Posts Categorized: Books

Homework: Definition of Play

A coworker was kind enough to procure a copy of “The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology” by the MIT Press. My intention was to flip around now and then, read and reflect.

The first entry I ended up jumping to seemed like an awesome start; “The Definition of Play and The Classification of Games” by Roger Caillios, 1958“. I was able to find the full version of the document, and uploaded it for reference, or the curiosity of others.

Important to note, games of chance are excluded. [This is a] discussion about games and rules when profit is not obtained, and it is merely the existence of the absence of reality. (p.124)

While it was not an article that redefined what I thought of “play” as a individual and social construct, it was interesting to see how the observations of a document in 1958 translates to electronic entertainment in the modern day.

Play is an occasion of pure waste: waste of time, energy, ingenuity, skill, and often money for the purchase of [gaming] equipment… (p.125)

The industry may not be so quick to agree, but this rings true if wasted time is seen as a reflection of not accruing income. However, most if not all would agree that if play results in some form of entertainment, time and money may have been well spent.

A game which one would be forced to play would at once cease being play. It would become constraint, drudgery from which one would strive to be freed. (p.125)

I found this quote quite humorous with regards to my job, and I know some QA testers that might agree, I can’t say I “strive to be freed” from the games I play at work. :)

“In fact, the game is no longer pleasing to one who, because he is too well trained or skillful, wins effortlessly and infallibly.”

(In classifying games of sport) The goal of the encounters is not for the antagonist to cause serious injury to his rival, but rather to demonstrate his own superiority. (p. 132)

Both of these remind me of what the inherent draws in competitive gaming that kept such a stranglehold on me.

“Industrial civilization has given birth to […] the hobby, a secondary and gratuitous activity, undertaken and pursued for pleasure, e.g. collecting, unique accomplishments, the pleasure in […] inventing gadgets…” (pg. 145)

Did he just predict Achievements and LittleBigPlanet? :)