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Field Guides exhibition opening & League play day

Field Guides exhibition

League is participating in an exhibition of work by all the Vancouver Park Board Field House Residency artists:

The Vancouver Park Board invites you to

Field Guides

Opening Reception:  Thursday, Sept. 18, 5-8PM
Guest Speaker- Matt Hern 6:30 PM
Roundhouse Exhibition Hall 181 Roundhouse Mews

Field Guides marks the culmination of the first cycle of the Vancouver Parks Board’s Artists Fieldhouse Studio Program – an initiative that transformed former care-takers cottages in parks across Vancouver into studio space for artists with community engaged practices. Over 50 artists (solo and in collectives) in all disciplines have been working in 12 field houses across Vancouver, bringing art into the everyday life of community, by inviting neighbours, colleagues and curious visitors to share in creative work. Field Guides celebrates this three year collaboration highlighting the intimate, generous and adventurous work of artists and community members working together as producers, practitioners and audience.

League play day — Sunday 28 September

Elm Park, 3-5 pm

League is an open group that gathers to play invented games and sports as a practice of creative problem-solving. We gather on the last Sunday of each month to improvise and strategize new ways of interacting. Our gatherings are free and open to all. They call for physical and mental activity, so bring both body and mind.



Upcoming play — Sunday 27 July — summer sports day

Team Double Rainbow at League's n Games

Team Double Rainbow at League’s n Games

League summer sports day

Team Theatre Replacement at League's n Games

Team Theatre Replacement at League’s n Games

Sunday 27 July, noon to 3pm
Vanier Park
off Chestnut Street, Vancouver
map: https://goo.gl/maps/NfSbj

Everyone wants to be by the water in the summertime, so League is decamping to Vanier Park for a summer sports day. Come in teams, wear your colours, and bring hydration. We’ll develop games for small groups, plus individual challenges. Also bring appropriate equipment if you have games to try or mashups in mind.

League is an open group that gathers on the last Sunday of the month to play invented games and sports as a practice of creative problem-solving. Our gatherings are free and open to all; bring both body and mind.

Want to stay informed about League events? Sign up for our more-or-less-monthly mailing list here.

Vancouver Draw Down — Saturday 14 June


The Mill Project at League, April 2014

The Mill Project at League, April 2014

Field Lines
Saturday 14 June
10:30 am-12:30 pm
Elm Park

League is participating in this year’s Vancouver Draw Down, “an annual celebration of drawing in everyday life that challenges preconceptions about drawing and works to reconnect everyone with the power and creative pleasure of making marks.”

Join League at Elm Park to play at marking the field. Here drawing will involve full-body motion, running and walking with the field-marking equipment, and participants will work together to invent a game to match the lines.

Participants of all ages and experience are welcome.

Upcoming: League play 27 April + PushupKucha 29 April

Two League events exploring cooperation…

Sunday 27 April — League play — Prisoner’s Dilemma

“Stuffie Dilemma,” a game developed with Bruce Emmett’s high school students at a League workshop in February 2013

Noon to 2pm at Elm Park

Prisoner’s Dilemma is a conundrum used in game theory to consider situations in which individuals might choose not to cooperate, even if it might be in their best interests to do so.

The protoypical situation: two gang members are arrested for a major crime and kept separated from each other. The police explain to each of them that there is not enough evidence to convict them on the main charge without one of them confessing, but they can both be convicted on a lesser charge. If one confesses, he will be set free and the other convicted for the maximum sentence. If both confess, they will both be convicted, but serve fewer years. If neither defects, they both serve less time on the lesser charge.

Many specific strategies and real-life examples of cooperation and betrayal have been identified as types of prisoners’ dilemma. For this League play day we’ll explore some of them.

League events are free of charge and open to all. We gather to play sports and games as a practice of creative problem solving. Each game, its equipment, its playing field, and its strategies evolve through trial and improvisation. Drop in prepared for action.

Tuesday 29 April — PushupKucha

7pm at Elm Park field house, 5837 Larch Street (map)

PushupKucha is a new active salon concept that plays on the short presentation format, augmenting ideas with practice. Not only do PushupKucha presenters convey their ideas in a few short minutes, but they also include physical audience action.

The first edition of PushupKucha will take place in and around the Elm Park field house on Tuesday 29 April at 7pm.

