baggage

Ellie Hain, Artist, Researcher & Cultural Strategist

Lucy Hawthorne, Founder & Facilitator, Climate Play

Riga, Community Member, 34, Latvia

Fill more of your time with play ↴

Chat GPT x Midjourney x RADAR x you

Cultural Baggage

Nicolle Hodges, Journalist, Author, Sexual Freedom Philosopher & Social Entrepreneur

Capitalist expectations

In just about every conceivable way, it seems that capitalism — as a system, a structure, and an ideology — is in opposition with play’s very essence; its straight lines in conflict with play’s squiggles. And while this may seem like a modern problem we might attribute to #hustleculture — and fair, the grind-centric children’s books are indeed next-level — in truth, the roots go much deeper. 

It’s hard to pick apart the values of modern capitalist society from those of the Protestant work ethic. The accumulation of wealth, the pursuit of enterprise, the value of hard work: these are, supposedly, the core tenets of a life worth living. Achieving individually, reaping exclusive rewards, and winning out over rivals: the milestones that ensure a ladder well-climbed. This addiction to productivity — a closed loop where self-worth is measured by constantly completing the next task or reaching the next goal — not only suffocates any opportunity for play (an activity scorned as a waste of time), but also invalidates playfulness and creativity as practices that can foster valuable, consequential ideas.

Play needs free time, and we don’t have it. After all, capitalism has an inherent temporal bias toward the future — chasing the next thing, the next dollar — whereas play is intrinsically present. It encourages us to stop and linger. To laze, even. 

Play also needs freedom of expression, freedom to let loose. Yet too often, people are made to feel ashamed of their fun — as though, of course, there are more important things to attend to. “Don’t you have goals?,” the naysayers — and even, often, our own internal voices — ask, never stopping to consider that play might be a valid, even necessary, means of pursuing them both individually and collectively. 

Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder & Principal at Experimentalista, Former Chief Creative Officer for Mexico City

Lucy Hawthorne, Founder & Facilitator, Climate Play

Power dynamics

The forces of culture and capitalism would have us believe that play is synonymous with disorder. And so, of course, it’s only natural that the powers that be would aim to exercise control. In their view, play should only happen under certain circumstances and for certain purposes, accessible strictly to those who fit an exclusive set of criteria — creating a power imbalance between those whose remit it is to maintain the status quo and those who’d wish to challenge it.

And so, despite the fact that the United Nations recognizes play as a right of every child — and the Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly positions play as a fundamental right — not everyone has the time, space, or resources to experience it. As a proxy for power, wealth tends to facilitate access to the kinds of safe spaces, equipment, and materials required for play — and perhaps more importantly, determine just how much agency one has over their time, idle or otherwise. Gender, race, and ability can create barriers of their own, but it all comes back to power and privilege. 

Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder & Principal at Experimentalista, Former Chief Creative Officer for Mexico City

James Siegal, Senior Fellow, KABOOM!

So let’s zoom out for a moment, beyond the practicalities of play, and consider how power structures operate within the likes of institutions, organizations, and societies writ large. To have ‘power over’ is to demand submission, assume systematic outcomes, and enact top-down control. To embrace play, for children and adults alike, is to experience and cultivate freedom, cooperation, lawlessness, and joyful disorder. So, of course, play and traditional forms of power are like oil and water; by definition, play creates a contradiction. 

Any force that makes us more human, more curious, and more cooperative is naturally a threat to the competitive, individualistic, and hegemonic structures in place. 

In the context of most institutional organizations, rules and regulations limit the individual’s freedom to engage in anything too unstructured or spontaneous — monitored and enforced by everything from automated time-tracking software to rigid bureaucratic structures. This same structure has been replicated in the power dynamics between children and those responsible for their growth and development. As Peter Gray, a psychology professor emeritus at Boston College, outlines: the decline in free play we’ve seen over the last several years is “at least partly because adults have exerted ever-increasing control over children’s activities. As true at home as it is at school, we see this dynamic in everything from the heightened intensity of youth sports to the declining prevalence of recess. Per the CDC, only eight states in the U.S. require elementary schools to provide daily recess, and since the mid-2000s, up to 40% of school districts across the nation reduced or eliminated its presence entirely.

