One of the assignments for the independent study I’m mentoring on video game theory and interactive fiction was to watch this talk by Raph Koster. Koster’s talk fit nicely with our reading of Caillios’ Man, Play, and Games, but tied those ideas with research from cognitive and evolutionary psychology. It’s a wonderful talk that combines game design, narrative, and science. Highly recommend it.
Foregoing my normal reviews. Man, Play, and Games is a must read for those interested in games and the role of play. Initially, the book starts out quite strong by defining games and investigating the different categories of games. It raises questions about what one might be able to discern about a culture based on their games and develops a theory of games. Where my interest waned were in the chapters: Competition and Chance and Revivals in the Modern World.
Pretty tired of all the references to “lotteries” in Man, Play, and Games. ∞
In, Man, Play, and Games, Caillois thinks of games and play as a portal through which to view society. He also talks about things losing meaning and becoming toys and games. Does the focus on sports stars over teams relate to the American belief in the individual? Do images that once had meaning become objects of play through digital mashups? Does playing with mashups hint to a loss of importance on the original and the creator? Have we increased our value of derivatives and decreased how we value creators?
Already, one can look at the outdated cell phone passed to a child as a toy. The earlier technology of record players was transformed into a machine for play through scratching. What forms of technology or digital ephemera will become toys or play in the future?
In Mexico, the voladores–Huastec or Totonac–climb to the top of a mast sixty-five to one hundred feet high. They are disguised as eagles with false wings hanging from their wrists. The end of a rope is attached to their waists. The rope then passes between their toes in such a way that they can manage their entire descent with head down and arms outstretched. Before reaching the ground, they make many complete turns, thirty according to Torquemada, describing an ever-widening spiral in their downward flight. The ceremony, comprising several flights and beginning at noon, is readily interpreted as a dance of the setting sun, associated with birds, the deified dead. The frequency of accidents has led the Mexican authorities to ban this dangerous exercise.
Man, Play, and Games, p 23.
According to Caillois in Man, Play, and Games, play is defined as such:
- Free: in which playing is not obligatory; if it were, it would at once lose its attractive and joyous quality as diversion;
- Separate: circumscribed within limits of space and time, defined and fixed in advance;
- Uncertain: the course of which cannot be determined, nor the results attained beforehand, and some latitude for innovations being left to the player’s initiative;
- Unproductive: creating neither goods, nor wealth, nor new elements of any kind; and, except for the exchange or property among the players, ending in a situation identical to that prevailing at the beginning of the game;
- Governed by rules: under conventions that suspend ordinary laws, and for the moment establish new legislation, which along counts;
- Make-believe: accompanied by a special awareness of a second reality or of a free unreality, as against real life.
Games of chance would seem to be peculiarly human. p 18
The corruption of agôn begins at the point where no referee or decision is recognized. p 46
The corruption of mimicry follows a parallel course. It is produced when simulation is no longer accepted as such, when the one who is disguised believes that his role, travesty, or mask is real. He no longer plays another. p 49
Transposed to reality, the only goal of agôn is success. p 54