Make believe describes a loosely structured form of role-playing. Make believe generally has no rules except to stay in character, and requires no specific props. It is normally restricted to young, pre-pubescent children, and aside from its straightforward purpose of fun can sometimes also serve the purpose of allowing children to explore adult roles and relationships. Make believe play can reveal a great deal about a child's psychological state, perception of gender roles, home life and interpretation of the world that is around them.
Participants in games of make believe may draw upon many sources for inspiration.
Children engage in make believe for a number of reasons. Play allows children to "deal with fears in a safe setting." It also allows them to "indulge their secret fantasies."
When I was growing up, just like everyone else, I played cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers, emulating what I had been watching on television. There were space adventures played on jungle bars and army invasions in cardboard boxes. Sticks became rifles or horses or spears. Then toys started to look like real weapons and the merchandising industry grew.
As we grew up, we left the fantasy of Peter Pan and Nancy Drew behind, and accepted the responsibility of raising children, paying mortgages, and automobile repairs. It was a rite of passage to be grown up.
Yet as the baseball pitcher becomes an accountant and the cheerleader becomes a housewife and the clarinet player in the marching band becomes a drug addict and the home coming queen gets married three times then dies of heart disease, there is a group who don’t stop make believe playing.
Some will say these are the “creative” types who see the world differently than everyone else. Some will say they never grew up and are lost in their childhood fantasies. Some say they see futuristic wonders whose ideas are far beyond what the common person can perceive.
Don’t look around because everyone is picking up their smart phones and starting their pads and logging onto electronic games or streaming explosion movies. Why? They are falling back into make believe.
There is fantasy football or Harry Potter or even theme parks to take you away from the diapers and mortgage bills.
We have games to “release stress” or be a powerful figure or just taking it out against the boss without getting fired. We can drive fast or blow up things without consequences. We can shoot the bad guys or get our brains eaten by zombies. We can play alone or with worldwide friends. And this “make believe” is available 24/7.
There are easier ways to “make believe”. We can dress-for-success, purchase flashy cars; go in debt with expensive jewelry and houses trying to give the impression of wealth and fame. Sometimes it even works.
Some may want to continue the dress up role playing and become actors or historical recreational participants. Some become writers and they create their dreams and fantasies for the readers to interpret. Some dance or sing or paint their mystery worlds losing themselves into “make believe”.
We like to pretend. It is a good psychological relaxation therapy if not overdone. Then again, maybe all this time of playing student or parent or boss or any other title we assume is reality, it is all “make believe”?