This week we lost a true great philosopher-king of play: Bernie DeKoven, who passed away in Indiana on Sunday. Founder of “The Games Preserve,” a game retreat center in Pennsylvania, he then went on to become involved in the New Games Movement, a 1970s collective that focused on physical and cooperative play to encourage dialogue and move away from competitive conflict resolution. During the Vietnam War, this movement stood out as having underlying political themes, and the games developed reshaped consciousness in a positive way. Bernie became the director of the New Games Foundation which created highly influential training programs as well as The New Games Book. Bernie “Blue” DeKoven brought his unstoppable brightness to his work as an organizer, trainer, thinker, writer, and activist. He impacted so many lives, including mine on both a personal and professional level.
Bernie was one of those people with an inherent open heart, someone who wanted play to be transformative and positive force. And having played with Bernie, he did make the experience real, visceral, and transformative–with kindness and love in the universal good sense of the word.
We conspired on a few projects. I called him to ask his advice over the years about challenging play situations, or particularly tricky audiences, or coop play. Bernie was always generous with his time. He always ended his email with appreciations that were sincere, that mattered. Bernie could give and give from an infinite well of kindness and joy.
I already miss him and on behalf of the lab we will continue to play in his spirit. Our hearts go out to his family and large network of playful friends.