I had a conversation with a friend yesterday (after ve had talked to a few self-identified ‘kinnies’), in which we came to the conclusion that what people refer to as ‘kinning for fun’ is something both of us experienced as kids. ‘Kinning for fun’, however infuriating the name is, is related to roleplaying, but it is different. It’s also not that serious, but it is kinda serious.

‘Kinning’ is a form of pretend play, related to, what’s in child psychology referred to as, elaborated role play (with a break between ‘role’ and ‘play’). It’s a kind of play in which children act out scenarios, pretending to be fictional characters. It’s a kind of play that’s very important in identity formation.

But ‘kinning’ is more than just pretend play. It’s a thing many people went through in their adolescence, which involves recognizing your own personhood and personality, and realizing what kind of person you want to be, and what defines a person. It also involves more outward-directed thoughts: Realizing what you like in other people and what kind of people you want to be around.

I have not been able to find any academic discussions of this concept, but I know for a fact that it’s something I’ve done with my friends. We would watch or read or play through a piece of media, and afterwards we would (not fully consciously) decide which friend was most like which character, and would then half-jokingly refer to each other as that character.

Or as a different example, when I was 13 and had just heard of therian packs, my friends and I would discuss which roles we would have in a wolf pack and how we would look as wolves for a few weeks in a row. Though we didn’t pretend-play in the way younger kids do, it was definitely a related experience.

This aspect of getting to know yourself as a unique and complicated person is seemingly common, and can be a very important stepping stone into adulthood.

All this is not to say, though, that the fun of assigning characters or animals or similar roles to oneself and one’s friends just stops in adulthood. Plenty of people refer to themselves and their friends by D&D classes or fandom terms. I suppose even personality types are an extension of this. The main difference is how little room there is to explore these kinds of role assignments in adulthood - perhaps that’s one part of the reason ‘kinning’ caught on?

A shame the concept has become known by such an inflammatory name.

Last updated: December 2021

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