Presenters tackling questions of cooperation and neighbourliness are:

  • Matt Hern, author of One Game At A Time: Why Sports Matter
  • Adrienne Pierce and Ari Shine, the musician collaborators known as The Royal Oui
  • Justin Langlois of Windsor-based Broken City Lab, a collective whose creative practice leans towards civic change
  • Members of the Mill Community Project concerned with the presently-buried Inglewood “Mill” skatepark in West Vancouver.
  • Nick Boulding, teacher in Take A Hike adventure-based education program for youth at risk.

Audience:  Come prepared for action. Attendance will be limited; join the facebook event here.


Sportsmanship — The Art of the Game, by Louise Rusch

Sportsmanship — The Art of the Game

by Louise Rusch
Visiting student from Simon Fraser University Arts & Culture Studies

Aristotle defined a worthy life as embodying “intellectual and moral excellence” (Feezell 136). The art of sport is about a performance that can only be achieved through a highly disciplined and focused process. A quick search can list the achievement history of any sport, but there are some sport stories that are mythologized in academic research and popular media. These stories are treasured because they reflect the person as more than a species of physical distinction. They reflect a desire to judge the worthiness of sports as not only the pursuit of physical superiority, but also on the other side of the Aristotelian equation: moral excellence.

Justin Wadsworth giving Anton Gafarov a ski, 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Image from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca.

During the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Cathal Kelly,sports columnist for the Toronto Star, wrote a story about Canadian cross-country ski coach Justin Wadsworth, who gave a ski to Russian Anton Gafarov so that he could cross the finish line with some dignity after he broke one of his skis. Wadsworth is married to Canadian skier Beckie Scott. This is relevant as it relates to a similar story from the 2006 Olympics in Torino, in which Norwegian official Bjornar Hakensmoen gave Canadian cross-country skier Sara Renner a pole while she and Scott were racing in the team sprint. That action helped the Canadian pair place second, pushing the Norwegians into fourth. Hakensmoen explains, “This competition, and all competitions, it should be a fight. It should not be decided by skis” (Kelly).

The story about Wadsworth and Hakensmoen resonates because it sets them apart from their peers. The performance honoured the sport because it combined an elite calibre of technical skill and a demonstration of integrity. The focus of the results shifted away from a best time and towards two opponents who were able to achieve a level of excellence. Yet not all of the coaches watching Gafarov ran to him with a ski. Why did Wadsworth and Hakensmoen consider fair play to be of such importance while others did not? Would some of the coaches have argued that Hakensmoen broke the rules and interfered in the competition, giving the Canadians an unfair advantage? Is there etiquette unique to cross country skiing that implicitly required Wadsworth and Hakensmoen to behave as they did? Or, placing the interest of the sport above his own, did Hakensmoen merely acknowledge his esteem for the sport? (Simon 46-52)

Craig Clifford and Randolph Feezell in Sport and Character argue that sportsmanship doesn’t develop naturally; it needs to be taught alongside the rules. This report argues that sportsmanship honours the nature of sport because it mediates between the playfulness of the game and the seriousness of competition (13-5/34).

Bernard Suits defines a game as a “voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles” (Suits 55). The player wins by using their whole body to find a solution to an illogical situation. Clifford and Feezell define the difference between a game and a sport as the intensity added through competition. Winning, they explain, becomes meaningful when contests are governed by rules and traditions that impose a sense of fairness. Sport becomes the mediator between playfulness and seriousness. A competition is described as an expression of human greatness because opponents are able to pit their abilities, experiences and skills against each other, thus achieving a greater level of development, self-awareness and expertise. The implication is that the agreement to participate is as important as the contest (Clifford & Feezell 13-6). Bernard DeKoven adds that giving a game any less than your all violates its conventions. He explains his vision of sport as a conversation between play and game. Play is defined as being creative and magical, while a game is understood as focused and mindful. A game is well played when these two opposing concepts are bridged (DeKoven 520-3).

Diana Abad, citing James W. Keating, notes that sport is more than a physical performance. It is also about an attitude, and therefore sportsmanship is defined as a moral code that requires specific behaviours from the players. Abad defines these behaviours as “fairness, equity, good form or honour, and a will to win” (32). Though the qualities of sportsmanship can been observed in play and games, the seriousness of sport, specifically the desire to compete, creates a field in which moral distinction becomes a true part of the process (Abad 28). Clifford and Feezell define the spirit of competition as a tension between the cooperative need for an equitable opponent and the respect required for this level of self-awareness, pitted against the intense desire to win at all costs. Respect, they note, is offered when a person is able to see beyond their own needs and interests. Sportsmanship then becomes the mediator between the rules, the understanding of the sport, and the finite strengths each individual holds to be competitive. The socially constructed tension sportsmanship carries means that it is not innate; rather, its nuances need to be taught as they occur outside of the strict adherence to the rules while honouring the essence and the excellence of the sport (15/18-9/21/34).