So, what kind of world are we creating when we deprioritize play at every turn? What are we encouraging by dampening its power and raising barriers to its access? From hampering people’s ability to embrace, adapt, and react to changing circumstances to stifling creativity and innovation, keeping play contained and restrained has real ramifications, stunting our growth as individuals, communities, and societies world over. 

Write some more play-full terms and conditions

Chat GPT x Midjourney x RADAR x you

terms and conditions

Kat Murray-Clark, Service Designer, Facilitator & Clown

Aaren, Community Member, Australia


Fill this morning commute with play ↴

Chat GPT x Midjourney x RADAR x you

The Morning Commute

Brighten up this traffic with play ↴

Chat GPT x Midjourney x RADAR x you


Angela, Friend of the Community, Australia

Our disenchanted world

The Outcome? Disenchanted World 

Now that you’re familiar with our three-headed monster — cultural baggage, capitalistic expectations, and power dynamics — let’s talk about the kind of impact she’s having on our relationship with play today. As one might expect, things don’t look great. 

To explain this, we’re going to have to take a brief detour into analogy land with Experimental History’s Adam Mastroianni (in true RADAR fashion, it’s a story about frogs). But before we carry on, you’ll need to understand that frogs in this context don’t refer to our favorite adorable amphibian, but rather a bastardization dreamt up by this guy, who’s decided to insult our favorite lily-pad loving friends by comparing them to our least desirable tasks and encouraging us to make meals of them daily. 

I think the devil is real and he wants you to be more productive.

The internet is full of this devilry. Millions of articles about how to find frogs, season frogs, cook frogs, and unhinge your jaw so you can cram more frogs down your gullet. Want to optimize your frog-eating? Just fork over $597 for a 12-session e-course!

Amidst it all, nobody’s asking the obvious question: Dude, why are you eating frogs??

Everybody has to eat frogs sometimes. And some people have to eat a lot more frogs than others because they were born into poverty and prejudice while others were born into riches and respect. But everybody, no matter how many frogs allotted to them by the universe, will eat more frogs than they have to if they believe they’re a lazy good-for-nothing who needs a constant, conscious-lashing to stay focused.

All of this has been a long way of saying: if you’re forcing yourself to eat frogs all day, maybe you need a vacation, or better pay, or some help organizing your life. But maybe what you really need is to stop eating frogs. Or, at the very least, you can stop thinking that frog-eating is such a virtuous thing to do. 

A little self-discipline builds character, but too much self-discipline breaks it.

All this frog-swallowing has us living lives made too small; lives that don’t let enough magic in. Some days, it feels like we’re Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill to even consider a bit of play amidst all the productivity. And even the play we do engage in isn’t all that playful, turning leisure time into yet another space for productivity and personal growth, and wrapping our kids up in the same confines of tools and time we’ve lost ourselves in.

Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder & Principal at Experimentalista, Former Chief Creative Officer for Mexico City

No wonder the frogs are biting back, they know better 


In her book Enchantment, author Katherine May describes disenchantment as a state “we may call by many names — burnout, apathy, alienation — but one that visits upon every life in one form or another, at one time or another, pulsating with the unmet longing for something elemental and ancient, with the yearning to see the world as beautiful again and feel its magic.” 

We’ve found ourselves, as a collective, in such a disenchanted world: one that sabotages serendipity in favor of cynicism; that makes silliness feel impertinent and impermissible; that deprioritizes pleasure at every turn; that keeps outlandish ideas and the inventiveness they might just unlock under wraps. It’s a context in which it’s too easy to sit back and rage against the machine.

But for some, that just won’t do. 

Play always finds a way

Play always finds a way

Benjamin Shepard, Activist, Scholar & Social Worker

Ellie Hain, Artist, Researcher & Cultural Strategist

As the saying goes, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. So, who’s been living it?

To answer this question, we sought out those who have turned to play as an act of subversion. Because despite the incontrovertible fact that we have long existed in a system that seeks to keep play at bay — intent on controlling the chaos of humanity — there have always been forces of mischief content to operate outside of the well-trodden paths of conformity and habit.

These movements often start in the margins. Excluded, for a host of reasons, from the very structures that normalize, contain, and organize everyday life, marginalized actors have had to find other means to reclaim their agency and make their voices heard:

Children who play in the shadow of war and disaster, and communities who embrace play in the face of adversity. People who’d rather throw their own party than let someone else plan their funeral, and those who’d rather celebrate the dead than mourn them. Those who know that play really is power — and one of our best tools for activism, whether by way of role-play or pranks. And those, whether they’re in the worlds of skateboarding or sex, whose very culture of play is one of creative freedom and free-wheeling rebellion.

