Notes: The Definition of Play: The Classification of Games

[Article in question]

On page 124, Caillios basically claims that if mysterious is transformed into play, play itself destroys the mystery. I find it hard to process his way of justifying such claims. What if a person engages in play in a play space, be it mental or physical, where mystery is involved, yet there is no goal nor desire to “solve” any such mystery, but rather to play for play’s sake. Does it still dissolve the mystery? Even if the person is aware that such mystery is in place?

He later argues Huizinga’s definition of play, having no extrinsic motivators like betting money. I think he wants to differentiate games and play as two separate things, which are aren’t mutually exclusive. Games don’t happen without play, but play can very well be a non-game, like the act of verifiaction of the groceries receipt to avoid double-charging could very well be play, yet not a game by any design.

P. 125, “Play is an occasion of pure waste: waste of time, energy, ingenuity, skill, and often of money for the purchase of gambling equipment or eventually to pay the establishment.”
What does this say about play as state of mind as opposed to an activity that is done? Is attitude of play or play thinking a waste of time also?
If I was to propose that in a more literal sense, the energy we expel as humans, in any mental or physical capacity, is not a waste, based on the laws of energy conservation, renders Caillios’s statement false.

He argues that there’s a clear distinction between what is play and what isn’t, and that play is only appropriate in a play-space (p. 125), yet his examples are more of games and don’t take into account play as a state of mind.

P. 126, “The game is ruined by the nihilist who denounces the rules as absurd and conventional, who refuses to play because the game is meaningless”
Makes me think of an example, where a spectator runs out onto a soccer field naked. They engage in their own play with their own rules (run away from the guards, disrupt the game, get on the news, fulfill a dare etc.), but I would argue that the act of thereof is part of the play of soccer culture, where such behavior is somewhat commonplace and maybe even expected. Sure, the game of soccer is interrupted, yet the spectators are not taken out by it, they don’t walk away disappointed that the game is “ruined”, they cheer on, in support of the runner, before the game resumes.

Caillios claims that doubt is a fundamental pillar for play, that when outcomes are known, play stops (p. 126).
Can play still be if the outcomes are known? “journey important, not the end” cliche comes to mind, and engaging in play might do so deliberately for the sake of extracting enjoyment out of an otherwise mundane activity with known outcomes.

A master of a certain game can still extract play out of their own mastery. A chess grandmaster can play multiple boards at a time and know to win, foresee everyone’s moves with clarity, just the game is no longer chess, it is statistics, or race for time or something else, the game transcends, play doesn’t stop.

“An outcome in advance, with no possibility of error or surprise, clearly leading to an inescapable result, is incompatible with the nature of play.”
What about the overarching known and inescapable outcome of death? There is nothing one can do, that would not resolve their life in a death state. Does that then mean life is incompatible with play? I don’t think his argument is sound.

“Search for equality” as he put it, being essential to rivalry is an interesting way of thinking about competition. Who is searching for equality? The game system definitely seeks to provide an equal playing field, but what when it doesn’t? (Discrimination Pong).

He gives an example of Chess, that inequality exists, because white always goes first.
What if you remove turn based aspect of chess? Both players act simultaneously by the means of asynchronous software, where players “lock in” their moves and the game plays out a “phase” when both players moves are exposed (Frozen Synapse)

Is there a way to remove “desire to win”, in a game with winning in mind and a desirable end goal reward?

Makes me think of religions and people’s desire to “win” a ticket to “heaven” by taking on roles of “believers”. There is an extrinsic motivator, whilst atheist movement denounces heaven and embraces life itself as reward – play.

Zen Bound – example of wan, a meditative game. Escapist experience? What about Solitaire? I don’t think about the cards or maths or sequencing when playing Solitaire, I calm my innter discussion and voice, letting my mechanical mind take care of the game, while I let my mind surf free thoughts. Wan?

Agon – competitive games
Alea – games of chance
Mimicry – roleplay
Llinx – getting high on disorientation,change of perception and mental chaos

My glossary:

detriment
umpire
denouement
frolicsome
incessant
frenetic
fecund
arduous
picayune