The Infinite Playground

The Infinite Playground

A Player's Guide to Imagination

By Bernard De Koven

With Holly Gramazio

Edited by Celia Pearce and Eric Zimmerman

A play-centered invitation to experience the power and delight unlocked by imagination.





A play-centered invitation to experience the power and delight unlocked by imagination.

Bernard De Koven (1941–2018) was a pioneering designer of games and theorist of fun. He studied games long before the field of game studies existed. For De Koven, games could not be reduced to artifacts and rules; they were about a sense of transcendent fun. This book, his last, is about the imagination: the imagination as a playground, a possibility space, and a gateway to wonder. The Infinite Playground extends a play-centered invitation to experience the power and delight unlocked by imagination. It offers a curriculum for playful learning.

De Koven guides the readers through a series of observations and techniques, interspersed with games. He begins with the fundamentals of play, and proceeds through the private imagination, the shared imagination, and imagining the world—observing, “the things we imagine can become the world.” Along the way, he reminisces about playing ping-pong with basketball great Bill Russell; begins the instructions for a game called Reception Line with “Mill around”; and introduces blathering games—Blather, Group Blather, Singing Blather, and The Blather Chorale—that allow the player's consciousness to meander freely.

Delivered during the last months of his life, The Infinite Playground has been painstakingly cowritten with Holly Gramazio, who worked together with coeditors Celia Pearce and Eric Zimmerman to complete the project as Bernie De Koven's illness made it impossible for him to continue writing. Other prominent game scholars and designers influenced by De Koven, including Katie Salen Tekinbaş, Jesper Juul, Frank Lantz, and members of Bernie's own family, contribute short interstitial essays.


Ian Bogost, Stephen Conway, Adriaan de Jongh, Elyon De Koven, Rocky De Koven, Mary Flanagan, Gonzalo Frasca, Tracy Fullerton, Holly Gramazio, Catherine Herdlick, Jesper Juul, Frank Lantz, Colleen Macklin, Celia Pearce, Sebastian Quack, Lee Rush, Katie Salen Tekinbaş, John Sharp, Tassos Stevens, Akira Thompson, Greg Trefry, Douglas Wilson, Zach Wood, Eric Zimmerman


$29.95 T ISBN: 9780262044073 208 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 1 b&w illus.


$22.95 T ISBN: 9780262543866 208 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 1 b&w illus.


Celia Pearce

Celia Pearce is Associate Professor of Game Design and Head of the Game Design Program at Northeastern University. She is the author of The Interactive Book: A Guide to the Interactive Revolution. Artemesia is her coauthor and avatar.

Eric Zimmerman

Eric Zimmerman is a game designer, game design theorist, and co-founder and CEO of gameLab. He has taught at universities including MIT, the University of Texas, Parsons School of Design, New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts.


Holly Gramazio.


  • “This book is magical, sacred, beautiful, and inspired. It will reintroduce you to mysterious joys of play you may have long forgotten. It will reveal to you surprising powers of gaming that will help you make a better future. Read this book now. Keep it as a treasured favorite forever.”

    Jane McGonigal

    author of New York Times bestsellers Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World and SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully

  • “First, close your eyes; next, imagine a world where the deep connections between games, play, imagination, compassion, love, life, and fun are all wonderfully clear and frame our every experience in life. Now, stick out your tongue and blow a great big raspberry of joy! Welcome to Bernie's playground! For those who are not familiar with the work of Bernie 'Blue' De Koven, this book could very well change your life. For those who have read his prior work, played his games, laughed and clapped hands with him, I can tell you that this final volume comes closer than ever to what he has always been trying to tell us about the importance of playing well, living well, and imagining our own beautiful playgrounds of life.”

    Tracy Fullerton

    Director, USC Game Innovation Lab