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Month: January 2014

Man, Play and Games

Roger Callois’ Man, Play, and Games (1961) is a direct response to Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, and largely builds off of it while editing a few key tenets.

The quotes immediately below are from an article I read for context on Callois’ background (Thomas Henricks, “Man, Play and Games- An appreciation and evaluation” [pdf]). It was hugely helpful in providing some context. Some papers from Man, Play and Games are available here, excerpted by an anthology for Rules of Play (2003), an influential tome hat almost acts as a first stab at a game design textbook, excerpting from various papers from practitioners and academics across time, and providing their own developed definitions of games, play, and design best practices. (I might write about Rules of Play later but no time soon.)

Caillois is known for his classifications of games and the ludus/paidia spectrum most of all. He mostly accepts Huizinga’s thesis but thinks that Huizinga went wrong in characterizing all play similarly and relating them to sacredness and mystery.

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Patterns, Moods, and Scenes

A not-quite-coherent ramble on a few disparate ideas that I suspect should be related. I haven’t connected all of the dots satisfactorily yet, and maybe there’s not much too it after all. I haven’t decided.

Publishing it anyway!



When I write, I might sometimes play a certain kind of music to change my state of mind. Often it’s sort of ambient, warm, buzzy kind of music- lately it’s been Kurt Vile, Real Estate, and King Krule. I listen to it not just because I enjoy it in some sense – of course I do, but I enjoy a lot of music- but I also get lulled into a state where I’m not even paying attention to the music really. It’s just sort of in the air. 

It’s not quite a science but there are obviously sets of music that I like but that are not appropriate for my writing mood. Some music is better for getting me pumped up to go running. Other music demands to be the focus of my attention when it plays, for lyrical or sonic reasons. Some music is useful for eliciting memories of some era or activity. For me, fuzzy/absent/over-simple lyrics are usually good for the writing atmosphere.

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Homo Ludens II

A wide lens on the rest of Homo Ludens

The first chapter was really the entire thesis of Huizinga’s big idea about Play (which was dug into in the predecessor post). The remaining chapters attempt to shore up this thesis by example, looking at the histories and semantics of various cultures and their attitude towards play and ritual.

“Word and idea are not born of scientific or logical thinking but of creative language, which means of innumerable languages—for this act of ″conception″ has taken place over and over again.”

The second chapter of Homo Ludens is on the various words and meanings of play in different cultures. He notes that the general Latin term for play, Ludus, has not evolved into the Romance languages. “We must leave to one side the question whether the disappearance of ludus and ludere is due to phonetic or to semantic causes.” I could not work out a simple way to excerpt the survey usefully, so I’m lifting work from Wikipedia here. I apologize for this level of laziness. Let’s quickly move on to topics I’m more willing to write about.

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Homo Ludens I

Happy New Year!

I’ll be note-taking and synthesizing on play, ritual, and games in more detail. At the end of December I read some early influential works in “Game Studies”: Huizinga’s Homo Ludens and Caillois’ Man, Play and Games. They’re the kind of books that are referred to by many and read by few, which is too bad. I’ll start the year with some dry notes and quotes. For another project I’ve been cramming on the whole sort of curriculum in the field, hitting on anthropological studies, media studies, ludology proper, and some game design principles material. After Huizinga and Caillois, I’ll cut through Bateman’s Imaginary Games, introduce some Bogost, etc. Games won’t be the only thing I’ll be reading/writing about, but it’s something to start with.

First, a few posts on Huizinga’s Homo Ludens. Today I’m posting notes on the opening chapter, Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon. Tomorrow I’ll post a sweep of quotes characterizing the rest of the book, about instances of play in culture. The day after that, I thought I’d post some of the conclusion of the book to wrap it up for the week.

Homo Ludens (1949) is Huizinga’s seminal contribution to a thread of anthropological/philosophical thought on the “play element of culture”. He intended to analyze the actions and significance of play in cultures and to characterize (though not strictly define) play generally. He aimed to show that “genuine, pure play is one of the main bases of civilization”.

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