Ludovia Journal #3

This is the third Ludovia Journal entry. In the first two entries, I explained a bit about my life before moving to Pittsburgh, and how it influenced my interest in teaching a class. There is much more to say about each of those influences and there are many more to add, but it occurs to me that some students will find Ludovia before they find City of Play, and that I should take a moment to describe that peculiar organization and what it has come to mean to me.

I first met Adam Nelson in 2010 when he hosted a festival of obscure games in Pittsburgh. I’d been invited to travel from New York to showcase Circle Rules Football, and I obliged with minivan full of teammates. I was struck by how well the festival was organized and I was honored to be included in a panel discussing the development of new sports. Adam moderated the panel discussion and I believe it’s fair to say that over the course of that weekend we earned a good deal of respect for each other. I wouldn’t see him again until 2012, when I visited Pittsburgh as a puppeteer with the North American tour of a Broadway play called WarHorse. During that visit, Adam and I sat to coffee and talked about the value of alternative recreation. Over time, I came to believe that Pittsburgh was eager for a person with my background and ambition, and that I could operate well through Adam’s vision for City of Play. In January 2015, I bought a one way ticket to Pittsburgh and we got started.

In the two years since I moved to town, Adam and I have had regular discussions about the value of play for adults, and how that value could best be nurtured through our company. At the same time, because I began as a newcomer with no local friends, I have been learning a great deal about the people and places of Pittsburgh. Most of my concern has been focused in understanding when, where, how, and why people interact with each other. I’ve hosted a number of experimental gatherings at my home in the Northside, and I’m beginning to get a sense of how the city works. Reading this back to myself, it strikes me that I may have been unknowingly conducting anthropology, but I don’t want to sound condescending; my curiosity came from a real need to make connections with strangers. It wasn’t only that I had no friends, but I had no family, no mentors, no social fabric to speak of. Conveniently, my profession prioritized my ability to meet new people and expedite intimacy. So we came up with events, games, workshops (and now Ludovia) to investigate that process. In order to succeed, we have to play well with strangers.

Basically, I sent myself back to preschool.

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