In opposition to sportsmanship, gamesmanship is behaviour in which a player seeks an advantage that might not be restricted but is seen as inappropriate. (Clifford & Freezell 39) Robert Simon notes that the nature of competition creates inequality: one player will win and the other will lose. Using an academic example, he notes that inequality is not always a negative thing; grades for example, are considered fair inequality (36-7). Feezell, in his book Sport, Play and Ethical Reflection, defines a cheater as a player who gains an unfair advantage by violating the essence of the sport. Examples include choosing to: disregard a rule (usually a moral one), injure an opponent, refuse to respect a defeat (84-5). Simon clarifies this position further when he argues that cheaters violate the moral norms because they “fail to respect their opponents as persons, as agents with purposes of their own” (55). The ethos of sport then becomes more than playing by the rules as it moves into an arena which also includes the pursuit of an outstanding character (Clifford & Feezell 17) (Simon 49).

Yet, though not considered fair play, breaking or bending the rules makes space to create an evolution within a sport. As part of play, sports are a dynamic and potentially magical experience, and rules are an element that allow for this fluid nature (Huizinga 57). Suits argues that the rules are not the only component of the sport; they are only the accepted method of framing the barriers of the game’s challenge (Simon 43). The rules are created for the play and our own pleasure within a specific game; therefore changing the rules can also restore the balance between playing and gaming (DeKoven 523).

We follow rules even when we are not playing games; hence there will always be rules that are morally valid and supersede a game rule. Though all sports contain basic rules of operation, the exact rules are rarely precise and are often connected to dynamic social and cultural traditions. Logically, sports will change over time because the players and organizers do (Suits177/181). Yet many people would argue that rules changes render some games unrecognizable.

How do players ethically change rules? Simon argues for an adjudication process in which criteria based in ethics research are used to interpret the rules and examine each individual rule-bending situation. He argues for a criterion to probe the elements of sport in which impartial respect of the sport’s core ideals are examined. Through the process commonly used within the field of ethics, rule changes would always be examined using a reasonable, reflective and critical response to the situation in question (Simon 14). John. S. Russell argues that moral justification for playing with sport rules is best when changes within the actual contest are vetted through a principled examination of the goals and intentions of the sport, to ensure these are maintained and nurtured (Simon 51-2). These changes are accepted when they are transparent and necessary to restore the balance within the sport (DeKoven 523).

By referencing the earlier 2006 Olympic example, the Canadian cross-country team would not have won without the gift of the pole. If the Canadian coach had replaced the pole, it could be argued that he had given his team an unfair advantage. Within this international amateur competition, the intention of the sport and the abilities of the skiers became the overriding factor in the ethical interpretation of the actions of the opponents coach (Feezell 88/100-4) (Simon 52-5). It is important to remember that games are socially constructed; it isn’t “the game that is sacred, it’s the people who are playing” (DeKoven 523) (Suits 179-80). In other words, part of the magic of sport is the capacity to play on multiple levels of the process. Sportsmanship is people on a quest to develop technical and moral excellence through sport. The competitors require a nuanced comprehension and respect for the interrelationship between each other, the objective of the contest, while attempting to master the most difficult challenge. Therefore, argues Feezell, the “key to sportsmanship is the spirit of play” (94).


Works Cited

Other Resources



League updates + Tag report

League updates

After an impromptu off-season, League has three events in April.

  • Saturday 12 April, 2-4 pm — League play at Satellite Gallery for Canadian Art Gallery Hop
  • Sunday 27 April, noon-2 pm — League play day in Elm Park
  • Tuesday 29 April, 7pm — PushupKucha, our brand-new short presentation format. Stay tuned for more.

Over the past couple months, we’ve been running play workshops for groups and working with Simon Fraser University student Louise Rusch. Below is the first of a few pieces of her research that Louise will be sharing with us here. This includes some reflections on the game of tag arising from our January play day. One of the games that emerged that day was an ongoing game of tag, marked by the passage of a toy medal. From now on, the person in possession of the medal at the end of each League event is It until the next one. Jay is currently It.

