Roger Caillois: The Definition of Play, The Classification of Games

Caillois takes as starting point Huizinga’s work. He states that, although the usefulness of Huizinga’s writing, it’s “broad and narrow at the same time”. However, I believe Caillois ended up with the same deficient.

His contribution is rich, specially the continuum from paidia to ludus, where games evolve through the spectrum as they become more complex; plus the four quadrants: Agôn, Alea, Mimicry and Ilinx. But these “areas” are defined in such a way that would allow to include almost any activity in one of those.

One of the mentioned difference between play and work heavily relies on the “no wealth, good production”. The pressure of earning money can change how we perceived the situation and the experience of enjoyment; however I wonder about the blurry line of producing good and having fun. I’m not talking about game sweatshops, I’m thinking about gamers that make some profit, for instance selling a character. Are they gamers the whole time? Do they stop being gamers? I think they are.

Something similar could be argued about Caillois’ claim that “play is essentially a separate occupation”. Games have invaded different contexts. Games are used for training; huge investments have been made in edutainment.

The world and the reception of games have changed since Caillois published his work.


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