What each of these examples has in common is, in their own way, choosing to play as an alternative to the status quo and an act of agency that sparks joy regardless of context. Rather than wait for, or even seek, permission to take up the space they deserve, play has become a way for these actors to challenge existing power structures obliquely, prompting all of us to question the status quo and conceptualize alternative ways of being in this world.

Benjamin Shepard, Activist, Scholar & Social Worker

We think of them as cracks in the fabric — emerging like dandelions through concrete — and we’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below:

Skipping to the beat of resistance

This is not a new phenomenon: against the racially charged backdrop of Philadelphia in the 1960s, Wynnetta Ann Scott-Simmons records in her dissertation — Self, Other, and Jump Rope Community: The Triumphs of African American Women — the role that jump rope communities played in helping young African American girls navigate systemic oppression, molding their identities and imbuing them with a sense of personal agency. An accessible form of play that requires no more than a simple clothesline and willing partners, jumping rope became an avenue of creative expression, enabling them to express their personal artistry in the face of dominant narratives that sought to marginalize and portray them as failures, while also building their connection with community mentors, honing their fluency in cultural practices by way of rhythm and rhyme. 

An urban canvas for expression

While skateboarding may have come a long way from its countercultural roots — seeing itself legitimized as an Olympic sport and attracting million-dollar sponsorships — the heart of a rebel still beats underneath the newfound luster. Where other sports impose standard rules and regulations, skateboarding as a practice extends a challenge: to see the world not as it is, but as it could be. Streets, sidewalks, and steps are not linear paths, but a canvas upon which to exercise creativity of movement. Nyjah Huston, despite being a successful pro skateboarder attracting major sponsorships, still entrances the audiences of his Send Saturday video series by skirting the law, playfully skating spaces not meant to be skated. Organizations such as Free Movement Skateboarding leverage this ethos to empower marginalized youth in Athens, helping them to regain confidence in their bodies and assert themselves in society, empowering them to effect further positive change. 

The political is prankable

More than a practice for self-expression and empowerment, play can also directly challenge forces of authority — from the Yippies in the ’60s and the playful heritage of the American Gay Rights Movement, to designers working on modern protest games and LARPers embedding weighty social issues in their role play. Of course, Gen Z has given the tradition its own very-online spin: in the leadup to the 2020 U.S. Presidential election, teenagers too young to vote legally leveraged TikTok’s viral power to express their political views, hijacking the system to rack up fake ticket reservations to then-nominee Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa in an attempt to keep seats empty. Ultimately, less than a third of the venue’s 19,000 capacity was filled. “I believe the prank did show the power that my generation holds that can’t be quantified in the voting booth. Not all of us can vote, but we had the power to hoodwink the president of the United States. I’d call that making a statement,” Sam, 17, told Teen Vogue. Here’s to more hoodwinking. 

For better and for worse

A new age for play

Such playful questioning may start at the margins, but the disenfranchised margins are growing. 

The old paradigms and structures of power established in the last decades and centuries have proven to be unsustainable and unscalable, leaving most people disillusioned and — in many ways — disempowered. As we explored in A Future In Sync, it’s time for new structures, new stories, and new behaviors to emerge in their place … and the charge is being led, snarkily and with many a meme, by young people all over the world.

As younger generations with little to lose come of age into a chaotic world that defies the rules of the game they’ve been taught, their inclination is to mock and question the world’s arbitrary codes and norms with an absurdist sense of humor. By holding no truth too sacred to question, this playful spirit widens the cracks in the fabric, leaving structures that have governed society for generations exposed to and poised for a playful reckoning.

Priyanka Kanse, Founder, MAYAworld

Yesim Kunter, Play Expert, Futurist & Professional Child

Yet even as we open our eyes to the potency of play as an expressive, empowering force, we must also recognise the inherent neutrality of such forces: the intention and context in which play is wielded can make for outcomes both powerfully good and very, very bad.

Yes, playful game mechanics have helped us learn languages, encouraged us to stay within safe speed limits by turning driving into a musical experience, and unlocked creative problem-solving methods — even on the most serious of fronts.

Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder & Principal at Experimentalista, Former Chief Creative Officer for Mexico City

But it’s not all fun and games. 

