You can be at play, whether you are playing or whether you are being played.
At the outset, it seems like the former is good and the latter is bad. In most cases that sounds about right, but context matters a lot.
When you are young and/or inexperienced. you should take the opportunity to work with anyone with mastery and accomplishments on the topic of your interest. You may be played. but the price you paid for that will be worth the prize that comes with rapid mastery of the topic because of the association or collaboration. So, being played is not bad if it is happening for the right reasons.
Now, playing seems like an act of volition where you seem to be calling the shots, you seem to be setting the direction of the sail.
Seems good, right?
Yes, ONLY if the direction is right or you have good help around you to help you reset the coordinates.
It can get pretty bad if you are arrogant, defensive or someone who follows the “my way or the highway” strategy.
Context matters..a lot!
Image: Napkinsight #495