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How many posts on Facebook and memes all over social media have you seen this week that start out something like; “If you play Pokemon Go, you are…” followed by words like stupid, out of touch, childish, have your head up your ass, are ignoring the horrors of the world, should be doing something more valuable with your time, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… let’s find new ways to look down on one another, blah, blah blah. UGH. OVER IT.

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I keep talking about this stuff on my Facebook page even though it feels like I’m beating a dead a horse at this point, because I continue to see so many hateful posts about how anyone who plays this game is basically a complete loser who has no idea what is going on in the world. Hateful messages that insinuate anyone who plays games is foolish and is acting like a child.

Engaging in play as an adult is healthy. Necessary, even. As stated by Scott G. Eberle, Ph.D,“We don’t lose the need for novelty and pleasure as we grow up”.  We continue to need this exercise in frivolity as we carry on adult lives for many reasons.  Play is largely discounted and discredited as a waste of time, but studies suggest this is far from the truth.

Engaging in any kind of play allows the brain and body to reset itself, realign itself to important, core values by letting go of anxiety, forgetting about pain and the pressures of adult life. Psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has discovered and written connections between violent, criminal behavior and lack of play in adults.  He even goes so far as to compare adult play to our need for oxygen, saying “…it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing”. He also points out that play can instill deep connections with others and create lasting, powerful relationships.

Companies who value their employee’s mental health know how valuable play can be. They offer vacation time, break time and often offer recreational pastimes at work such as exercise rooms, game rooms, beautiful outdoor campuses for walking, reflecting and recharging to fill this need. Our need for play is simply a part of who we are as humans. It’s why we go to Disneyland. It’s why some of us love sports. It’s why some prefer to crack open a beer and sit by a river or leave their phones off for a day while they do nothing but read sci-fi novels and others choose to exercise.  For some, it’s why we play video games, role play, read comics, watch movies and play Pokemon Go.

Patch Adams would be disappointed in anyone shunning the value of adult play.  He understood how play restores our spirits and brings joy, connection, peace and an ability to see more than the problems of this life.  Play allows us to experience joy even while we travel through the darkest places and often, we get to travel with others who want to play with us.  Play can be healing.  It can be restorative.  He, better than most, understood this and fought for dying patient’s abilities to be allowed to play because it can help heal in ways medicine cannot and if you have to choose between a pill or an hour playing a game, the game is ALWAYS going to be the better choice.

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See, self preservation takes many forms and one of those forms is play.  Each person’s self-preservation may look a little different, but it all has value, all have merit and each of us deserves to engage in whatever form of play it takes for us to achieve that restorative experience.

Remember, to step back and just play a game for a while does not mean we do not see the terrible things going on or that we don’t care about them.

Sometimes, for the sake of your own heart and spirit, you just have to stop, step away, and say;

“Not today. Today I will play Pokemon Go, take a walk through a castle in Anaheim, turn my phone off and play in the ocean or just sit at home and watch cartoons with my kids.’  It’s okay to say, “for today, for this hour, for this minute, I will allow myself to believe that the rest of the world is as beautiful as this easy moment and I will enjoy passing this level as much as I enjoyed a thousand other, awesome experiences in my life, so that tomorrow I may once again put on the warrior’s face and tackle these hard issues, these world-wide crisis’ and the chaos all around us.”

I still see the horrors. They still infuriate me.  They hurt my heart and affect my world and I will still do what I can to help, but occasionally, a little respite from the darkness in the form of a video game should be allowed without judgement from my peers. Playing games relieves my anxiety and pulls me out of panic attacks.  Playing can lift my mind out of the chaos and give me something else to focus on, something that I can control, to relieve stress and fight fear.  I often come away from playing with a renewed sense of purpose and a clarity to tackle my problems with a clearer head. Whether I am crushing candy, searching for Pokemon or fighting the Joker, I should NOT have to battle my own anxiety AND your judgement at the same time.

Playing games does not make me a bad person, an uncaring person, a blind or stupid person and I most certainly do not have my head up my ass.

I know these world issues deeply impact each of us and for some, they are so close to our hearts that sometimes it can be hard to understand how anyone would be willing to do ANYthing else. 

Guys, please know that I see you and your urgency and I honor that voice within you.  

Stop for a moment and consider what you consider “play” in your own life. Do you have girl’s night at the bar? Do you binge watch a favorite TV show? Do you have passes to a theme park or frequent public parks and hike, fish or waterski?  Do you paint, make jewelry, or decorate your house for holidays? Do you attend concerts and indulge in fancy drinks or play with make-up or own pets?  All of this is considered play.  All of this is valuable, JUST as valuable as playing a game online, on their phone or in their living room.

We are not that different.  Please stop building a wall where there is no need just because you don’t understand.  We won’t judge you for your hobbies, don’t judge us for ours.  I’m not saying you have to play, I’m not even saying you have to like it – you just have to respect that something you don’t like is something I value and leave the judgment behind.  It’s called compassion, respect and understanding and those are the things our world desperately needs more of right now above ANYthing else.  You want to help the world?  Start with yourself by accepting other’s love for the things they enjoy.

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