In the wrong hands, these same playful mechanics can exploit our very human nature, often in service of capitalistic ends. Natasha Dow Schüll, author of “Addiction by Design,” defines gamification as when “developers loosely apply game elements to other aspects of life, to capture attention, motivate engagement and drive revenue.” Dating apps can build addiction into their user experience to facilitate user retention, while remaining “indifferent to positive user outcomes, such as committed relationships or marriage.” Gamified incentives can easily turn into coercive game design, with predatory mechanics trapping gamers into sinking more and more money into seemingly ‘casual’ games. 

Whether the architect in question is an experience designer, a politician, or simply someone with privileged access to resources, when ‘playful’ subversion of the status quo comes with an imbalance of power, we open the door potentially damaging effects — deepening structural inequities and even re-shaping reality.

As David Phelps points out in his essay on bank bailouts, “Financial crises serve as nice reminders that money is an imaginary garden in which we lead our all-too-real lives.” Our shared reality is held together by shared fictions, which are susceptible to re-imagination. Imagination, combined with a powerful reach, can rewrite the narratives which shape our lives: framing climate action in terms of an exchange of carbon credits, engaging in “creative bookkeeping,” gerrymandering … Even Putin’s longtime advisor and spin doctor, Vladislov Surkov, has a background in theater and alludes to the Commedia dell’arte as an inspiration for his creative orchestration of political processes in the Soviet Union, using narratives and simulations to obfuscate the experience of reality.

Eric Zimmerman, Games Designer & Arts Professor, NYU Game Center

Which is all to say that to understand play as a force is to understand that it’s a lot like The Force — just ask Baby Yoda:

As David Graeber reminds us, the play principle can explain why sex is fun, and why cruelty is fun. So it’s important that we recognize both its light side and its shadow, lest we embrace one without learning to spot the other.

Ellie Hain,  Artist, Researcher & Cultural Strategist

Using the force...for good

RADAR’s Stance: Play for better futures

OK, obviously we’re looking for more jelly beans and less murder here. We want to cultivate a world where play as a force for good wins out. A More Play-full Future that’s inherently and unabashedly a better future. That’s kind of our whole thing.

And so, we need to give more people the means, the tools, the language, and the ways to think about and act on play’s light side: its positive benefits and potential roles in the world. We need to help more people understand play as a wide and ranging mindset that has the potential to impact just about any and everything. 

Lucy Hawthorne, Founder & Facilitator, Climate Play

To do it, we wondered: how might we look at the landscape of play through the guise of a role playing game? What if we mapped out ‘Character Classes’ that each embodied a specific set of strengths and abilities — specific traits of play that each type of character might unlock?

In truth, most playful actions embody more than one of these characters. But by thinking about play through the lens of discrete archetypes serving discrete roles, we can more easily develop a framework for tools, language, and opportunities within the world of play that are grokable for the many. (And hey, you’re getting a fun in-report quiz out of it. Who doesn’t love a good quiz?) 


In the sections that follow, you’ll meet our five character types: The Enchantress, The Healer, The Mediator, The Teacher, and The Artist — each of whom brings something uniquely playful to the table, and helps us unlock a piece of play within ourselves and in the world. To truly manifest A More Play-Full Future, we’ll need all five cards in our hand, since their diversity of experience is critical to rounding out our relationship with play in every dimension.

And, of course, we’ll need our Trickster friend along for the ride. His ability to challenge norms, take risks, and bring a sense of fun and playfulness to even the most serious of situations acts like a power-up for each of our characters — and he’s known to bridge the gaps in between too, bringing our characters together in unexpected ways to multiply their individual impact.

Archetype 1

The Enchantress: Makes Magic of the Mundane

“Enchantment is small wonder magnified through meaning, fascination caught in the web of fable and memory. It relies on small doses of awe, almost homeopathic: those quiet traces of fascination that are found only when we look for them.”

— Katherine May in ‘Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age’, 2023

 Aunt Carla, Witchy Godmother & Spiritual Business Coach

Priyanka Kanse, Founder, MAYAworld

If we’re going to re-enchant our disenchanted world, it’s going to start with the everyday. And that’s where The Enchantress comes in, turning the mundane into magic and helping us re-perceive accepted reality.

This role is all about helping us sense into the world with joy. To embrace our silly sides. To make space for one another in the simplest ways. To bring a playful approach to the simplest things, transforming the everyday into something just a little bit more.

