I’m reminded of the second day of my 100 Days of Play challenge – way back when – where I found doing a crossword (an activity I enjoy and do by choice) an exercise in frustration. I’m doing a jigsaw – a jigsaw we’ve been doing for three days in the holiday cottage we’re staying in over New Year’s – and all that’s left is the sky. The interesting bit – the train, its platforms, the signals, some passengers – is all complete. All we’re left with is sky, in a subtle variety of blues.

And yet we continue. Something tells us we must continue. This must be Stuart Brown’s ‘Collector’ play personality at work. A need to have the whole thing complete, every piece in its proper place.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘free play’ and whether it’s truer than ‘directed’ play. And what could be more directed than play that involves someone creating an artwork, and then jumbling it up so you have to organise it back into exact the configuration that they demand and be rewarded with… the artwork they had before they chopped it up? So maybe a jigsaw isn’t play at all?

I’m not going to be able to answer that question immediately. If someone could come up with the perfect definition of play, they would have. And that’s part of the beauty of it. Ultimately I think: if doing a jigsaw isn’t play, what is it, and why the hell did we spend all that time squinting at near-identical pieces of blue?

I wanna make a jigsaw puzzle that’s 40,000 pieces. And when you finish it, it says ‘go outside.’ – Demetri Martin

Ease of play: 4/10

Resemblance to play: 5/10 

Aggression: Low (except when that piece JUST WON’T FIT!)

Speed: Slow

Enjoyability: Low-to-Medium

Potential frequency of play: High

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