On the sociology of games

Posted on February 18, 2009


I’ve been working on my second thesis seminar paper roughly from the beginning of the year.

The paper is the second part of the seminar. Together they form my review of the history of game research – mostly the classic stuff starting from Huizinga. There was a lot of interesting things in there, but since I’ve already covered that quite thoroughly in my papers I’m not going to go over it again here. (The papers are, unfortunately, in Finnish. If you happen to be fluent and interested, feel free to ask me.) However, there was one text that was of particular interest: Roger Caillois’ Man, Play and Games. His analysis of game and play is very interesting, if a bit eclectic, but his idea of a sociology derived from games is quite positively intriguing. In the introduction, the translator Meyer Barash, puts it thusly:

The patterns or basic themes of culture should be deducible from the study of play and games no less than from the study of economic, political, religious, or familial institutions.

This idea, even if a bit grandiose, fascinated me immensely. If Caillois is indeed right, and there something very important games can tell us of society and culture, then ludology may yet tell us more than we dared to hope. I’m not living in an illusion where we scrap sociology and replace it with ludology, but even with delimited truth this idea opens up possibilities for research.

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Posted in: ludology, thesis