The Enchantress recognizes the gravity of simple moments, not just milestones. Her approach is a recipe for reflexivity, a reminder that we do in fact have agency over our own capacity for awe. Like @boywaif — er, their former French professor — wisely put it: “If you just did something like going to the supermarket and experienced it fully without the goggles of habit and categories you would go crazy with pure sense and joy.” 

Priyanka Kanse, Founder, MAYAworld

Despite the conditions of *gestures vaguely at everything* that we explored in our Future In Sync report, The Enchantress is here to help us see the world through a lens of wonder. After all, it’s easy to be disenchanted when you’re stuck on autopilot, stressed out, and in survival mode — but nudging ourselves back into a practice of rediscovering the magic in the in-between parts of life is one way to wake ourselves up.

As Dr. Joost Vervoort, an Associate Professor of Transformative Imagination at Utrecht University puts it, “playfulness can be another path into the depth, mystery, and complexity of life — with an emphasis on its absurdity.” The Enchantress reminds us to zoom in on the weird, the wacky, the boring, the humdrum … to look for the sparkle in it … and lean into it all.

Progressive Punctuation:
Tax Heaven 3000:
The Errand Friend Hang:

Where else do we see The Enchantress at play?

The benefits of dress-up and playful cities (come on, just look at Germany’s street pong!). Embracing animecore. Bad luck spots and their altered pathways. Sam Cotton’s everyday voiceovers. Googly eyes in short supply. Alessi’s famously playful designs. Fun with pet products, and pot products too. Oh, and glitter for your cereal — because why not?

Tim, Community Member, 41, Brooklyn

Jeffy, Friend of the Community, 30, Sydney

Archetype 2

The Healer: Thinks of Play as a Prescription

“Humor and play is possibility, possibility invites change, change invites healing."

- Esther Perel, Psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author

Aunt Carla, Witchy Godmother & Spiritual Business Coach

Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder & Principal at Experimentalista

Next up is The Healer, who looks at play as a prescription for much of what ails us — from burnout and loneliness, to sleep and stress, to even more serious traumas and mental health struggles. Because while we may often dismiss play as mere frivolity, the science says it all: play has real healing power — both as a remedial medicine and a preventative one.

According to one study, people who are regularly more playful not only have better coping mechanisms, but are also less likely to experience stress in the first place. In short, play helps us build our resilience muscle in a sustainable way — avoiding the pitfalls of ‘escape hatch’ strategies that may work in short bursts but leave us wanting over time.

We’ve watched this play out in a therapeutic setting, with modalities like play therapy and inner-child work gathering momentum, but play’s healing power isn’t limited by doctor’s orders. From the positive benefits of gaming (like, even of games like Grand Theft Auto) and the curative power of sexual play, to the role that nostalgia has to play as a defense response to unhappiness, and the physical and mental health benefits of a more playful approach to exercise, play’s potential as a healer feels seemingly endless.

Kat Murray-Clark, Service Designer, Facilitator & Clown

We talk a lot about the ‘regressive’ behavior we see throughout culture. But maybe our obsession is reflective: an acknowledgement of how unhappy — and unplayful — we’ve become. The Healer can help us through it, thinking of play as a means of processing; a tool to unmuddle our feelings, free up our energy,  and find new pathways toward healing by way of joyful fun. 

Livster, Community Member & Tony, Dad, 66, NJ

Livster, Community Member & Monique, Mum 58, NJ

Museum Prescriptions:
Kinder World:
Catharsis Clubbing:

Where else do we see The Healer at play?

Therapists integrating TTRPGs in their practice. The health benefits of humor, silly walking, spooky scares, and approaching life with levity. A doctor-prescribed video game for ADHD, and virtual reality experiences to remedy chronic pain. Laughter Yoga, Running Stories, and the self-care cookbook: Saturday Night Pasta. Oh, and of course, Slime Therapy.


James Siegal, Senior Fellow, KABOOM!

Archetype 3

The Mediator: Uses Play to Break Bread and Boundaries

Kat Murray-Clark, Service Designer, Facilitator & Clown

Nicolle Hodges, Journalist, Author, Sexual Freedom Philosopher & Social Entrepreneur

Third, we have The Mediator: the connective tissue; the one who uses play to break bread and boundaries; the one who encourages us to embrace Bernie De Koven’s ‘shared weeee’ if you will.

