In adults, play is commonly blended with other motives, having to do with adult responsibilities.
That is why, in everyday conversation, we tend to talk about children “playing” and about adults bringing a “playful attitude” or “playful spirit” to their activities.
Play is, first and foremost, an expression of freedom. The joy of play is the ecstatic feeling of liberty.
Play is not always accompanied by smiles and laughter, nor are smiles and laughter always signs of play; but play is always accompanied by a feeling of “Yes, this is what I want to do right now.” Players are free agents, not pawns in someone else’s game.
The first point is that the characteristics of play all have to do with motivation and mental attitude, not with the overt form of the behavior.
Two people might be throwing a ball, or pounding nails, or typing words on a computer, and one might be playing while the other is not.
If one player attempts to bully or dominate the others, the others will quit and the game will be over; so players who want to continue playing must learn not to bully or dominate.
People who don’t agree to a proposed change in rules may likewise quit, and that is why leaders in play must gain the consent of the other players in order to change a rule.
Every rule a leader proposes must be approved, at least tacitly, by all of the other players.
The ultimate freedom in play is the freedom to quit.