Importance of Play Men In The Arts

How A Lifetime of Learning Through Play Inspired A Disney Imagineer

Learning Through Play


Matt Conover
Disney Imagineer


Being An Imagineer

Back in the early 1950’s, Walt Disney was beginning to crystallize his vision for a theme park – different from the amusement parks he had visited with his kids. A theme park that would bring to life the stories he and his animators had created on film in an immersive, family-friendly environment. He took some of his animators and hired some engineers and coined term “Imagineer” — combining imagination and engineer as he believed these jobs and people had to dream as much as they applied the math and science of engineering. Today, Imagineers make up a wide collection of creative, technical, and production/project management roles. (Note: at Disney Parks we don’t have jobs, we have roles because everyone has a role in the show!).


Learning Through Play

Learning through play is key to any kind of learning, ESPECIALLY in the immersive experience development world in which I live. We regularly play-test all sorts of projects — as the play in that allows for mistakes, trial and error, change from day to day as you test lots of different ideas!


“As a kid, I very much enjoyed chess as it was a great mix of simple tactics but complex strategy.”


Play in itself suggests a measure of fun and engagement, and in order to create compelling experiences the ability to play, experiment and try things is critical to reaching the best solution. Sometimes it involves doing the experience – playing – yourself. And often it involves observing others playing … using the play to understand how people engage with each other and an experience.

As a kid, I very much enjoyed chess as it was a great mix of simple tactics but complex strategy. Also played lots of Kick the Can and Street Football — both of which were ‘found’ games — games which took the form of the location versus a formal setting. The best kind of play.

Learning Through Play

Keeping Creative

My hobbies outside of my “Day Job” often intersect with my career. I love to travel, and I enjoy seeing many forms of entertainment (movies, TV, concerts, etc). I play a little golf and enjoy technology, in general, outside of entertainment — and I am an early adopter, for certain. I had the first iPhone, I drive a Tesla, and I have a bunch of home automation — I enjoy tinkering with those kinds of things. For my kids, one of my priorities has always been to provide them a wide variety of experiences, but allow their passion to drive their interest and participation. Though I would never push one of my kids to participate in something they really didn’t want to do, once they begin, they have to finish their commitment (be that of a sports season, or similar).


February is Raising Nerd’s “Importance of Play” Month
As We Celebrate The Benefits of Play For Nerds Young And Old

To help us highlight the importance of play and how it can inspire kids to greatness, we’ve again reached out to a diverse group of creative problem-solvers to gain some insight about how play influenced them in their childhood and professional lives. After getting their feedback, one thing was clear. Although we may not engage in play as often as we did growing up, the importance of play doesn’t subside with age.

We hope you enjoy our Importance of Play theme and always remember that you and your Nerds should always make time to play. Nerd on!


Learning Through Play


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