The Meditator knows that in a time of increasing loneliness and divisiveness, play is a tool that can bond us back together. Because play can unlock community and conversation, its power has potential to resolve conflict and resurrect cooperative structures. It can help us overcome our greatest divides, and reconnect in a time of social atrophy.

Liv and Monique, 58, New Jersey

And its power can play out at different scales and in different settings — from the intimate and personal to the more collective and distant.

On one end of the spectrum, it can bond siblings through refreshing rituals, connect friends and strangers over conversational games, and enliven the mindless scrolling and swiping that has come to define dating.

On the other, it can catalyze the design of more social cities. Just look toward the street Tweede Tuindwarsstraat in Amsterdam that was redesigned to support social life, and encourage people to slow down and connect. It’s a civic space where “walking slows down to strolling, conversations grow longer, and people feel justified, and even compelled to just stop and linger, taking in the scene.”

Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder & Principal at Experimentalista

Liv and Tony, 66, New Jersey

It’s easy to overlook The Mediator as a key ingredient at these more macro scales. Playgrounds, parks, and playful public spaces not only contribute to physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development; they also act as incubators for community flourishing. From collective rituals and coffee shop corners, to playground gossip and pick-up sports games, The Mediator is present to facilitate the formation of meaningful social ties, both big and small.

Print & Play:
Taking ‘Breaking Bread & Boundaries’ Literally:

Where else do we see The Mediator at play?

Street FC. Board Game Socials. I Am On Edge, and every other social card game we’ve seen launch over the last few years (apparently, we needed help getting back in the swing of things). The Conversation Pit revival, soft sculptures you can hug, and a digital foreplay platform from Feeld. Third Spaces for Play, from the likes of Somewhere Good, vinyl listening bars, and community living rooms that give ‘Eric’s Basement.’ And finally, this exploration of quality, social leisure — and who, exactly, gets to have it.

The Cause - Listening Parties
Archetype 4

The Teacher: Makes learning lighthearted

Next up, it’s The Teacher, embedding play in our collective lesson plan.

When play is invited to teach, it does so by encouraging us to break free from the confines and constraints of the classroom. It doesn’t force us to follow a set curriculum nor expect us to paint by numbers; instead, it invites our inherent sense of wonder and inclination toward serendipity to take over, and lead us to the right answers.

Not only is learning through play more fun, it’s more effective too. Studies have shown that children learn faster when they’re free to play around with real-life problems, steered by their innate sense of curiosity. Take, for example, Japanese mathematician Tadashi Tokieda, who found a way to bring to life remarkable mathematical properties by inviting his students to marvel at the magical movements of strange spinning tubes and bouncy slinkys, instead of being forced to memorize dense equations.

Looking ahead, this type of guided play offered by The Teacher prepares children for a future of careers and vocations that will look nothing like anything prior generations will recognize by providing them with the ability to adapt to rapidly changing realities, and approach and explore new ideas without consequence.

But when play becomes the teacher, learning doesn’t stop at graduation. Indeed, some of the most disruptive innovators of this world rely on fun and chance encounters in order to unlock new ideas. Erik Demaine, the MIT professor and MacArthur Genius Grant winner, finds inspiration through everything from seemingly trivial Nintendo Wii games to obscure pasta-shape geometry to discover breakthrough designs. His playful approach to problem-solving has informed everything from the creation of industry-leading safety airbags to new computational glassblowing techniques.

Perhaps The Teacher’s most consequential superpower, though, is its ability to meaningfully affect behavior at scale. Virtual world-building efforts and immersive IRL challenges have the potential to engage society with some of the most pressing and complex issues of our time, from climate change to human rights. Whether it’s video games exploring hopepunk futures or interactive learning activities in cities across the world, The Teacher compellingly entices the masses to collectively engage with and find solutions to wicked problems through the power of play.  

Ariba, Community Member, 36, New York

Akash, Community Member, 36, Canada

Playing at Behavior Change:
Gamifying Grave Topics:
Ambient Education:

Where else do we see The Teacher at play?

An online DJ that teaches the history of music. Playspaces designed for lessons in gender equity. Language play among little ones, and a new vocabulary to teach old dogs new tricks. Radical simulations and gaming the Green New Deal. Solar system adventures and futures thinking by way of board game. Professors at play, citizen science, and the little known history of math & science meets origami.

