Essays on cold reads as play appear in Category Fun and Games. In a nutshell:
It’s more than serendipity that what we read is called a “play.”
Cold reading is a game—”a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators”—except we don’t compete (we collaborate) and there are no spectators.
We tell ourselves a story, line by line, like playing hands of cards, and as we do, we talk about it (and ourselves, the world). It’s like a book club, only books are read in solitude; we discover a play as a group, together—and discuss it as we read, not two weeks later.
It’s like a gallery crawl (with friends), soaking up the art and sharing our impressions. Plays are dramatic art.
It’s like a movie, only the picture’s in our minds, and we recite the words. It’s fun playing like we’re other people, even if (for the most part) we’re not actors.
It’s a puzzle to be solved, a treasure hunt, a game of Clue. It makes us laugh (and cry) together as we vest ourselves in our roles—it’s Dungeons and Dragons. Or a quilting bee.
The list goes on (see below). The point is that all games are fun because all people like to play. The object of the game is always secondary to the pleasure of our company.
The object of a cold read is to unravel the plot of a play. It’s not to win the game, which differentiates it from most other games; otherwise, it’s just as good (if not a better) way to pass the time. Better than a poker game (at least for those who lose).
Analogies and related posts show how other games compare in many ways, with elements of each apparent in a cold read, and vice versa. Examples range from parlor games to spectator sports.
The Game of Life
From Peek-a-Boo and Where’s Your Nose throughout the Game of Life, we’re always and forever engaged in some form of play. Even work, in many ways, is play. Even when we’re idle, our imaginations play. Only when we’re sleeping are we not involved in some “activity involving skill, chance, or endurance,” if not with others, on our own.
And because plays always deal with people coping with the world, cold reads relate to all of them.
Half the fun of a cold read is the pleasure of good company. Whether with old friends or utter strangers, we share one common interest: reading plays. As we read and ruminate, we come to know each other better.
The more often we read, the stronger our common bond. Over time, we become like any other social club. We get together once or twice a month (or weekly, quarterly, now and then) to read and catch up. If the play’s a comedy, we laugh a lot; otherwise we’re seriously engaged. Because our subject always involves people coping with the world, we’re never at a loss for words.