The Transformative Power of Play: From TikTok to Victorian Parlour Games



Aug 09, 20233 min read


The Transformative Power of Play: From TikTok to Victorian Parlour Games

Play has always been a fundamental part of human culture. It has the ability to turn the mundane into the extraordinary, allowing us to explore new ways of being and connecting with others. This concept is evident not only in modern platforms like TikTok but also in historical activities such as Victorian parlour games.

In the digital age, TikTok has become a global sensation, captivating millions with its short and creative videos. What makes TikTok so appealing is its ability to transform ordinary individuals into heroes and villains, allowing them to express themselves in ways they may not have thought possible. Play, in this context, promotes the formation of social groupings that extend far beyond the confines of the game itself.

This notion of play as a transformative force is not a new concept. In the 1840s, amateur play took hold in the United States, with activities ranging from elaborate theatrical performances to simple charades and optical illusions. Johan Huizinga, a Dutch historian, argued in the late 1930s that play is a means of transmitting culture and fostering lasting social connections. Amateur theatricals, for example, were praised for their ability to teach individuals about the emotions and passions of humanity.

The transformative power of play is not limited to digital platforms or historical games. It can also be seen in the fascination with bodily transformation, especially when it takes on grotesque forms. In times of social uncertainty, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, the appeal of watching young people engage in play lies in their blissful disregard for the consequences. This escapism allows them to temporarily escape the boundaries of reality and explore new possibilities.

However, play is not just about escapism or temporary transformations. It can also be a catalyst for real-life change. The rise of TikTok videos featuring individuals quitting their jobs, under the hashtag #quitmyjob, demonstrates how play can empower individuals to pursue their long-withheld dreams. By choreographing their exits and sharing them online, these individuals are staging their own acts of liberation.

The liberating nature of play stems from its ability to turn familiar circumstances into fantasies. It challenges us to step outside our comfort zones and embrace new roles and experiences. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been thrust into the role of amateur players, struggling to adapt and learn our parts. This challenge has forced us to reevaluate our priorities and discover new ways of connecting with others.

To harness the transformative power of play, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace Playfulness: Don't be afraid to let go of your inhibitions and explore new possibilities. Whether it's through TikTok videos, amateur theatricals, or simply engaging in imaginative play, allow yourself to be playful and open to transformation.
  • 2. Foster Social Connections: Seek out opportunities to connect with others through play. Join online communities, participate in group activities, or create your own social circles centered around shared interests. These social connections have the potential to last long after the game is over.
  • 3. Use Play as a Catalyst for Change: Don't underestimate the power of play to inspire real-life transformations. Whether it's pursuing a long-held dream, making a career change, or embracing a new perspective, play can provide the motivation and courage to take that leap.

In conclusion, the transformative power of play is evident in both modern platforms like TikTok and historical activities like Victorian parlour games. Play allows us to explore new ways of being and connecting with others, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. To harness this power, we must embrace playfulness, foster social connections, and use play as a catalyst for change. So, let's step into the magic circle and see where play takes us.


  1. "What TikTok videos have in common with Victorian parlour games | Psyche Ideas", (Glasp)
  2. "Product in Focus: Goodreads", (Glasp)

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