Archetype 5

The Artist: Fuels creativity with a sense of play

“I realized that if I keep waiting until this feels right and perfect … it’s going to keep taking forever. And no, I’m not down to that. So I want to play.”

– Rihanna

Annika Hansteen-Izora, Multidisciplinary Artist, Writer & Designer

Aunt Carla, Witchy Godmother & Spiritual Business Coach

Finally, we have The Artist, unleashing creative fuel and freedom by granting us all the permission to play.

With a natural appetite to venture into the unknown, The Artist deploys a child-like curiosity, taking inspiration, joy, and delight in the world around them, and inviting a free-flow of ideas they synthesize from the mosaic of colors, materials, sounds, and sights that surround them. Instruments become toys. Nature, a soundboard. Technology, a limitless canvas. As Esther Perel notes: “Play is the infinite testing ground for creativity.”

Despite the vibrant potency of The Artist’s imagination, it can never be rushed, controlled, or molded to maximize productivity or profit. That just mutes the magic. Instead, a playful approach to creativity acknowledges that, sometimes, the next logical step in the pursuit of a masterpiece is to embrace the laze and just … do … nothing. As Madison Utendahl wrote on the power of time off: "Creative genius is often only a few lazy days away.”

With a mischievous disregard for the rulebook and how things ‘should’ be done, The Artist works in a world where there’s never ‘wrong’ ways to create, only a fascination with asking, ‘what if?’ As cult music producer Rick Rubin puts it: “We’re here to play. We’re here to have fun, the reason I made the records I made, I didn’t have the baggage of doing things the right way.” The trick lies in getting goofy, combining things in a million different ways, and seeing what sticks. Einstein called it ‘combinatory play,’ restructuring established concepts in new and novel ways.

 Priyanka Kanse, Founder, MAYAworld

But they’re not just kaleidoscopic in their approach to concepts and connections; their embrace of bricolage applies to identity as well. Author Visakan Veerasamy calls these ‘stage acts’ that help people to break free from creative ruts through the act of play-pretend: “Put on some costumes, literally or figuratively, and goof off. Put on your robe and wizard hat. Do nonsense.”

In our disenchanted world, faced with an imagination deficit that’s hampering everything from net-new culture to meaningful innovation, the artist may have one of the most important roles to play. After all, ideas are born in fields of play — and so, making time and cultivating space for The Artist to take the reins may just be the unlock we need to imagine what’s next.

Abisola, Community Member, 29, Global

Engineering Play:
Fashion: Why So Serious?:

Where else do we see The ARTIST at play?

KidSuper. Artbreeder AI (and other fun experiments). “Dangerous” fun. The Tumblr tale of Goncharov. Beatboxing battles. Shrek: The Rave. Radical Italian design. Playful installations that bridge the physical and digital. Retrofuturistic design that demonstrates the artistic power of nostalgia. Playful Icons: Björk, Iris Apfel, Vivienne Westwood, and Jeremy Scott. And this: somewhere in the world where urban designers had a little fun — let us know if you spot where it is!

Kid Super
T E G E L - Sound sculpture based on biodata
Taking play off the page

Play more

If we can build toward a world where our collective hand includes each of these cards — where their roles are elevated in importance, and where we’re empowered as people, communities, and societies to embrace their gifts — that’s where we think we’ll find our better future. 

So how do we do it? 

How do we create the conditions for play as a force for good to flourish and thrive?

As we laid out at the beginning of your journey, there are two paths ahead: One, a toolkit and wayfinder for incorporating play into your own life. The other, our journey into Incubate; an invitation to accept our upcoming briefs built to inspire makers, creators, and visionaries to help us manifest A More Play-Full Future, together.

If you share our vision for a playful world — and, by this point, if you’re still with us, we hope you do — then we invite you to explore both paths.

As we quoted in our Multiplayer Futures thesis, “​Rather than providing pre-packaged images of possible futures, it is important to encourage do-it-yourself and do-it-together attitudes towards the creation and exploration of futures.” It’s a perspective from FoAM with which we heartily agree.

And so we hope you’ll play with these ideas, remix them, and make them your own. And if you’re so inspired, maybe you’ll join us in Incubate as we embark on A More Play-Full Future in multiplayer mode. We promise, it’s more fun that way. 

See you in A More Play-Full Future
Join this Future