Noodle fencing, from League tag day

Studying Tag

by Louise Rusch
Arts & Culture Studies student, Simon Fraser University

Notes following League Tag day

The theme for League this month was tag – a game of chase. In tag, someone is “it”, and they need to chase others, and either transfer their “it” status to the person they tag, or continue to be “it”. The simplistic structure allows for an infinite number of variations of the game, depending on the space, props, group dynamics, number, and age of the people involved.

From a physical literacy perspective, tag is about learning to self monitor and control your body in motion and space. Players practice the skills of agility, efficiently moving from a resting to a sprinting mode and building stamina for the long chase.

From a cognitive context, tag is about being chased or chasing, strategically considering the skill of balancing and shifting between defensive and offensive position, often simultaneously. During the League session we explored this idea when we did team fencing bouts with long foam noodles in the tennis courts. One team would often single out one player and try to create an opportunity for a quick side tag of the other opponent using speed, control of the noodle, and surprise.

Socially, tag is about power dynamics, especially around the concept of being “it.” Is “it” a desirable place because you want to be the centre of attention? Because you have the confidence to know your place in the group and can easily assess who may or may not be your equal? If you are playing team tag do you have the experience and skill to both keep yourself active in the game and also be a support to your team members?

In Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman’s book Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, they cite Chris Crawford as stating that all games are a system of conflict and that, paradoxically, it is the staged conflict found in games that makes the play meaningful. Thus playing games is also playing with (dis)comfort with conflict situations (Salen & Zimmerman 250). Later they also note that the simplicity of being either hunted or hunter leaves no room for ambiguity, and that this simplicity is part of the appeal (317).

Historically, “it”ness was attached to illnesses like the plague, thus being less than desirable. Transferred into a game situation, this undesirable state of social isolation is what motivates the “it” person to find someone to tag, which also extends the momentum of the game.

Emotionally, tag tackles the concept of winning and losing, and of being singled out from the group. “It” might represent a place of fear that one will not have the skills to successfully complete a tag.

There have been recent controversies about letting children play tag. These centre on tag as an elimination game, older children dominating the game, the potential of one child being victimized as the “it” person, and the ramifications this might have on self-esteem.

Play theorists often connect tag to rough and tumble play. Anthony Pellegrini reported in a 1995 study on rough and tumble play, that as children enter school age the similarities between “hit at” and “tag a peer” allow for an easy transition into games with a more cooperative structure. He notes that as children get older, rough and tumble play is more likely to be about dominance and related to negative social behaviour (Pellegrini 121).

In terms of formal studies of tag, a study entitled “The ‘It’ Role in Children’s Games,” by clinical psychologist Dr Paul V. Gump and play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith, focused on two different types of “it” games. “It” games were chosen because they are so common in children’s play, and they define specific roles for the players. Power, seen as separate from player skill, was defined as having the ability to choose when the competitive encounter would begin and which kind of play would be chosen for the chase. One game was defined as a low-power because the “it” did not have a lot of control in the game, while the other high-powered “it” game allowed for more control. The research tested the assumptions that high-powered “it” games were more successful generally for players, and especially for unskilled players. Forty boys between seven and ten were tested in advance for athletic ability, to ensure that unskilled players were not needlessly put in positions that would be discouraging for the players or create boredom for the group (390-3).

The results indicated that the low power game was most discouraging for unskilled players and more likely to encourage the group of other boys to behave inappropriately to the “it” person. Often the unskilled player would try to avoid these games before they started. Successful players in either game possessed athletic ability, a sense of power, used strategy, and had “personality factor,” defined as drive or perseverance (395). It was felt that unskilled players were more likely to be successful in games that included an element of chance. I thought the comment about the correlation between skill and chance was interesting, and it corresponds to my own observations from my work (in the field of recreation). I also thought it was interesting that in the low-power games, not only was the “it” person not having a good time, but the other boys also seemed more likely to taunt him (394-7). This speaks to the reality that, without being good or bad, games can have a darker side.


Upcoming play — Sunday 26 January — Tags


Sunday 26 January 2014, noon – 3 pm
Elm Park

“Tag” can be many things, including: a label attached to something, the action of identifying something or someone, and a game that revolves around the undesirable state of being “It”.

For this edition of League play, we’ll explore tag-based operations. Bring running shoes and a hat (which could end up on the ground) for a first trial. As always, the play will develop from there, based on group input.

About League
League is an open group that gathers to play games and sports that we invent, as an exercise of creative problem-solving. The Vancouver Courier called League “The most incredible development in Vancouver recreation this year,… focused on mental exercise as much as physical exertion.“ It’s free and all are welcome; bring both body and mind.