SIMAGES 2016.2 – Get to Know Bernie DeKoven

Get to Know Bernie DeKoven

By Chris Saeger


Bernie DeKoven is a leading fun theorist who has shown over the course of his 45 year career how playfulness can positively affect every aspect of personal, interpersonal, community, and institutional health. He will be a keynote presenter at NASAGA 16 in Bloomington IN this October.

Many of the most important trends in games today from large scale community games to casual game apps have roots in Bernie’s influential ideas. He is the author of The Well-Played Game (originally published by Doubleday in 1978 and reissued in 2013 by MIT Press) as well as Junkyard SportsA Playful Path (over 140,000 downloads), and a CD Recess for the Soul.

When he was a teacher of fifth and sixth grade children he taught everything through play: reading, math, science, physical education.  Then, in 1969, he was hired by the School District of Philadelphia to create a curriculum in theater. In the process, he discovered that children’s games are also a form of theater. The curriculum that he completed in 1971 consisted of five volumes of children’s games organized according to similarities in theme and play style.

Bernie has been integral to NASAGA since 1976 when he served as a contributing editor to the Simulation and Gaming News, keynoted at our conferences, and presented live online sessions. He received the Ifill-Raynolds Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

His career includes: creating The Games Preserve in 1971, a retreat center for the study of games and play; co-directing The New Games Foundation; designing “Playday on the Parkway” for the city of Philadelphia – the culminating event in Philadelphia’s Bicentennial celebration; computer game design in the early 1980’s; exploring how what he understood about games could make meetings better, and teaching game design at USC. He now writes, blogs and presents around the world about the nature of true fun.

You can sample Bernie’s playful ideas through his many online videos including his webinar for NASAGA earlier this year. But to truly appreciate him you need to be in Bloomington for NASAGA 2016!

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