Text of 04 Homo ludens. Games and Play ï‚§ today: games and play ï‚§ the...
04 Homo ludens
Games and Play today: games and play the difference between games and play?
Games and Play English = to play a game French = on joue a un jeu German = man spielt ein Spiel Two ways to consider the relationship: (1) play includes games (2) games include play
Play Includes Games Examples of play: Manhunt (also a game) professional football match (also a game) kicking a ball round a park (probably a game) playing on a kids see-saw (a game?) two chimps chasing each other (a game?) child singing a nursery rhyme to herself (a game?) Play is thus broader than game (a formal kind of play)
Games as a Subset of Play
Games Include Play Characteristics of games (from Week 1; remember Wittgenstein): competitive rule-based skillful luck playful etc. Game is broader than play (one component of games)
Play as a Subset of Games
Blurred Boundaries play and game are related they share family resemblances characteristics of these concepts overlap use depends on context definition depends on your perspective neither is better than the other Any Questions?
Animal Play Chimpanzee Diary: an example of animal play
Theories of Play Johann Huizinga Dutch anthropologist and historian Homo Ludens (1938)
What is Play For? play is widespread across cultures and species so what is play for? e.g. sight = avoid obstacles, find food, etc e.g. hearing = communicate, avoid predators, etc e.g. aggressive instinct = fight off rivals, protect young e.g. social instinct = form alliances, find mates, etc so why did play evolve? some theories
Explanations of Play to discharge excess energy an outlet for harmful impulses (safety value) satisfies a need for relaxation (chill out) restores energy (recharge batteries) satisfies an innate imitative instinct (e.g. fighting) trains the young (both physically and mentally) teaches physical and social restraint (learn limits) to exercise physical and mental faculties (unused) indulges a desire to compete and dominate to fulfil wishes and desires boosts feelings of personal value (self-confidence) Any Questions?
Exercise: What is Play For? In your groups: (i) Rank the different explanations of play which Huizinga provides according to how important they have been for human evolution and personal development; (ii) think of an example of each from your own experience; (iii) think of any additional explanations of play.
Huizinga on Play: Homo ludens play is so important to humanity that: Homo sapiens = Homo ludens ludus = game or play (hence Ludo) Homo ludens = playing man or Man the Player or Man the Gamer why does Huizinga think this?
Huizinga on Play Huizinga: these theories all ask the wrong question assumption = play is for something else i.e. play has a function other than itself but what is play in itself? what does it mean for the player?
Aesthetics of Play these accounts ignore the aesthetics of play two meanings of aesthetic: (1) Ancient Greek: perceived by the senses (scientific) e.g. how do we experience sight, hearing, taste, etc? (2) 18 th Century: artistic taste (artistic) e.g. what makes a good piece of art, music, TV? e.g. why do we like certain films, plays, games?
Aesthetics of Play mechanistic, biological accounts ignore: sensory element: how we experience play taste element: why we enjoy play Huizinga: So far so good, but what actually is the fun of playing? Why does the baby crow with pleasure? Why does the gambler lose himself in his passion? Why is a huge crowd roused to frenzy by a football match?
Aesthetics of Play to truly understand play we must look at: the intensity, the absorption, the fun of play you cant provide a logical, mechanistic, biological explanation of fun next week: Pleasure, Pain and Play
Play and Culture play is a primary category of life common to many species and all cultures/civilizations play is integral to culture play and culture are intimately interwoven: language, law, war, knowledge, poetry, art, et al. for more, see Homo ludens (in library) Any Questions?
Characteristics of Play 4 key elements of play: (1) play is voluntary (2) play is outside ordinary life (3) play has fixed boundaries (4) play promotes social groups
(1) Play is Voluntary you cant force someone to play people play because they enjoy it must be free not to play play is superfluous: you never need to play never a task or duty done during leisure time: can be postponed/suspended E.g. Noughts and Crosses
(2) Play is Outside Ordinary Life (i) play is an unreal interlude in our lives: a temporary, separate sphere of activity (ii) play is not serious: only pretending/only for fun (iii) play is absorbing: people take play seriously (iv) play is external to material interests and biological needs: you dont profit from play E.g. Olympic Games: an interlude, unimportant, taken seriously, no reward
(3) Play has Fixed Boundaries (i) boundaries of time: play begins and ends (duration) (ii) boundaries of space: e.g. card table, board, screen (iii) precise rules and order: deviation from the rules = play-world collapses, e.g. spoil sport E.g. Football: 90 minutes in 2 halves, football pitch, strict rules of play
(4) Play Promotes Social Groups (i) Social Groups. Sharing play = social bond: friendships, groups, clubs, clans, etc (ii) Secrecy. Sense of belonging = insiders and outsiders: members keep to themselves, e.g. computer gamers (iii) Disguise. Players assume a disguise or mask: play a part, become someone else during play E.g. Rugby team or chess club: group identity, clique, silly names/kit
Summary Huizinga says that play is: a free activity standing quite consciously outside ordinary life as being not serious, but at the same time absorbing the player intensely and utterly. It is an activity connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained by it. It proceeds within its own proper boundaries of time and space according to fixed rules and in an orderly manner. It promotes the formation of social groupings which tend to surround themselves with secrecy and to stress their difference from the common world by disguise or other means. (p. 13) Any Questions?
Exercise: Applying Play In your groups: choose a digital game you have played, and analyse it in terms of Huizingas 4 characteristics of play nominate a spokesperson to present your account to the rest of the class (2 minutes) consider the following questions: (1) does Huizingas account fit your digital game? (2) are Huizingas 4 characteristics elements of a definition, or family resemblances?
The Magic Circle Huizingas understanding of play: the magic circle play is an interlude outside ordinary life with fixed boundaries of time, space and rules magic circle = games special context or frame can be physical: e.g. pitch, board, screen can be psychological: e.g. arm wrestling, eye-spy playing game = entering the magic circle you cross a boundary
The Magic Circle why magic circle? an enchanted zone: special rules apply e.g. Chess inside and outside magic circle magic circle: a safe area you can fight and kill people here (safely)
The Lusory Attitude the magic circle from the players perspective deciding to play a game = choosing to enter the magic circle this requires a certain attitude or state of mind
The Lusory Attitude games are inefficient Huizinga = no material benefit actually a waste of energy E.g. Boxing: soft gloves, limited rounds, etc inefficient ritual, unnecessary obstacles
The Lusory Attitude accepting these conditions makes game play possible the players adopt a lusory attitude (from ludus): agree to adopt this route to objective a contract between players adopt arbitrary, inefficient rules to enjoy the play Any Questions?
The Game (1997) The Game (1997) illustrates the magic circle and the lusory attitude dir. David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) Michael Douglas = Nicholas Van Orton self-centred, rich businessman, has everything
The Game (1997) 48 th birthday present from brother (Sean Penn) prepaid game from Consumer Recreation Services life changing experience physical and psychological tests nature of game unclear integrated into normal life what is game and what is real?
Film Clip: The Game clip is from early in the film
The Magic Circle in The Game increasingly confusing drama = disintegration of the magic circle no clearly defined boundary or frame airport: who is part of the game?