“Play, by its very nature, is a little anarchic. It is about stepping outside of normal life and breaking normal patterns. It is about bending rules of thought, action, and behavior. Some people use this quality of play as cover for sadistic or cruel treatment of others. ‘Hey,’ they might say if others object, ‘you can’t take a little playful hassling? What’s wrong with you?’ This is not a dark side of play, because it is not play. It’s an attack under a false flag. It is an attempt to dominate, demean, or control while hiding behind the bulwark of our cultural assumptions about play being non-threatening.
In normal play we may still hurt each other by going too far in bending the social rules. Kids may use play to safely explore their capacities for power but end up dominating others. Adults may joke about something that’s a little too personal. But when our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, these hurts are corrected and avoided in the future. Bending rules and pushing through limits should happen within the realm of play. They aren’t the dark side of play – they are the essence of play.” (p.193)
Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) Stuart Brown (2009) Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Avery: New York