Power of Play

Power of Play
How play and its games shape life

The first book to travel the complete landscape of play, and show why it’s our only real super-power.

Extensively researched and sparking with new insights, this book will take you on an evolutionary journey from the smallest workings of the prehistoric imagination, through our development into the endlessly game-playing species we are today.

Packed with full-colour illustrations, Paul Pethick’s book graphically joins the dots to show exactly how play powers creativity in all its animal and human forms, and how it solidifies into the myriad games we describe as culture. From craft to business, from dance to global politics, it unpacks the playful roots of every innovation from weaving to cyberwar.
If you think play is only ‘kids’ stuff’ it’s time to think again.

You’ll also discover how some of the world’s most influential creators in science and the arts really use play and its games to drive their work; and to understand why free play in our minds and bodies should be at the heart of current education if we plan on staying ahead in an AI future.

Including unique contributions from, and studies of, culture-shapers as varied as Joan Sheckel in Hollywood, physicist Richard Feynman, musician Brian Eno, choreographer Twyla Tharp and inventor Andre Geim; this beautifully designed book takes play out of its usual childish box, and reframes it as the driving energy behind all creativity, from the simplest idea you had today to the grand triumphs of Nobel prize-winners.

‘Sometimes people have the wrong idea about play. They just think about laughter and having fun. Play is more of an attitude, a way of engaging with the world, where you’re constantly experimenting, trying  new things, taking risks, testing the boundaries.’ Mitch Resnick, MIT

A softcover book in oversized, hardcover proportions, and richly illustrated to add visual dimension to every part of the story. If you’re interested in psychology, human and animal creativity, as well as our best course for shaping education for coming generations, this is a must-read.


What Is Play?: Examines the frames of philosophy as play and games pull on life, and fuel each other. What does it mean to be at play in life?

Play Beasts: Remarkable stories of animal behaviour, and what they really tell us about ourselves.

Play Brain: How thought itself is sculpted from playful processes like mimesis and conceptual blending.

The Land Of Play: Examining the magical terrain of childhood. How its energies form us, and how we can reclaim those powers.

Play School: The science of learning. How proper play schools will make much more exploratory kids, and much more fearless adults.

Play Fuel: Technology has given us a what seems like a paradise for ‘players’, but is it mostly games of distraction? How attention and flow feed imagination.

State Of Play: Game-thinking drives so much of our current world. Explore contests, gambles, winners, losers, cheats, hackers and the AI influences on our play.

Play Work: Interviews with renowned innovators dissect the mechanics of the freeplay and game-thinking which bring them real originality and success.

Infinite Play: Thinking like a player can create a very different life to living only by game rules. Larping, theatre games, and cosplay could help us much more than war-gaming alternative futures. The infinite possibility of the player’s imagination in all fields of endeavour

Written and illustrated by Paul Pethick