In Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown describes eight “play personalities.” Each archetype represents an affinity for a certain type of play. The play personalities are:

  • The Joker: think of class clowns or practical jokers, people who derive pleasure from silliness and nonsense
  • The Kinesthete: athletes, dancers, and hula hoopers; those who gain enjoyment from physical movement
  • The Explorer: the most curious person you know—travelers, adrenaline junkies, and lifelong students fall into this personality type
  • The Competitor: the competitor loves to have rules and keep score (and he loves to win); competitors will compete even when there’s no one else around
  • The Director: directors love to plan and run games and events; they’re party hosts and social directors
  • The Collector: these people collect objects or experiences, but no matter what, they want to have the biggest, the best, or most interesting collection around
  • The Artist/Creator: the “makers” of the world—this includes the designers, the engineers, the tinkerers, in addition to the painters, the knitters, the woodworkers, etc.
  • The Storyteller: those who seek pleasure through compelling narratives, character development, and tricky plotlines–whether as a producer or a consumer

Can you see yourself or your family and friends in any of these archetypes? The Director type resonated with me most, though I think I have moments of being the Explorer. My brother-in-law must have been the basis for the Competitor and the Collector, because he fits those to a tee. My boyfriend sounds like a Storyteller with a healthy dose of the Joker thrown in for good measure.

What can you do with it, once you know your play personality?

Exploit it!

In Play, Brown writes about the value of play in adult life. Compared with other animals, humans have an extraordinarily long juvenile development period, and we seem to be designed for play at every stage of our lives. This is at least partially responsible for our capacity for new neuron growth, even as adults.