Brian Sutton-Smith – Defender of the Playful

Brian Sutton-Smith (shown here with a passel of his playful progeny) – the same guy who said: “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression” – has been a friend of mine for 35-some years. I first came across his name in a book called The Study of Games that he and Elliot Avedon had co-authored. I was at the time working on my Interplay Games Curriculum, and was in the heat of searching for everything I could find out about games and the study thereof, and this particular book turned out to be a godsend. The next godsend occurred a few years later when I discovered that he was teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. I don’t remember exactly what the next steps were, but for several years he brought his classes to my play study retreat center, the Games Preserve, and he, his students and I shared some wonderfully deep play together.


Dr. Brian Sutton Smith, author of The Ambiguity of Play, Professor Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania where he taught in the Graduate School of Education and the Program of Folklore and Folklife, had this to say about himself:

“first of all I don’t consider myself just an academic. I have reached that point in life where my initial pretenses of being a scholar and of being impersonal no longer serve as a convincing dis guise for myself. I’ve come to believe that a central issue in understanding life or social science or gaining wis dom about anything that is significant is to determine the way in which one’s own internal narrative interacts with their personal scholarship. In New Zealand where I was born, I was deeply influenced by my aggressive and physically active older brother into considering play largely as a matter of power. My father was the Wellington chief postmaster who longed to be a university professor and was active as a storyteller and amateur actor. From him I got my academic interests in drama and in stories. These individuals certainly have influenced much of my life. I wish it was sufficient simply to announce that I have been persistently interested in play and that I think it’s important.” (from an interview with Dr Stuart Brown).

Dr. Brian Sutton-Smith, “…persistently interested in play and…its importan(ce),” Defender of the Playful.

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